Saturday, July 28, 2007
Sorry for the light posting, but it's summer, you know. Get away from the computer and go play.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality.
That sounds about right. It does seem to me like Joyce was showing off. But I cannot worry about every little thing in the text that I don't know. I would never finish if I took the time to look them all up. I'm looking at it like all those extras add a little color but are more or less extraneous. So, I'll ignore most of that and see if I miss anything.
Besides the allusions and other nonsense, Joyce spends so much time in the minds of these characters, every disjointed sentence, every meaningless thought, that there is little space for story. I wouldn't mind a little coherence, nor quotation marks to help separate what someone is saying from the nonsense they are thinking.
If this wasn't supposed to be the best English language book ever, I really wouldn't be too interested in reading farther. Though, I am waiting for the novel to redeem itself.
Anyway, the publisher, Peter Owen Publishers, describe the book as such:
Set in an unspecified but eerily familiar time and landscape, Guilty is narrated by Mark. He begins the novel as a young boy whose father has just returned from war. In spite of being garlanded as a hero, Mark's father declares himself a pacifist and is immediately reviled in a country still suffering from the divisions of war. When his father is forced into exile Mark meets Mr Spector, a shady figure who from then on is a dominant force in Mark's life, seeing him through his schooling, employment and even finding him accommodation. When Mark tries to break off with Mr Spector in order to pursue an engagement with the beautiful but docile Carla his life begins to unravel. Thwarted at every turn by a Kafkaesque bureaucracy he begins to fall prey to the machinations and insecurities of his guilt-ridden mind.
Sounds like traditional Kavan to me. I can't wait to read it. I've actually been wondering what Kavan I was going to re-read this year, and now I have something new to read. The trouble is that it is being released in the UK now, and we won't see it here until October. Sounds like eBay time.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
I was drawn to this book because of an interview on KCRW's Bookworm, where she talked about translating Proust and read stories, like this one (quoted in its entirety), "Companion":
We are sitting here together, my digestion and I. I am reading a book and it is working away at the lunch I ate a little while ago.
Her stories range from short word-play or prose poems, to longer ones that vary greatly in style. Davis is clearly versatile. Her work on Proust, translations that are much more literal though maybe not necessarily more accurate than the C. K. Scott Moncrieff versions. I will certainly add her translations to my wish list.
None of these stories moved me in any fundamental way. None are likely to linger for any length of time. They were, though, a breezy respite to some of the longer weightier things I've been reading.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
Roth has created an extremely ambitious novel that pushes the memory and the possibilities of history. A semi-autobiographical novel that takes place in a time that doesn't exist seems like a strange premise, but Roth is convincing in his telling of this imagined history. Perhaps too convincing. Roth spends so much time covering facts and information from the political and historical context that the actual human story suffers for it. We care less about little Philip than we do about how in the world their are going to oust the fascist Lindbergh.
The novel disappoints for other reasons as well. The key moments in the novel seem to have written around, the actual drama circumvented, and we're left with again with the drab historical or the "oh yeah, that happened." Never the less, the novel does make clear how little things might have to change for things in this country to really come off the rails. And it was damn frightening just for that.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
How much free will do characters really have? I suppose that it's likely that the more you know a character, the more established she or he is in a story, the more likely it is that the character will find his or her on way, while you just drag your pen along to their whim. Just starting a story you might even really know what drives the character yet, and so bending him to your will is easier. Two hundred and forty handwritten pages into this project and I can barely rein my characters in. The good thing is that I'm surprised by them.
Friday, July 06, 2007
A Belgian man appeared in court on Friday after a woman at his dinner party found the bodies of his wife and stepson in the freezer as she put away the leftovers, prosecutors said.
What do I need to say?
Someone — I can't remember who, and don't remember when — gave me a Xeroxed copy of the first story, "Car Crash While Hitchhiking."
It was your workshop professor, genius.
He says quite frankly, "And you, you ridiculous people, you expect me to help you." But we do, Denis Johnson, we do.
I always read that as Johnson giving the reader the finger.
Seriously, this book is a must-read. It is as essential on your shelf of American Fiction as Hemingway's short stories or anything by Raymond Carver. If you haven't already, read Denis Johnson. You will not like everything he writes and sometimes you feel like he is pulling back down a dark hole that you already climbed out of at least once in your life, but he opens up storytelling in ways previously unseen.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Formerly the Chief of Staff to the second most powerful man in the country, the Vice President (though we can debate that he might actually be more powerful than the President), "Scooter" Libby was sentenced to two and half years for lying to Federal investigators. That lies would emanate from this White House should be no surprise, but that they would show such disdain for the law and the American people it is meant to protect should outrage us. Never mind the circumstances of the investigation, though what were behind his lies we don't know, a man in such a high position should not be lying and obstructing justice under any circumstances.
While I am not surprised by Bush's action, disdain for the will of the people and the entire notion of justice being par for the course, I am sickened by it. Libby should have served his time, simply to show that no man is above the law. But renegade justice, justice without courts or trials or even access to lawyers, is the way this Administration prefers things. Commuting Libby's sentence proves that Bush cares more about protecting those around him than he does about the American people.
So, as you gather with friends this Independence Day, think of the great will of the nation's founders, the signers of the Declaration of Independence or even the crafters of the Constitution, and think about how far we've come. And thank President Bush for his gift to the country, for its transparency and for proving to the nation that he is just the man we think he is.