Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Achieved The Peak

It was fitting that I completed the Mann sitting outside the library as the sun began its fall. The quotidian appeared swept aside as the last few pages unfolded with a qualified gusto. One shouldn't read the text as Hegelian but one is certainly tempted to find counterpoints and confluences at nearly every turn. Peeperkorn finds his absolution and Hans is absorbed into Verdi. Naphta? What to say? the paranormal and whistle of artillery close the book.

The text is a titan, blessed with sagacious pondering and the reach of the ancients.

I am going tor ead The Final Solution by Chabon next. I bought it at Square Books and I think it will be apt for the rain swept sun of March.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

20 Million and a few days reading

The paths upward remain sheer and the pages of the Mountain have been rife with activity. Joachim passed away and Hans' reaction wasn't approached, not with any emphasis. Instead a rumination on time was interjected as the last chapter of the novel unfolds. MM is often placed in the same panthoen with Ulysses and Rememberence of Things Past. While I claim that it is a literary creation of, indeed, the highest rank, it is not a device of creative liberty that Joyce and Proust achieved. Indeed Mann appears as a heir to Tolstoy, James, and Flaubert. The text continues with the return of Chavchet, the object of Castorp's febrile desire, somehow she is the East and Illness and Hans and Europe are predestined for confrontation if not interpretation.

My nightime reading of Applebaum's Gulag has progressed and I must admit to find her narrative rather toothless. An author is allegedly immune from criticism when lodged in such hallowed material, alas I find her tepid as a writer. Seeking comparative merit I picked up a copy of Conquest's The Great Terror from the library. The first few paragraphs contained more soul than five chapters of Applebaum.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Afloat in an innured innocence

The narrative of Magic Mountain took me 50 pages yesterday, with Hans electing to violate the prescriptive codes of the sanatorium and begin skiing on a clandestine basis, finding literally himself amongst the crystaline purity of a snowstorm and then losing all teluric bearings, and desperate to live he exhausts himself only to be tormented by visions. These last of which constitue remarkable writing, as edenic pastoral settings are uprooted by witches who devour children and converse coyly with Hamburg accents. Borges said we create our own ancestors but one writhes to ponder what has been wrought on the page with such demonic fury! Hans eventually finds his way back only to discover that his cousin Joachim is returning after an unsuccessful attempt to return to the military and that, now, their roles of veteran and novice have been swapped. The text is really alive at this point and i hope to cash in on such encouragement.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


It was my hope that my reading would reach the fall of Vicksburg last night but fatigue and PBS's brief doc on Yalta vanquished such arrogance. Foote writes with panache, especially about glib observations of Sherman and Grant, especially b'twixt and between. Somehow the tragedy of the siege is muted, though of course it never assumed the proportion of such latter-day episodes. The plan remains that I will read with Shelby until Vicksburg capitulates and then I HAVE to return to Mann as N is building a healthy lead. Did I mention that I have been reading 3-5 pages of Applebaum's Gulag each night? Quite the lullaby.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Transcendant Optimism

There is an odd sense that material being covered these days is an evasive maneuver one which in certain light may be regarded as a retreat. I finished the book on Iran and then swallowed a terse book on Chechnya by a fellow named Meier. I appreciated the wit and candor of the latter writer. The Englishman in Teheran, by contrast, appeared to be submerged in a subtle settling of scores with his now inherited culture. Perhaps Meier had his own agenda in the Caucases but his prose is quite compelling. the material had apparently been released in a larger book in about Russia writ large in 2002 and then seperated and updated to include Breslan and the airline bombers.

I worked an unexpected shift in Supported Living last night and was afforded a few hours to read in both the Foote and the Mann. The assault on Vicksburg is underway as Sherman hopes that Yankee journalists drowned in the sinking of a transport but fears that more will take their places. Settembrini and Naphta are continuing their dialogue as a bewildered Hans attempts to hold on for the ride.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

quick concessions

I am thoroughly enjoying In The Rose Garden of the Martyrs and admitting the possibility that my initial difficulty with the author may stem not from his license but with his being a year younger than myself. The Polybian rise and fall is a trope in itself. Much as Elizabethian audiences went to "hear" a play I feel that I am "remembering" this text.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Have been back for a few days now. It was a wonderful if overspent trip to the south. The changes in landscape alone are phenomonal. The trip to Faulkner's house was easily the zentih of said endeavors and becoming aware of the implicit apartheid of Mississippi was the most unsettling - other than Beale Street.

We bought several tomes and all of it exciting. I read on of them, The Edited Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percy, it is a moving testament to friendship and a dimension of issues that us mortals can't begin to properly address.

The struggles with the Mountain continue though I have enjoyed the emergence of Naphta, a figure approximating the hungarian Marxist philosopher Georg Lukacs. I recall finding a volume in Bloomington years ago which chronicalled this comparitive evaluation. The biography of this Jesuit turned Socialist is fascinating, though I fear I hear the whisper of Lenin in such prouncements.

A new book about Iran is underway with my mates and I can't say much more concerning the writing 50 pages inward, but the subject is as engaging as ever.

Monday, March 07, 2005

An Even Dozen

I finished my 12th book of this young year yesterday. Jonathan Safran Foer's 2d novel was put to rest as I rec'd an advance reader's copy from Randy. I found a reserved, imaginative approach to the attack on the World Trade Center; eschewing popular rhetoric, the novel is heartfelt and honest in its looping of that sorrowful day into alonger, more tiresome narrative: a song that reminds us constantly of the baser natures of this noble species.

My relationship to Foer extends back to sunny days in the streets of Belgrade as I was shocked to discover a new copy of his first novel Everything is Illuminated in Beograd's wonderful Plato bookshop. I recall reading it on the flight back across Europe and then the Atlantic, perhaps sobbing from my own life's parabola, and completing it back here in the breadbasket of Southern Indiana.

I have spent the day, preparing for tomorrow's trip to Memphis and Oxford. I have also been watching Ken Burns' Civil war again and have yet to devote any significant time to Thomas Mann.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

a few more

10) Kafka On The Shore
11) Line of Beauty

Murakami and Hollinghurst provided much of the latest nuance and lyricism. There is no contest as the Nipponese novel is a ribald and regal testament to the tacit meditation of being in an antagonistic world. The Booker winner was, conversely, a rhapsody both onanistic and indulgent. Perhaps Hollinghurst has made a novelistic manifestation of the blogosphere.

Back to the Mountain --

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Sullen Seed

There still remains the stench of onanism in this rite. Much as I contend such, I reluctantly return to my own shame and such is proliferated into the realm of mortal hubris. Much as I read all of the recent Murakami in a single sabbath ten days ago, I attempted the same feat this past weekend and only managed a hundred pages of Hollinghurst's Line of Beauty. Being felled by the ague the following morn, I awoke somewhat convalesced and read up to page 230 or so. It is a strange novel of manners, all cloaked in the gauze of homosexuality and the upper-castes of the Thatcher years. I can't help but juxtapose it with my own myriad experiences on the British Isles.

While it maintains its pose towards Henry James, I can't stop thinking of Waugh, especially the Waugh of Scoop and Vile Bodies and, no, darling, i won't wait for the picture.