Thursday, September 29, 2005

Will It Matter?

It has been a long and wonderful day. I feel that I have begun to curl around/toward On Beauty. I am nearly 200 pages in and the twin thrusts of academic novel and racial alterity have been absorbed, if with some reluctance on my part. There is something within that is claiming that White Teeth will never be surpassed. If it isn't, it will still be read in 100 years.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Another List

These are books that I began this year, read more than 100 pages and did not finish. I omit Volume Two of Shelby Foote's Civil War Narrative as I will definitely finish that tome before the holidays.
1) Resurrection - Tolstoy
2) Gulag - Applebaum
3)Howard's End - Fortser
4) Auto-Da-Fe - Canetti
5)Doctor Zhivago - Pasternek

Sunday, September 25, 2005

No Excuses

Today's rain notwithstanding, it has been a delightful time as of late and there is no apparent cause for the dearth of activity on this site. I have been reading but in different gears with mixed results, to say the least. For now forgotten reasons I elected two weeks ago to read what I imagined to be novels about the soviet experience from western perspectives. the first of these was Politics by Adam Thurwell. It was a christamas gift from sister-in-law Tihana. It was not about the Soviet Experiment but rather about posh twenty-somethings in London who have sex and complicate their lives. A waste of a terrific Sunday. I then read Commisar of Enlightenment by Ken Kalfus, which depictts some tenuous fictional links between Tolstoy's death and the embalming of Lenin. The last few pages were remarkable but otherwise it was a yawn.

I then elected to re-enage with Auto-Da-Fe by Canetti after a brief pause of decade. No better luck this time, either. So, there it is.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

On Orwell

Apparently a few years back I once told Joel that Orwell didn't matter. It is easy to imagine the hubris that coughed the phlegm. After all, Orwell never lived to embrace the totality of dark regimes, how naive O'Brien appears in light of the mass production of corpses. Yes, I likely said something just that stupid, though I honestly don't remember. it is difficult to consider an author more needed these days than Orwell. His cautionary tales about the primacy of language in the political sphere aside, his essays which castigate those empowered and abandon the trust as protector of the vulnerable. I have read four of Mr. Orwell's books this year and another, Christopher Hitchens' fine book about Orwell's centrality, about the man. I seldom read in clusters of genre and author as I once was disposed. Yet, this year, of all other years, I have striven to accept and embrace this courageous soul who risked life and limb, depicting and protecting what he deigned the essential human values. Forgive me my hagiography, indeed I now hold Orwell next to Solzhenitsyn and Grass as Humanists of word and deed, a rare feat in any lifetime.

Perhaps it was most unsettling that Orwell's one significant lapse[1], his nonchalant listing of individuals he considered to have Stalinist leanings, that allows him his humanity, and for such example allows Justice Hitchens to arrive and supercede his own otherwise unblemished scholarship. That said, only cats land on their feet -- every time, and Orwell often made human errors in considering what he imagined "inevitabilities." Who can accomplish otherwise? His reasoning that unless the UK reorganized itself for military socialism, it was fucked. This didn't account for ongoing lend-lease with the Yanks and Hitler's strive for a second front.

I find it fair to state that Orwell was better with journalism and essays than at fiction. this must be qualified to consider that I haven't read all of his novels, yet I imagine the point will stick. 1984 for all its power, still reaches one as a series of postcards, scribbled feverishly, alternated with snapshots of the ominous. The horror of Big Brother is not Room 101 or the regime's omnipresence, but rather, it is its saturation of language and the subsequent contamination of emotion. If one pauses to consider our bifurcation of reality in this media theatre, it is indeed those who own, not the language (we haven't achieved that level of servitude) but the phrases with currency, those that marketing gurus claim connect to the reptilian brain: as if that was desirable route to observe! No, Orwell understood the greatest challenges but not, perhaps, the serial ravages of the noose merchants, those that outsources empathy on a permanent basis generations back.

[1] As opposed to his lesser failings i.e. homophobia (which I suspect that like all British, he was only being over-compensatory), his distrust of Scots and Jews and his penchant for an idealistic didacticism.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

On The Pitch

My cold continues, spending my life in an apparent cycle of sleep-cough-read-cough-sleep. I did finish Vollman's 700 page abridgement of Rising Up, Rising Down this afternoon and i find it tantamount to Foote's Civil War Narrative: a dazzling display of wiriting but more guerilla (think Camila Paglia) than Gibbon.

I think my friends would appreciate sections, most notably the Trotsky and Lincoln chapter. The case studies at the end were remarkable journalism, though the 3 present in the abridgement only made one long for the missing 14! I may continue with the Weiss, though the Rushdie does harken.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Question of Bruno

My ongoing cold (exacerbated, no doubt, by foolish smoking of cigars this a.m. with Tim Eads) forced me to recline, use kleenexes with abndon and read the initial collection from Hemon. I am most thankful for thsi loan from ed. There is something serial and recursive in Hemon's work, a protean mantra of Eastern Europe, mutating through translations and the tides of history. I really enjoyed the nostalgic stories more than the contemporary emigre stuff. The story about the Hemoniad reunion in Bosnia is priceless.

My reading of Vollman continues and this afternoon, amdist hacking coughs, I have hefted Weiss' Aesthetics of Resistance which appears to be ominously dense.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Some Thoughts

A society in which neither riches nor poverty is a member regularly produces sterling characters, as it has no place for violence and wrong, nor yet for rivalry and envy. --Plato

That citation arouses benign thought of Suttree and now of New Orleans. I am not sure whether McCarthy and I would find ground more much agreement. I do appear to know the Crescent City with a certain intimacy. I was unable to read much there nor was sleep easy to find. I did buy a few books in the Quarter and I ponder my present headcold, my own muted ageing, my frustrations with totemic indifference.

I read Homage To Catalonia last week and following the Borgesian twist, it was appropriate for just this time. My days as of late, when not suffering from either my cold or its treatement have, been with Vollman's abridgement of Rising up, Rising Down. there is much to be said of honor these days.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The 3 Worst Books of 2005

3) Line of Beauty
That this suurpassed Cloud Atlas to achieve the Book still boggles me. A groaning mess of gay love and Thatcher, sewn clumsily with Henry James.

2) No Country For Old Men
What was Cormac thinking? Was firing .50 rifles with Charlton Heston this draining on his muse?

1)How Soccer Explains the World
Francis Foer should eschew the protean example of his brother and continue to crib small stories for political magazines, somehow I was thinking of Stephen Glass far-too-often as he examines a number of football scenarios and dashes thusly with ridiculous extrapolations of Friedman.