Sunday, October 30, 2005

Women and Volk

While the actual epigram to Europe Central is from Shostakovich (The majority of my symphonies are tombstones) it is the later citation of a russian proverb which establishes the color and flame of this massive work. The proverb was allegedly told to Vollmann by a russian prostitute, it goes, "A new bride cries until sunrise; a sister cries until she gets a gold ring; a mother cries until the end of her life."

This isn't a novel as such but troop movement under the cover of night. Its first two major sections detail the trevails of Lenin's wife Krupskaya and her contemporary, german artistKathe Kollwitz. This is haunting writing, shivering in the penumbra of epic History. If Arendt could speak from the chalice and blade, then Vollmann spends time with Grass's Flounder in the kitchen reading potato peelings for a true, if hysterical, kabbalah.

Shostakovich will likely prove to be the moral thread throughout the shifting narrative. His music and the volume by Volkov (given to m this summer by Joel) have proved invaluable.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Obvious Changes

N succeeded with the structural questions. I hope to add at least Roger and Ed's blogs with perhaps some other literary blogs and maybe B92. I am past p. 100 in the Vollmann and hope to post at length tomorrow about leitmotifs, women and the shock formations which indicated so much of the Enlightenement project in the last century.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

No luck

I was going to post that I wa sunsuccesful per adding links to other blogs and sites, though I now see that on the post aspect of the blog, sure enough, there is a space for a link. I am not sure what any of such amounts towards, but the Vollmann is now well underway and it is dynamic. It lacks the necrophilia of the McCarthy but it is a triumph of pacing and imagery.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Child of God : a brief

A disturbing whisper of a book, a diabolical dream that somehow insists you laugh, and, oh yes, you comply. Steve Powell was right, it is only a two hour book, but one that will linger and beckon indefinitely.

Europe Central came in the mail.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

On Tacitus

Contrary to expectation, I smoked a cigar, listened to much Fado music and completed The Faculty of Useless Knowledge. The novel is unique to my experience with Soviet literature in that majoirty of the novel is concerned with the technicians in the domestication of Terror. It is their all-too-human judgements which maintain the motion of the security organs. It is a dense book, one evidently of a highly personal nature for Dombrovsky. The momentary images from the Kolyma are worth the effort.
Next: Child of God

Multiple Strikes

It has been a hectic weekend with ample reading being the primary victim. I did snuggle up with the Dombrovsky during the wee hours Friday night, the novel's denoument in the tiagra, is not happy bedtime material. One feel's lucky, and, especially, warm, in such instances. That said, it could happen that I will finish the novel tomorrow. The chief obstacle on this dreary Sabbath is the remaining 10 hours of Heimat, a 15.5 hour German saga about the fate of the Fatherland from 1919 to 1982. The photography and editing are supreme and the half-dozen plot lines remain taut and compelling.

We went to the Louisville Free Public Library book sale yesterday and the fare was thin, appearing to have been pillaged before our arrival. I did buy two tomes by William Gay, who I read for the first time, earlier this year. We then went to see harold, who was a flashpoint of ideas about Mao, American sanctioned-toture and Tennessee Williams. I bought a good copy of You Can't Go Home Again by Wolfe.

The cover review on the Book Review today is a collossal indictment of Mao, the married couple who authored the work were on Fresh Aire last week. Scanning the warm review, one becomes lost in the abstraction of policy on China's level. When utilizing wave attacks in the Korean War served as a (comparitively efficienty) means of purging Nationalist elements and boosted home morale: well, then why not send a few million screaming into the hornets' nest of dogface machine guns?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Lots of Lists (no Leeches nor Lysol)

The parenthesis is courtesy of Joel, who is plugging away on dissertative matters. My reading has tumbled, even as I have seemingly encountered a plethora of lists -- all of which have inspired considerable thought about the themetic dimensions of war literature and the high water marks of English-language literaure sans David Mitchell.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Still reading the Dombrovsky, no real progress made, despite the weather, though the autumnal sun may be distracting me from the tome, the task at hand. There is a brief list now of that sought to describe the Stalinist night with Christian parables. Bulgakov is the most prominent example but Dombrovsky, perhaps, one ups him with a portrait of Pilate as a well-intentioned bureaucrat. The Show Trial of Christ then assumes broader implications, ones that Mel Gibson would cringe towards. The miasma of betrayal, of denouncement lurks throughout the book, though not in the hues explored by Grossman in Forever Flowing.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Quick Qualification

Last night's surprise purchase plumbed a question of recent note. What author have I read the most pages from this year? If we are speaking one calendar year from today than, hands down, it would have to be Shelby Foote, if we allow the Conversations With as admissiable then it must be near 3000 pages in the past year with nearly two volumes of the Civil War Narrative and two novels as well as the Correspondence with Walker Percy. Who would be next? I could employ some Kentucky windage and say that Cormac McCarthy, William T. Vollman and George Orwell would be the next three, but such is only spur thinking.

Counting Pages

I just bought a remaindered copy of Vollman's Europe Central that I believe I was gishing over last summer. having read the review, hoping ofr Divine Philanthropy, and about to read the abridgement of Falling up, Falling Down. This damned internet!

Roger has installed name verification and all that and, yet, i remain questioning where all my friends are, not those here in New Albany and Astoria but the chewing gum park ranger and all those who "love my blog". These are, sadly, not the days of animism nor courtly love, that must account for SOMETHING! Perhaps I spend too much time hitting the "next blog" function.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Time trickles and evidently I was hasty in my dismissal of last sunday's book review. I have since read a few nonfiction reviews which caught my attention, one chronicles the early stirrings of imperialism in the 18th century. That intrigues me. Holdovers from Roman tribute coupled so decisively with technology.

When I finish the Dombrovsky, I have pondered completing Foote's second volume and/or reading some of the Mccarthy gothic novels i have picked up in recent months. I also fell for a Montenegran novel titled the War Was Better which i recently bought.

There Is much To Say

Or is it ponder? I have to admit to being absorbed, if only for brief stretches by the enveloping sheets of Domnrovsky's brilliance. There are early scenes which depict melons in a market: the grace of which is moving beyond expectation. One thinks of Naipaul's ants or Tolstoy's mowing the hay in Anna Karenina. One thinks, is moved, and is grateful.

There aspects that provoke as well, Stalin haunts Zybin's deams, yet Koba is a sympathetic sort, as are the interrogators, who are attempting a telluric justice for what they imagine as the only true Cause.

Monday, October 10, 2005


I must admit to loving the Dombrovsky. It is simply brilliant. Digressions of flora and aesthetics abound with vivid characterization and flawed humanity. i read on someone's blog that Stalin is everyone. I am not sure, though Trotsky feared that ultimately the machine would eclipse all else and exist to devour. Lenin was fearful of Trotsky's Eternal Revolution: sadly, both of these portents proved palpable and inescapable.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

an update

I thoroughly enjoyed an hour's reading in the car while N shopped. I read 25 pages of so of the Dombrovsky, it went well with a chilly afternoon and a Punch Gran Puro. I bought a few books and discs at harold's and have since returned. i am unsure of the evening's contours but I hope to continue my reading. I understand the gravity of The Foundation Pit as an absurdist parable about Five-Year-Plans but Faculty of Useless Knowledge is simply epic.

I am thinking of placing my social security number, check accounts and credit cards permanently on this blog for all of my incipient fans, those who have taken the time to appreciate the inchoate (and don't mind the typos).

the Future

Marinetti be damned, it appears that I have stumbled upon a rash of articles lately in Believer and Harper's pertaining to and about Franzen/Moody/Status vs Contract Novels and what is the pointafterall? Through my greased wheels of free association I have thought since about wanting to REALLY read Gaddis. it is all about concentration. Not the experience of reading it, but absorbing it like Nabokov's ideal reader. That is allegedly the point of samizdat though such doesn't happen all that often.

It will likely be the Dombrovsky this week and then I might return to William G: perhaps his last piece Agape Agape and then The Recognitions (again) without that dreaded performance anxiety. There wasn't much in the book review this a.m. Only an interesting essay on biography. I have bought several tomes of that genre this year and haven't read any. Though I did read the first chapter Friday night of Trotsky's slim bio of Lenin.


Finished the Platonov today, a regal day for such a powerful albeit dour text. Not wishing to switch gears, the Dombrovsky was initiated. There is much to say about Russian souls and human inferiority. On a day where 6 September 11ths died in a single distant i.e. Asian rumble, matters of merit wag. What would Nipsey Russell ponder?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Responsible Loss

My reading of Foundation Pit appears to linger, if to savor the text as well as sift through its effluvial decay. The thought chanced by that t was similar to both the Bitov and the Yevtuschenko that I read from the 1980s (as opposed to Y's excellent Don't Die Before You're Dead) and that there is somnabulistic, near-undead quality to the ruminations of the characters. The more that such was pondered (a character in the Platonov muses whether "truth is a class enemy") the more pre-Soviet examples ascended into view. There was the wonderful voices of disbeleief in Turgenev's Smoke for instance. Reality is too often more than our ability to parrot.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Have browsed some this a.m. about links between Orwell and Platonov. I was drawn to comparisons intially becasue they both died so young. Orwell - never fully recovering from the wound suffered in Spain - and Platonov who likely contracted TB from his son who returned critically ill from Siberia. Both appear concerned with language and its misuses. It is interesting, but all of the contemporary blogs that reference the pair are likewise concerned with Hitchens and his obsequious sophistry. You figure?

the greatest

I read an interview with poet/translator Robert Chandler and he estimates Platonov as greatest Russian prose writer of the last Century.


Platonov is admirable: spinning lyrical gold from the dross of the Proletariat. It isn't difficult to see why he was excommunicated either. Kundera was right: socialism should've laughed more.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Uncertain Hegelian

I finished On Beauty yesterday and I find myself struggling with the novel's casual incompletion. It isn't that I demand closure or tropic satisfaction, but without crashing the gates of form and function, should the array of characters be involved with something, other than infidelity. I can't be sure. I was lucky enough that Randy procurred me a copy of the Foundation Pit by Platonov. Reader that I am of Russian letters, I must confess that I had never read him and am now struck by wandering protagonist, seemingly not sated by the bounty of the Soviet. I was hoping I might stretch my legs considering Bulgakov, Olesha and, perhaps, Grossman. The congestion of late persists and I must defer, unwilling to volley blanks like my friends Hitchens and Vessels.