Friday, April 28, 2006


Quite under the weather, I did finish the Nabokov this evening. Contrary to Brian Boyd, I don't see it as a masterpiece as such. The idea of a fabricated reality, not quite the Matrix - mind you - but of charlatans and play-acting, of public relations and self-help. The text is quite prescient but I wasn't moved.

I then read "the Ghosts of Magnetism," a lengthy story (57 pages) by Vollmann in his Thirteen Stories and Thirteen Epitaphs. This weighty blow left me gasping. I had started it a year ago and sadly abandoned such prematurely.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Frozen In Time

Nabokov's Invitation is interesting. It isn't necessarily surreal, certainly not Kafkaesque. It merits attention at what N imagined as a logical extension of certain practices and traditions filtered through the madness of state socialism. As Solzhenitsyn (and Conquest, Applebaum etc) noted, the Russian prisons of 19th Century were remarkably humane evn though Aleksandr notes his surpise in Volume 1 of the GA that they library at Lubyanka was well-stocked, one wouldn't imagine dressing gowns in the gulag, which is nearly the image Nabokov paints.

The Merits of Style

There is a domain of mastery, itcan be found in every tome of Nabokov. There is no dearth of sheer awe within his pages. The disturbing edge of his acuity is that his verve extended to two tongues.

My wife assumed that I read all of his work. This is not the case. There remain, at least, four novels that I haven't read. There is likely fifty or so stories and then there is his autobiography. Indeed, a surfeit remains. It is likely a testament to both his emigre novels as well as Brian Boyd's exemplary two volume biography that I hold Nabokov in the highest esteem.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Is there a more titanic name in literature? Not from my piquant gaze. I have begun Inivtation to the Beheading. It is one of his emigfre novels penned in France in the late 30s after the Reich became too visible a threat to Vera and vitality. It is sanguine and in its introduction to the english version, translated masterfully by his son Mitya, Nabokov claims that he hadn't yet heard of Kafka when he penned this nightmare. He also delivers a wayward slash to Orwell and his level of entertainment. For what its worth Eric Blair was in fact recovering from being shot through the neck in the Spanish Civil War at the time of this novel.

Such is neither.


Early this morning, a placid soft-chilled prose poem of nascency, I stumbled upon yet another review Black Swan Green in the village voice. Unlike the groaning hordes which replicate the complaint that though this autobiography is great but the public needs another Cloud Atlas, the Voice's review was a careful consideration of themes and riffs which link all of Mitchell's novels. I hadn't considered such, outside of the obvious link to Cloud Atlas in the novel's midriff. While my brain continues to lumber towards lucidity, it proved pleasant to ponder the traces and clues which intertwine.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I thoroughly enjoyed The Hairy Ape by Eugene O'Neill this afternoon. It was read in tandem with my wife. I found it initially a collection of types but pulsed beyond such limitation by the mid-point.

Thusly Stated

I arrived home on this past dripping Friday suffering from both stress and fatigue. Sitting on the front porch I began to read Empire by Niial Ferguson. I completed it this morning. It was appropriate in a less-than-serious sense to read while warplanes screamed overhead, as Ferguson notes dryly, is it possible to have globalization without gunboats?

His thesis hovers about the point whether the Empire was good for its dominions? He buttresses this, neglecting racism, of course, with statistics to prove that Empire wasn't financially successful. . .for the nation of Great Britain proper. Never mind how many millions of pounds sterling went into corporate accounts and coffers, the nation at large didn't quite benefit accordingly. The demographics of the Colonial service were intrigying as well, largely staffed with Scots and Micks, it yielded a route of advancement while, at the same time, affirming Horace Greeley's statement that you could pay half the poor to murder the other half.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Anthony Burgess

The Mancunian has been of interest as of late and I felt determined to ascertain when. An obvious choice may have been some months back when Roger gave me the Anatomy of Melancholy and Burgess' blurb is quite prominent on the back cover. Actually i beelive that this very year brought portents of the author. the Times on New Year's Day featured a delightful piece by Harold Bloom about Limbo and it contained references to Pope Benedictus, Dante and the neocons. The essay was actually bracketed by a pair of personal rememberences of Burgess. My actual recall of such, a memory bubbling to the surface of the cranial pan, elcited a treasured smile.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Mitchell's Sigh

It was no great feat that I began reading Black Swan Green so suddenly, nor that I put it to rest this evening, ideally -- just as the weather turned tumultuous. What did it inspire? Certainly there angst and everyman - equally Holden Caufield and Stephen Dedalus. There was that sidelong glance to the eighties, to my own adolescence, the Line of Beauty and a disagreeable nod to Cloud Atlas. It was a torreent in divisible sections. It all the flourish and boredom that daily devour our youth. It is an abstraction and an anti-war stroph. Such remain its mechanics.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Untimely

Happenstance surrounds. Evidently.

It has been a productive morning. It was no real surrpise that I began reading black swan green Thursday evening. As many have and will note, it is queer that most choose autobigraphical fiction has their debut whereas wunderkind Mitchell waits until novel number four. It has been a pureblooded delight for my mongel musings.

As is habit, I ventured to the library's book sale and bought seven tomes, including a pristine copy of Barnes' Lemon Table as well as Robert Conquest's Kolyma. The presence of the latter intrigued me and I hoped for an insight into its arrival. I flipped through and text and discovered an Easter notice, as a forgotten bookamrk. The date is 2.24.83. Incidentally such is the final chapter of Mitchell's novel.

Heil the Illuminati

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Poll Tax of the Mind

It is well documented that I don't prefer short stories; the balance between context and action is too delicate and I am often annoyed, find myself wanting or cursing the author for a miserly imagination. That said, two of my favorite books of the last twelve months, Europe Central and The Devil's Blind Spot, were essentially collections of stories albeit thematically linked to the degree that both could be considered novels-as-constellations.

I remain multitudes much like Walt and I have recently been touched by a pair of stories -- Like a bad dream by Heinrich Boll and The Parakeet by Victor Erofeyev, included in the collections 18 Stories and Life With An Indiot, respectively.

The first one measures morality in an epoch, not inextricably linked to Nazism, as economic growth precludes corruption, however sophisticated, and as the protagonist feels driven almost to illness by the necessity of such, it is elucidated that the story is universal and immortal. Boll, needless to say, is both delicate and severe.

The second tale hanuted me last night after i read such, resting from a day of driving. It is essentailly a retelling of the Grand Inquisitor, incorporating Dostoevsky's second-person moralizing to an explosive effect, as an officerof the Security Organs explains to a father the last, torture-filled, days of his son's life: locating a tautology within.

I will likely read the title story of Erofeyev this afternoon. I have read three more of the Boll and will likely not pursue such, especially given my fond familiarity with the author. I am not sure whether I will attempt to complete the Erofeyev, the new Mitchell arrived yesterday and my foolish optimism expects tohers will join me in the Burton.

We will see.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Barnes and Doyle

I finished Arthur and George this afternoon and found it delightful, if at times a bit tedious, though examples of such were more of the melodrmatic, lending itself to Doyle's own work and that of our present, and addictive, courtroom drama. It is an English book and I can well imagine Julian and Zadie discussing such, while just outside Martin Amis takes (another) swing at Salman. Somewhere west of there, Hitchens and Joel are drinking.

Back to the Burton, for keeps.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


My wife recently bought me a subscription to Oxford american, this was year after Joel had did the same. My first issue of this new series arrived today, a quite attractive woman is wearing a chemise in bed, an open book awaits her, even as she had turned over shoulder to practically wink at the camera. my favorite feature is her quite dirty feet resting on the alabaster sheets. The contents aren't as exciting as the cover. I fear that Southern Literature is becoming too commodified, prepackaged in way that can easily nauseate.

I hesistate to offer too glib of a comparison between OA, Bookforum or the Beleiver against that of the New York Times. What has exactly hapened to the Times? Middlebrow literature occupies the focus and despite Stephen Wright's recent cover appearence the avant-garde is avoided at nearly all costs. I fear I am too weary to complete this lament.

Monday, April 03, 2006

More, For Now

I am going to give Arthur and George a wing for now, given the pleasure afforded by his historic contortions. We shall see.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Text Finished

I hypothesized about what it would mean to be 25 (or so) and read the Barnes and Cloud Atlas in sequence, what effect would such engender upon one's world view, one's inertia?


"Our panic and our pain are only eased by soothing fabulation; we call it history."
Julian Barnes, HOTWI10.5 (p.242)

Upon The Horns

Yesterday, sigh. I read three more chapters of the Barnes, two outdoors in that plentiful sunshine. N was, it appears, rather accurate in her assessment of Barnes, especially in contrast to David Mitchell. It is largely a question of folly in Barnes' outcomes, differences in creed and religion will undoubtedly retard progress and Nature will take her cues periodically and humble all advances and whatever self-importance has been erected along the way.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

British Bedtime

Historically I am immune to all the gags, particularly the internet variety, that accompany the First of April. I was just taken by the yahoo headline that Chris Martin was working to unseat Tony Blair after a yoga class shared by Ms. Paltrow and MP Cameron's wife.

Enough of such!

While measuring the excitement of my peers towards the Burton, I thought I add some texts towards which I have had interest for some time. I had posted about the new Julian Barnes and that I had reserved a copy from the library. That finally arrived but last wednesday I decided that I would History of the World in 10 and One-Half Chapters. N had picked it up in Cincinnati as she own a copy in srpski. Her words were, its like Cloud Atlas but not as dire. I have read three sections of the novel since Wednesday and remain amazed at its caustic wit, its characterization of Noah's Ark from the perspective of termites, its collsion of the History Channel and contemporary (circa 1989) terrorism and a medieval trial of excommunication against, yes, termites.

I hope to finish the Barnes History this weekend, post on the two introductions to the Burton and then ponder a dip into either the new Barnes or a novel by Anthony Burgess, another Brit I have had interest towards as of late.

You might ask, what about Boswell? I am actually surprised at how agreeable i found the text, reading 100 pages last weekend while flu-ridden. That said, I'd like to read Johnson's poem London and hopefully reyurn to Boswell a few times per week before bed. Upon opening the tome, I imagined that I would struggle through ten or so pages and then abandon the entire effort. Alas it deserves more, even if he was a boob.

Oh yes, the new David Mitchell is published next week and I preordered it back in January. Damn.