Sunday, September 24, 2006

Working Stillborn

Dispatching from my final hours in Chicago, the weather really turned aside any hopes for day-long book-combing,in the retail sense anyway. A brief trip to Naperville was the sole junket of the trip and I hope to stop in Indianapolis in a few hours.

That said I did spend Friday enjoying the wind and mild temperatures and read all of The Road in a single sitting. There is noth unique in this exploration but simply a poetic and nearly Biblical sublimity. The father's desperate monologues are situated in an exact opposition with the brilliant descriptions of a world in its death throes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Not Much

Susan Sontag's posthumous notebooks will be published in a few years, an advance excerpt was in a recent issue of the NYT magazine and included was a note about an introduction she penned for the Story of O, it quickly grew to a 35 page essay, of which she wrote that she didn't believe a single word of it. My opinion of blogs is often similar to such. I did finish the Burning Tigris on Sunday and commented upon such at samizdat. My mainstream reading has been Warlock though I haven't read as much the past two days. It will be a busy schedule begining Thursday in Chicago and I look forward to finishing the Hall, beginning the new McCarthy and then the new Richard Powers.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Further West

Cinematic tropes continue as I dashed through Cities on the Plain last week, finding much grist in the encounter of the protagonists of the Trilogy's first two elements. Such a flourish bled into a descent into Warlock by Oakley Hall. I first became aware of the author a year ago, viewing a documentary about his son Tad' a wunderkind who battled mental illness and after a staggering early career in theatre attempted to kill himself and left himself but a husk afterwards. I was browsing the NYRB Classics site and found the reviews quite promising, the idea that while at Cornell, Pynchon found it his favorite book only sealed such for me, whore that I remain.

I have also discovered the English historian VC Wedgwood, as I read her study on Gibbon today and am thinking of making her tome on the Thirty Year War a samizdat selection after Beograd.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Uncertain Crabwalks

I have finished a couple of books within the past few days, battling body ache a medicated haze, I don't feel necessarily accomplished but I have enjoyed significant stretches of Overthrow, the Crossing and a high school-type primer about the origins of Venice and Genoa. The last text was also resplendent with a host of amazing lithographs. Overthrow provided daubs of color and personable detail to an already familiar narrative. I appreciate its loan. The McCarthy was not as bland as I had expected, but it has succeeded in engendering an unwavering desire for carnitas and huevos rancheros.

I have decided that I will be taking Name of the Rose and The Man Without Qualities along for the November trip to Belgrade. I dashed out a few index cards worth of notes for the Musil this past weekend and I have thought about the Eco for some time, apparently along with Joel. The good doctor's panache recognized that it may be the flurry of medieval fascination in the wake of Dan Brown which manifested itself in this odd return. Perhaps it is the idea of the return, eternal or otherwise. Perhaps it acts to thwart any loss of memory. I cannot say.

Our conversation also detailed a proposed banquet of the novels of Hermann Broch in the spring. The Death of Virgil and The Sleepwalkers were highlighted in our shared nerdy indulgence of high German modernism.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Truth Commission

If this was an accurate attemopt at my reading reality, it would spend a third of its time lamenting why I can't make up my fucking mind as to what to read next. I am besieged with ambitions and disparate interests. Last night, wrestling with a headcold (odd isn't it, i was canine ill last year during Labor day weekend), I read two chapters of the Sea Wolf, fifteen pages of The Slynx before deciding to read some Cormac. It will be the Crossing. I am also reading The Burning Tigris for samizdat and evil Doktor J, who speculates that it leisure that gave us killing fields. Humbug.

Tom Franklin

Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.
n Walter Benjamin

But even if I know that 5000 years ago that people wrote the same love letters, word for word, that they write today, I simply can’t read such letters any longer without wondering whether it isn’t ever going to change. – Robert Musil

Imagine that you have been summoned to an unpleasant gathering, an obligatory session with coworkers or family at a particularly dreadful location, say Applebee’s or something likewise loathsome. Imagine that not long thereafter, a phalanx of entrees arrive all tasteless and covered with Velveeta. The banality of chatter surrounding you is nearing apoplectic and suddenly a bottle is placed in front of you, a vintage melbec, easily a forty dollar wine. Your surprise can’t be exceeded. Just as you reach for it the ever-smiling wait staff grabs the bottle and empties it into a plastic pitch a third full of tap water. This is the only way, she chirps. The conversation has shifted to Survivor and the rice pilaf is now afloat on grease. Fuck it, you mutter and pour yourself a glass. Raising it to your lips you discover that all the mystery and oaken pleasure of the melbec are there, just diluted and given the circumstances, it is a godsend.

Such was my response to Tom Franklin’s Hell At The Breach, a historical novel based upon an actual county-wide strife between planters and townies in Alabama between 1897 and 1899. Much like his earlier collection Poachers Franklin has stunning eye for detail and mood. This novel strives to be Cormac McCarthy. It does not succeed. It is quite good, especially given its familiar fondness for horses and dogs, its callous regard for the foibles of humans, especially those with gregarious morality.