Monday, July 30, 2007


The vastest things are those we may not learn.
We are not taught to die nor to be born,
nor how to burn
with love.
How pitiful is our enforced return
To those small things we are the masters of." -- Mervyn Peake

Charity Shop Coup

I found a nearly new hardbound Oxford History of English Literature at a thrift store today and bought it for 53 cents. It is an updated edition as opposed to the well-handled copy in the public library's stacks and I am rather pleased.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Patience of Gifts

While my birthday is still a dozen days away, I have been kindly bestowed with a trove of delights these past three days. Gunter Grass unleashed that disturbing revelation last summer of his volunteering for the SS during the closing months of the war. I struggled with such all summer and it was some trepidation that I approached the book after it arrived here two days ago: a signed copy courtesy of Joel. The recent front page review by John Irving proved to me a worthy agent of reconciliation. The mechanics of the memoir are nothing but masterful, the careful positioning of focus and periodic shift between first and third persons is delightful, if irritating to the quest for testimony.

The book is both an homage to his body of work and a pillory to his own moral opacity during the war and his consequent gregarious absorption which left him both absent and distant from his mother and sister when they needed him most.

I told Joel this a.m. that I would have read the entire book Thursday if not for other commitments. The 300 pages i swept through today were remarkable and resonant. The book's conclusion has jarred my prior plans and I am unsure where to tread next. I do know that I will begin Godard's Historie Du Cinema this evening.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Knuckled from swooning, I will hold vertical long enough to announce that there are signs of life on Samizdat. There was also mention of a future selection, though the advocate for our present selection has been quite mum for a month now.

Fate's Cracked Spine

Not 30 minutes after last night's posting I noticed that my copy of Wolf Solent was slowly falling apart. I would like to thus keep the book close to bed, sharing space perhaps with that Kinglsey bio. I also not that this will grossly disaffect my progress in the novel: such a shame. I did bring the Ferguson with me today and I also bought myself the Peake trilogy for my birthday.

I was at the river a half hour ago pondering across Anthony Burgess' introduction and I could recall vividly reading Tom Franklin. That's an odd sensation, not uncommon especially as a half hour earlier I heard a Scorpions song at Burger King, one prominent in the German film What To Do In Case of Fire. How odd and of incidentally, we should let it burn.

I am still tired and hope to correct that this evening with rations of both exercise and slumber.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dorothy Parker's Tired Ass

And vice versa.

It has not been a day for reading, lovely as it was. I only read dozen pages this a.m. though I did appreciate the mild propulsion the novel takes, pushing it by a weeks to allow Wolf and Gerda further consummation without the heavy lifting of domesticity. I a have returned to my comparisons with Patrick White, particularly Voss and the wraithic presence of Christie. Indeed Voss boasted no incest, but the meanderings and tunneled vice which occupy and imprison Blacksod are rather remarkable.I did hope for explosions of ideas, perhaps geysering from the malevolent presence of Urquart and his organic, Rabelaisian view of History. Perhaps that will develop later, there does remain 350 pages in the novel.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I read over 150 pages yesterdays while perched on the porch. My bloved joined me for a spell and as she is swimming across the Bolano, she asked me about certain poets. It was engaging to broach such but as many know verse isn't my strong suit nor a domain of weighted interest. Like many I cut my proverbnial teeth on Rimbaud and i moved to Whitman, Baudelaire and Rene Char (given Heidegger's respect for such). I haven't read a great deal of poetry in recent years though Jake did loan me some Bukowski a few years back. Such made me think of Beckett's quandary when translating verse. Rain taxi devotes considerable space to poetry and I spent time on an unrelated quest yesterday, browsing decade-old copies of Rain Taxi and Bookforum. It was illuminating to note how the many of the significant books of 1997-1999 are now largely forgotten or at least of middling notoriety.

Paul Auster tends to piss me off.

I do miss Sebald.

I couldn't find any references to Powys though I did encounter one of association in Amis' War Against Cliche reviewing Angus Wilson's collected literary reviews.I'd like to approach both Wilson's Anglo-Saxon Attitudes and Powys' Wolf Solent if only through the reprehensible prism of one Dr. Joel E. Vessels.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


It should prove a delightful day for al fresco reading, it is kooky cool outdoors and I am lucid enough to gather that this will be a short-lived treat. I did read 45 pages of Wolf Solent after our late afternoon bike excursion. It is a dense enclosure of ideas and detail, much like Patrick White in my estimation. I believe Angus Wilson compared Powys with Lawrence and I think such is apt.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hell and Harry Potter

I must admit that I checked the Guardian last night before I crawled to bed to see if their traditional all-night review had completed the text. I am somewhat troubled by these two facts; that I went to bed at ten, completely exhausted on Friday night and that I was interested on whatever ephemeral level about whether Harry bought it in the end.

A lush night of slumber elicited deep drinks from the dreamstreams and now my wife is hawking over a minor splash of discard in our neighborhood yard sale. I am excited about Wolf Solent.My motivations remain obscure, even to myself.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Finished the Fisk

I consider it the most improtant book I have read this year. It essentially was finished in 2003 with the Invasion of iraq, though there are trappings of latter events, thankfully which don't extend to last summer's dirty war.

I will read the Alistair Horne book on Algeria but not now. I will trust a much needed return to literature and Powrys.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nathan Englander At World's End

I read one of his stories a few weeks back, about Jewish poets, the night before their liquidiation by Stalin. I have thought about its nuance, but otherwise it was rather unassuming.

I have read 400 pages of the Fisk since Saturday and I am nearing the book's conclusion. I was going to sned him an e-mail until I discovered on the Independent's website ( ) that it doesn't accept email pertaining to Fisk. It did leave an address in London and I think I will write this intrepid man a letter. I find it intriguing that upon typing Robert Fisk and Christopher Hitchens into Google one encounters a seemingly endless list of right-wong blogs. Many of them are unintentionally hilarious for Fisk's dire warning against the slef=evident capitualtion of the Iraqi Army in 2003, one chides Fisk for oberving that it almost appears as if the US doesn't have a plan. How fucking true he was.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Oxford American

Forget JT Leroy. i thin the OA has been scammed by a plant, though likely they haven't Their Best Of issue included quite plush peice about a forgotten novel, titled Stoner by an author named John Williams. NYRB Classics happened to have just published a reprint. Given the Norah Jones situation, I am siding towards a fix. Payola isn't bad except when it pisses me off.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Thoughts Upon Disregard

Feling rested I have approached this mixed day with hasty hands grabbing the horns from all three books. The Angus Wilson continues, though without the fervor of even Thursday. I have read another 50 pages of the Kinglsey bio. It is the Fisk which has witnessed a triumph of sorts, however mixed by the stain of its pressing reality. I absaorbed the Algeria section this afternoon, how mortifying this proved after a lengthy 90 minute discussion with Jewish proprieter of a local cafe about travel in Morocco. I have read a few of the genre novels by Khamed about Algeria and still hope to read Horne's definitive text: none of this could prepare me for the scope and scale of this wickeed landill.

That said I have thought a great deal about modernity, about Dreiser for heaven's sake, about the penultimate sequence of Sister Carrie, about whether I should read Middlemarch while abroad, about how excited I remain over this Powrys chap -- you figure I'll guess how to pronounce his name?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Thinking Tired

Given my week, I am knackered. My first comfort this evening was chatting with my wife and then reading the new Oxford American on the porch. I am watching Citizen Kane because I enjoy it.

I am thinking about Dreiser, Eliot and Dickens. The happy recollection of reading Dostoevsky in New York City greeted me tonight. I also thought of first reading him, largely in Salem with my grandma. I did not read it in tandem, as I have previously noted, but it is simply in reference to a time now so foreign. I think I would have liked Angus Wilson. Perhaps I would have been the oblique.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Motorcycle Dementia

The Anglo-Saxon Attitudes has arrived at the perfect time. There are no complaints, no matter how tightly bound the sequences appear. While remaining in the vaguest vein of Kingsley, its tableau is akin to Wallant's cast of tenants despite Wilson's class pretensions, and the struggles of his characters to appear oblivious to both snobbery and caste. I bought some Wedgewood and other history texts yesterday at a thrift shop. I was especially keen on Salisbury's history of the Russian Revolution, which I had sought a few month's back on the clearence shelf at Half Price.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Loose Ends

We should begin with forgetting my announcements of last evening, nothing has been further from all relative truths. I did not heft the Fisk but went rather with a novel by Angus Wilson which caught my eye a month ago and I picked up last week at Half Price after selecting Voss by Patrick White for my friend Pint who was in town this past weekend. More on Wilson later, but i also bought Murakami's Wind-Up Bird Chroinicle which is rather central and perhaps crucial in quirky circumstances which culminated in my marriage. Odd, but so wonderful.

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes by Angus Wilson has proved wonderful. Akin to Kinglsey perhaps, but enjoyable and rife with acerbic contemplation. I certainly need to spend more time this week on the Kingsley bio, but when? My interest in John Cowper Powys continues. My interest was sparked by John Grey's noting it remarkable in the Guardian and some spitwad research yielded a wonderful article by Margaret Drabble on the same newspaper.

There wasn't much of literary bent to my discussions this past weekend, saddled with Riger and discussing the shitbogs of Amis domesticity was the exception. Pint hammered away on some tired Cold War ethics bullshit and left me pondering about whether an author like Niall Ferguson could hold both of our interests. I can't affirm with any confidence. I hope Terry likes the novel. I watched Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance yesterday and I did think of Murakami, perhaps given his essay in the NYTBR it was inevitable.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Too Tired

Riding 50 miles in two days and saddled with company and time at the jazz club have floored me, no time for real thinking today, scraps of thought about Gunter Grass and perhaps squeezing another novel into the week. There are many considerations on that kast point, though I will heft the Fisk for the week and I am suddenly keenly interested in an early 20C author named John Cowper Powys. I have encountered the name innumerable times but it was always that the provincial Englishness of such that proved such a bother.

Inspiration of Late

I thoroughly enjoyed William Boyd's recollection of Lanark by Alsidair Gray in The Guardian. I was truly impressed by Francisco Goldman's essay on Bolano in the NYRB. I was a bit mystified by John Irving's hagiography of Gunter Grass.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Perverted Justice

There is no dubious core to this posting. I did enjoy the Goytisolo and then read Transmission, that gleeful novel of plot which was so lamented by the critical corner. More to follow.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Perhaps The Bombs Will Rest

Robert Fisk has proven, amongst loftier achievements, to be an audible author. Dozens of times over the past three days I sighed and groaned under the spell of his vivid accounts. Whereas his devotion to the Iran-Iraq War was singular and crushing, his interlude revisiting the Armenian genocide was overly familiar given our reading last summer of Burning Tigris, a text Fisk cites on several turns. Yesterday afternoon I arrived at the plight of the Palestinians the expanse and compunction of the myriad Treaties and Accords, the all-too-familiar events which I recall so directly, the settlements, the Intifadas, the ultimate fall of Sharon and Arafat, who asked Fisk about Michael Collins’ fate.

Following my Sunday protocol I hoped to explore Clockwork Orange but found the necessary glossary too inconvenient, so I returned to reread Marx Family Saga by Goytisolo, a book I bought and read, apparently seven years ago this month. Complete Review, which did me an unsolicited favor by listing my blog on its index, rates the novel its highest standard, the elusive A+. I didn’t recall it being that good, but the day’s reading has corroborated such acclaim