Sunday, September 28, 2008

Enough, For Now

I have read a great deal today, as noted. Bolstering my negotiation through the novel, I went last night and plumbed the appropriate depths of the Gaddis Drinking Club archives. I truly appreciate my first encounters with most of that coterie.

Guilded By Weight

It appears now that I won't be travelling to Bardstown to watch my niece play soccer. Let us simply note this as another familial kidney punch. No need for sighs, it is sublime here in the heartland. I walked for a hour this morning while reading TRecs, no stumbles on the sidewalks, simply a surfeit of marvels at Mr. Gaddis.

I have encountered a pair of translations this weekend, the first being a new one of Les Miserables which clocks in at an amazing 1300 pages. I read a more svelte version some twen years ago and I can't say I am determined to approac this one out of any lingering curiosity. I read just now that Infinite Jest is finally being translated into German and it is near 1500 pages in Deutsch. So it goes, I am afraid.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I don't really have a plan for this post. I am going to finish The Recognitions.My progress now equals that of a few year's back during the salad days of the Gaddis Drinking Club before I bemoaned my lack of religious education and likely decided to continue with Foote's Civil war instead. I don't regret reading all of the Foote, of course, but the abandonment of TRecs has gnawed upon periodically since. I also caught up with Joel in History of Histories and am awaiting word of Roger's European achievements likewise.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

For The Present

My prey is narrow and I will make efforts to be dilligent. I would be lying to suggest that I escaped from my haunting, that a rope made taut has not applied itself with a constant curious suffocation since the 14th of September.

Monday, September 22, 2008

For The Course

I finished Coetzee's Waiting For The Barbarians yesterday, a novella of lyrical insight, bringing the essence of Borges' "Story of the Warrior and The Captive" to a relative boil with a searing examination of intimacy and torture, the thus inscription of the body and its definition by alterity, the Other our beyond the walls.

The work was astonishing.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Matters Concealed

I feel that I've stumbled into another impasse. I have drank heavily from DFW's early work these last 27 or so hours. I read most of The Girl With The Curious Hair and 100 pages of Broom of the System. I found such rather uneven.

I have occupied myself this afternoon with Coetzee's Waiting For The Barbarians, a brilliant diversion after a sprawling walk that led my wife and I all over this fair burg.

My leisure spawns a loathing of Clive James and his Cultural Amnesia, as enthralled as I was at the time. Given the primacy of Vienna in the book, where the hell was Robert Musil in the Aussie's trajectory?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Such Strangeness

The week has limped into the corner, my neighbors still lack electricity, major investment banks have washed up on the shores of Gehennagrad and my own brain keeps reeling under the tow of DFW. I read his essay on Joseph Franks multi-volume biography of Dostoevsky the other night and then elected to read The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. I can't really sense any connection but i can now admit to having read Graham Greene's favorite spy novel.

I am now hip deep in Wallace's The Girl With The Curious Hair.

Monday, September 15, 2008


During those seventy mile per hour winds yesterday the Ohio was a foamy shriek, perhaps that was me, white knuckling our Focus across the bridge. I just remembered what I want to read today. Here's to Kultur.

Endless Salad and Breadsticks

I did not mention Solzhenitsyn here when he passed last month. He was too large, epic and intrepid.

Yesterday was a wonderful Sunday. I awoke early, which is unusual, and made my way through the terrible NYTBR, which has become customary. My waffles and espresso coupled perfectly I moped up here for my quotidian reality. Inexplicably, suicide has been an overarching concept as of late. i don't know if it is the season or Sara Palin, I don't have a clue. I am not sure where I first heard of David Foster Wallace but I know that it was in 1998. I had been reading a good deal of Delilo and it appears likely that it may be as simple as "others who bought. . ." I do recall printing an interview he allowed with Salon and in it he chose to spread the wealth and made mention of others in his generation, notably, for myself at least, W.T. Vollmann and Richard Powers -- neither of which was I then familiar. I read Infinite Jest and loved it. I gave that copy to J and Rhonda Barry, newly married at the time. I read it again in tandem with my wife in 2003 as this nation's illegal war was ignited over Baghdad. I am nearly speechless considering the capacity and magnitude that this man left on the page, the way he made us think, imagine and laugh. Perhaps I wil bend my schedule away from the family Mann and read Broom of the System.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Titled to Slumber

It is gusty here in the heartland. The morning arrived bruised, the wind hasn't balmed the lingering humidity and i am thankful for central air. I finished Cultural Amnesia yesterday but have been rattled by the passing of David Foster Wallace. It has been a recurring theme as of later on myriad planes and I find it all inexplicable. Let us follow Wittgenstein.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


The last few days have introduced gravity to the spirited glide which carried me through 500 pages of Cultural Amnesia over the weekend. Work and going to see Liza Minnelli pruned down last night's efforts, though I did enjoy some reflection while waiting for my wife outside the Center For The Arts. I enjoyed the section on Alan Moorehead this a.m.-- 'twas a divine day, where the subtle sun, Canadian geese and Gershwin's Rhapsody commingled freely and were rather transportive as Lesley and I drove back from the library.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hedging Bets

Years ago Joel and I were at the pub.

No, actually there is more to this one. His brother was there and we proclaiming the depths of our Proustian fall, the sacred tomes which we regarded as crucial, quiddities if you will our wayward bent as men of letters , wandering outside the gates in uncertain times. I can't recall the titles I rattled off, other than My Antonia, which I had employed for PC value and immediately regretted such. Joel's brother countered with any of half dozen novels by John Le Carre. I scoffed.

This past weekend Philip Pullman noted on the Times Online (via bookslut's blog) his 40 favorite books and included The Perfect Spy by JLC. I bought a copy today for a quarter: I am not sure whether I will proceed beyond that effort.

Forced Entry

Perhaps it was the strong broth of slumber which left me so sensitive to touch through the weekend and easily excited by by the 500 or so pages of Clive James which I noshed like a hefty platter of paleek paneer. I noted to my wife on Saturday that I can't begin to imagine the construction and composition of a novel like that of Georges Perec's User Manual; conversely, it is far from impossible to fathom myself, or, more likely, Joel piecing together something comparable to Cultural Amnesia.

Apparently Clive finds Walter Benjamin impenetrable, as he does Gibbon's RAFOTRE and Moby Dick simply isn't worth the effort. The primacy of cafe wits in this narrative isn't likely an accident.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Clive James

It was the adaptation Clive’s Lives on Slate which first fomented my interest in the text. Biding my time I maintained my vigil at Half Price and was determined to wait for paperback otherwise. i capitalized on the latter course last Tuesday at Carmichael’s. Maintaining two other bountiful nonfiction books I tossed caution to the ether and made bold progress.

I was struck immediately by James’ qualifications as to the both the method and purpose of his endeavor Initially it is a question of:

“a single line of argument moving through selected perceptions to a neat conclusion.”


“I had begun live with the possibility that there could be no scheme.”

until, it became:

“a trail of clarities variously, illuminating a dark sea of unrelenting turbulence, like the phosphorescent wake of a phantom ship.”

and then, resignedly:

“So this is a book about how not to reach one.”

“I am showing them the way to a necessary failure: the grim but edifying realization that a complete picture of reality is not to be had.”

The aegis of the book begins in Vienna. Cafe wit is delineated as the acme of civilization, especially in contrast to the shroud which extinguished it. (the fact that it was insitutional anti-Semetism, the establishment of quotas at the universities and most proferessions which enegendered this inucbation of intellect outside the academy) and yet is a French source for the books first bon mot:

"that long flight from our own lives that we call erudition>" -- Proust.

It is the moral climate of the Nazi Occupation of France that gives the book its vertebrae. While I find that Tony Judt's Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956 is an exceptional (and superior) resource for this particular dilemma, James does devote himself to a more motley selection: Aron, Bloch, Brasillach, Camus, Chanel and Cocteau. This is only the beginning. Amongst other details snagged from the next are that Tony Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz; Duke Ellington preferred threesomes, and Charles de Gaulle had a disabled daughter who died in his arms at the age of twenty.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


This evening I finished Life: A Users Manual with great satisfaction. This was likely my favorite novel for the year so far; in myriad dimensions it constituted a contemporary Candide.