Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Inspired By An Illinois Bibliophile

L-R Tim, Dalibor, Steve and myself: all literary in equally divergent arcs.


My attempts at insularity through Sacred Games failed. I would hesitate before terming it literature, perhaps no more impressive than a middlebrow saga: Richard Russo on the subcontinent, perhaps. I can't say I hated it, it simply didn't fit.

My dislocation was soon resolved in the form of Nothing To Be Frightened Of, the recent memoir essay on mortality by Julian Barnes, perhaps elevated to some askew angle by the unfortunate and untimely passing of Julian's wife, as noted here a few weeks back.

My intentions on finishing The Anatomy of Melancholy next week now hinge upon a quick recovery from the grasp of seasonal allergy and ague. I know better than to believe I can hope to ascend through the Burton being less-than-hale.

Samizdat has a made a selection and a Srpski author at that.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A sort of reflection

Such is the case this Sunday with all matters being refracted and stacked into inner-ear piles. I spent some time with the Black Swan last night and believe I will enjoy mining this text in just the manner that Voltaire's Bastard's and Black Mass proved so convenient.

Sipping chai this a.m. I felt better than I did Saturday and after the depression of the NYTBR I read another story from the Vikram Chandra collection I retrieved from the public library a week ago. Thus contradicting my prior stance I began calling shops in Louisville and thus determined that Sacred Games was available at Carmichael's. I now own it but have yet to crack such. Beth Orton is playing and I don't feel that congested.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Royal Family

Apparently Viking Press had determined that the above novel should be at a 600 page maximum and that author William T. Vollmann negotiated avoid further cuts and thus sacrificed a percentage of his royalties.

Still under the weather, I read the final 250 pages today and I found the final 150 pages in need of a scalpel.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tired, Weary, Eager

I have made considerable progress in The Royal Family and have suffered as a result. My throat has ached all day and I spent most of the morning dashing in and out of the rain. Vollmann's focus drifted away from the Tenderloin, as I noted, to Vegas and then into some deeply disturbing material. My ambition is to finish the book this weekend and such remains a possibility.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Not Much

I have found the effort to read 30 or so pages of the Vollmann. The focus shifted from SF/Sacramento to Vegas and I hope for a quick return.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


There was a contention on someones blog concerning the tendency to glorify rural life in literature without due explication of the necessary work, fatigue and relative poverty of such an endeavor. The response to this claim was calm and measured. By a similar stretch I find myself often lost in the demands of the work week and my concurrent mania for desiring to read everything NOW, DAMNIT!I was working a few weeks back and heard Bob Edwards interview with Julian Barnes on NPR. I remain a serious Barnes enthusiast but haven't read but likely half of his novels. I have always admired not only his wit in interviews but his grasp of the responsibilities of a journalism on both sides of an interview or through well-tempered tunnel of an essay.

I was saddened just now to learn of the passing of his wife, the literary agent Pat Kavanagh.

Monday, October 20, 2008

found this on Conversational Reading

I may be reading The Rifles next; I bought it two years ago in Chicago.

Simply Thinking

Such was a chore earlier in the day; the costs of the season left me a hacking sniffling wretch. I suppose I will have ample time to finish the Vollmann by next weekend. I could then return to The Recognitions, which mocks in the morning, idle in the seat of my truck. The dawn was breaking today and I had carried out a third double from the house, it is pledge week on NPR which I find annoying, I was pleased that my copy of The Royal Family dwarfed the Gaddis, it eclipsed my failure momentarily and I sipped my espresso contented.

I do believe that I am going to stretch inside the Burton and Montaigne during my November holiday, then there will be the Bolano. If I encounter the Vikram Chandra I will buy it, there is little doubt.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Out Of Sorts

Waking at 4 a.m. to take my wife's brother tot he airport has left me treading downstream in a funkish slipstream. I did read 100 pages of Royal Family and have to admire the New Journalism aspects of this woeful tale. I began the Octavian book and admired the language, though I wasn't exactly enthused by the material. I also began one of the Vikram Chandra stories and was quite impressed: thus a door is propped open.


Going back to work last week, I continued with The Friar and The Cipher, a sort of middlebrow intellectual history concerning nascent enlightenment from Athens through the Magna Carta and ultimately Roger Bacon and Doctor Dee. The argument was entertaining though far from persuasive.

Mymania became apparent late in the week when I read notice of Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games, which I must have been rather oblivious to at the time of its publication. The usual pathology gripped me as the stress from work sublimated itself into a bodily need to possess and hold this nine hundred page novel of Mumbai, regardless if I imagined myself full for a decade after reading Maximum City.Thankfully a whisper of reason offered a palpable alternative: The Royal Family by W.T. Vollmann.

I have now read 250 pages of this frankly antithetical novel, one which hammers at all notions of rehabilitation. I will likely spend the rest of the weekend, today, with this imperial stance on the wayward and overlooked. The last part of which I coined from Scott Esposito.

I also discovered another YA author and novel the other day, courtesy of bookslut: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To and Slow

Finishing Slow Man yesterday afternoon, bedridden and crestfallen, I thought that I simply aspire for Coetzee to be another Graham Greene for myself and not another Paul Auster. I didn't like the novel, the director walking onstage and Ms. Costello sleeping in parks. No.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Still Looking

I finished Master of Petersburg on Friday and was left stunned, something remarkable. Leaping into Dostoevsky's Notes From The Underground, I became aware of some Coetzee's lens that he employed to capture that simmering delirium. I have always though that Notes would make a compelling stage monologue or even film.

Last night the harvest hue permeated the air and I was attending to a number of errands for today, I chose Slow Man by Coetzee to tote along. My history with J.M. is mixed, but, has had quite the effect as of late.

Friday, October 10, 2008


This novel of 11th Century nihilism by a deceased Slovenian would likely have been a good purchase. These are the wages of the internet; one can revisit every neglected purchase and brood.

Also, I should include Scoop by Waugh on my list of humorous novels, Wonder Boys deserves Honorable Mention despite the film treatment.

My Holiday

Yes, for all intents and purposes I can see the aperture is closing, the field is being cordoned and the lights have begun to flicker. It was sublime. I went to Chicago again, didn't buy as many books as I had feared. I finished five books this week and may finish two more before Monday. My wife's brother has been a treat and I have sat by reading while they worked on the house all week.

I bought Coetzee's Master of Petersburg Sunday in Chicago. I was actually leaning more towards a book of Brodky's essays. It is impossible to explain the myriad swarming inclinations which push and pull in-and-out of every book's orbit. I read with awe this week other people's, who opinions I champion, about the struggle and the near-mockery of all those unread books. I view my own relations as somewhat of a pathology. I recall Nick Hornby using just such an aside in The Believer, stating that there is neuroses at play that to counteract a sense of deficiency one must be reading constantly.

That certainly applies in my case.

So I started reading the Coetzee last night and I love it. I love it more for Dostoevsky's sake than that transplanted S.A. Nobeliak. I read into the night, something i haven't attempted this week, being respectful of those hardworking souls with diurnal motivations. I am only about 40 percent into such but I do have a spark, one i hope to finesse for some time.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Deserts and Delirium

I completed the Greene today, an odd Nobel day where the weather here drifted from stone chilly to humid. There were a few wrinkles and embellishments within the novel that thankfully were not included and thusly inviscerated upon the screen.


Another sound night of holiday, a brisk chilly slumber countered with the drone at eight-thirty of my brother in-law's labor. I was pleased with the Nobel selection though admit a total ignorance. The public library, imagine my surprise, has a copy of one of his novels. Once the window artisans arrive I may walk down there and investigate.

I read 100 pages of End of The Affair last night. Having seen the film, I am afraid that much of bristle and chafe will arrive without surprise. Over the last six years or so I have been amazed as to how Greene's stock keeps rising in my estimation as opposed to Waugh and Orwell. Perhaps I should seize upon Henry Green for a spell?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Stalin Organ

I finished such today and have mourned my previous posting for some time. My point was lost in that crumpled wad. Enderby is flatulent. I find this significant, he also cribs his poems in the bathroom.

Conversely, the novel about the stalemate at Leningrad is an unabating nightmare, where formless death manifests itself in innumerable ways while ideology slits its own throat. It will recall All Quiet On The Western Front to some, but this bleak portrait is purposely bereft of any human touches, sans screams and viscera, of course.

Mr. Stahl's appreciated comment registered, though in an area I don't usually consider. If forced to make a quick list of my favorite humorous novels, I would dash as follows:

5)Tenants of Moonbloom
4)Gravity's Rainbow
3)Lucky Jim
2)Our Man in Havana
1)Confederacy of Dunces

During the spell I pondered such this afternoon, a hearty walk in the fleeting sun and then a short drive to Home Depot to pick up items for my wife and Dalibor, I kept returning to the early scene in Infinite Jest where Hal ingests mold and his mother screams, my son ate this, my son ate this!

Okay, I may have problems. Rabelais belongs on my list, otherwise I suppose such is such.

For Cough

I finished the first of the Enderby novels earlier and was impressed with the humor and the deft capture of the inspiration of the poet and relative recluse.

Back From Chicago

I have been busy, though remaining on holiday. I did finish History of Histories by John Burrow and was impressed, even ignited towards the reading of several texts broached, amazingly, even from the 20th Century, a period that Burrow devoted less than 80 pages towards.

I am also nearly finished with Inside Mr. Enderby by Anthony Burgess, Stalin Organ by Gert Ledig and England In The Eighteenth Century by J.H. Plumb. I have packed along this trio of books to faciliate a week spent largely in srpski.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Small Bid

Somehow the idea of a Cormac McCarthy is lost into the mire of cosmopolitanism, he that remains transgressive to borders and cultures, where likely a fifth of many of his books remain en espanol, yet somehow this falls short?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Royal Game

It was a pleasure to spend time this afternoon with the above story by Stefan Zweig. I found the pacing brilliant, the intervals of characters relating backstory effortless and the denouement rather remarkable.

No Nobels?

Apparently the permanent secretary of the Nobel Committee For literature announced that literature from the US was "too insular" to warrant serious consideration for the esteemed prize. I thought the further explanation well-grounded; we are not a nation which values translation, but, somehow, to then imagine that our authors are likewise fettered is simply ridiculous.