Sunday, November 30, 2008

Volume 1

I just concluded the first of three volumes of 2666. The shared site of the first three scenarios is the Mexican town of Santa Teresa, a stand-in for the infamous Ciudad Juarez. The choice of Teresa for the name is intriguing, the ecstatic escape from the mortal is interesting, along with St John of the Cross' apocalyptic transcendentalism. Somehow the situation of these doctrines is rightly germane in the Third World industrial space where life is fungible and thus disposable. Kyoto has no truck here, why should the Rights of Man?


I suppose I should be thankful for the holidays, if only in terms of rest yielded. These past few days have witnessed a further blossoming of my appreciation for Bolano, something I wasn't sure was possible. My expected detours into genre didn't happen and now my wife is out buying a new flat-screen TV. Sigh.

I have noted before the comfort of reading in a hostile environment, namely a shopping center. So it was last night, after stuffing ourselves at the Indian Palace, I read Bolano's treatment of the journalist and the ex-con, both african-american, with stunned appreciation. Scores of haggard shoppers stumbled past, well-worn seasonal carols wheezed out of Muzak while I remained content.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

From Sign and Sight

I read the article excerpted below earlier in the week. It resonates, especially after Roger and I discussed the Western Tradition in lieu of Pekic's How To Quiet A Vampire.

"And so it was ultimately down to censorship that Alexander Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel prize, went into exile, and taught mankind, and the Russian people in particular, 'not to live a lie'. While Shalamov, who was not allowed to publish a single paragraph in Russia during his lifetime, died bitter, sick and lonely in 1982."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Symphony No. 5, Opus 47

Contrary to form I didn't end Thanksgiving with an all-night viewing of The Civil War, Shoah or When The Levees Broke. Instead, I listened to Mozart concertos for Oboe and Bassoon and read 2666.

I am more convinced of a kinship between Bolano and W.G. Sebald. Both provide a deft account of tacit anguish, an element with which I can empathize on occasion.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I began reading early today as I prepared my orange chipotle pork barbecue for the oven. I then read after my lovely walk across the city this sunny morning. While returning, I was shrouded with the despair of the characters in 2666.

This evening I again carried those blue bags of books upstairs, pondering the joy in my life, the very sum of my contentment. It has been a relaxed day of family and I feel accomplished.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I posted the below on this blog's first Turkey Day.

It was the most rational Thanksgiving he had ever spent, and he took a sacred oath to spend every future Thanskgiving Day in the cloistered shelter of a hospital. He broke his sacred oath the very next year, when he spent the holiday in a hotel room instead in intellectual conversation with Lieutenant Scheisskoph's wife, who had Dori Duz's dog tags on for the occasion and who henpecked Yossarian sententiously for being cynical and callous about Thanksgiving, even though she didn't believe in God just as much as he didn't. -- Heller, Catch-22

Slow Week

The reading quest has went aground, at least I have slowed in both the Pekic and the bolano. Encouraged by a blip of activity on samizdat, I read five chapters and then sought solace in the silence which has prevailed.

My reading of 2666 was gripped by an acknowledgement. Carrying ikea bags of books up two flights of stairs and then methodically positioning them on shelves is very therapeutic for me, although I have since become aware that there are a number of minor books which I should discard. The other glaring realization is that, unlike the quartet of critics in the Bolano, there isn't a single author that I love and embrace at the expense of others. I suppose Gunter Grass would be as possible, perhaps Nabokov as well.

Through my wife's work, she was given an amazon gift card which she dearly passed onto me. It appears that I will buy the new Pelevin and the paperback War and Peace, translated by P and V.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nodal Concerns

Just perhaps?

I was awakened this a.m. by our 85 year old neighbor calling to request that I move my truck as she is going to the hospital tomorrow and can't walk a further distance than directly outside her front door. Fine, no problem, though the request could've waited until noon. After learning from the NYTBR that Naipaul is the greatest British novelist of the postwar era, vomit, I rose to the challenge with respect to samizdat and read three chapters of the Pekic.

Since then I have attempted to limit the ague and virtue of cross purposes, carry more books upstairs. My day is leaving me outside the reign of inspiration. i have just been instructed to carry heavy things down into the basement: so it goes.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Joyous Odes

2666 has a hiccup on interest on p. 54. Through its first 140 pages, the novel appears rife with hiccups and I suspect the condition continues. The detour on p. 54 concerns the University of Belgrade, where my wife studied Spanish Literature. The points established in the aside doesn't appear to temper the narrative in any lasting degree, but i yet I found myself further drawn, by this slimmest of coincidences, to this rolling field of narratives and a myopic quest.

I feel like Miss Havisham this evening, though without the caustic regret, only the attention to moments and the unspoken echoes.

I am a bitch and a fake. -- Graham Greene

Perhaps there is some Sarah Miles in me as well, yes, I am often transgendered in terms of literature, though only in those conspicuous pathological senses: hooray for the holidays.

As alluded, I spent some time with Bolano today but not to any extended effort. It was interesting to note that Joel was nearly brained by 2666: the idea of it being a lethal gift has all the throes of a Calvino or, perhaps, Nabokov in Laughter in the Dark.

Friday, November 21, 2008


I have found myself genuflected, figuratively, in the wake of 2666. My reading has proved paced and I am taking my time. I will loot my samizdat postings, at some point, to gleam the glimmer of Pekic.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

O, Bolano

I have only cracked this majestic endeavor, still glad that I bought the boxed set. I have only read three or four pages but remain simply stunned. The epigram of Baudelaire was apposite, the temper of these brief lives of critics are likewise gilded.

Aside from my immense glee in that direction, I have become aware that I have cultivated an interest in the texts of David Hackett Fischer. Not wishing to spend too much time on the couch, I have surmised that just as the election of 2004 led me to read all of Shelby Foote's Civil War Narrative, perhaps this democratic correction has restored some sense of respect for the nation's origins.


It was bitter cold last night. The trip from work to the kitchen was uneventful enough. I prepared soup and awaited my wife. After dinner, I placed Sonny Rollins' 9/11 Concert on the stereo and sat down with the last 52 pages of Crime and Punishment. the greatest testament I can afford the novel conclusion is that for 25 minutes I didn't hear any jazz, only Dostoevsky's denouement.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Irene Nemirovsky

My reading fell below expectations over the weekend, nothing to blame but myself. I am nearly finished with the fifth section of Crime and Punishment and I have read the Third Letter in the Pekic.

My reading online drifted to reports on the coverage of Ms. Nemirovsky and her newly discovered novels. Most of the coverage lead with her tragic back story and devoted little space to artistic accomplishment. Not to be glib, but this was my response to a decent novel about the chaos of capitulation.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wisps and Beards

Earlier in the day I broke ranks and went to the library's book sale. I picked up Rituals by Nooteboom and Coetzee's Life and Times of Michael K. I am excited about both and anticipate reading one or both during the Bolano.

Part Five of Crime and Punishment is proving remarkable. However, I have been tempted during the last hour to switch to the Pekic. I am responsible for posting on the Third Letter, the philosophical corollary being Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, which leaves me quite excited.

Greasy Schedules

The subject draws me to Balzac when all I want to think about is Rasheed Wallace and Steve Nash. It is cold and rainy here today. I have been reading Crime and Punishment, preparing to complete Section Four, my thoughts have been infected with Pekic's Vampire and I know I should be writing more.

My wife and I went to see a documentary last night about the precarious fate of independent book stores. This inspired a lively discussion on the short drive home in the rain. I feel glad to say that I have spent over a hundred dollars at Carmichael's in Louisville since late summer, most of which via a gift card from work. I would spend more at the shop here in New Albany if they carried books of my interest. That sounds selfish, almost snobbish: I don't care. I don't buy that many new books in a year, I never have, except during that Carpentier Deleuze Celine phase.

My goal remains for 200 pages of the Dostoevsky this weekend and I need to post on Letter Three in the Pekic. The lights will then dim next for the opening of 2666.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Some Time Back

I recall reading Native Son and pausing to reflect the similarities between it and Crime and Punishment, the degree to which I found profound at the age of 22. I read a pair of biographies of Richard Wright later that summer my suspicions were confirmed. My rereading this week of the Dostoevsky has prompted a review of certain ideas that bubbled to the surface in Vollmann's Royal Family. The saga of the overlooked and the whimper of the humiliated resound in both novels. It is certainly an interval of life that I now have a more august appraisal.

I am near to the end of Part Three. I must plan accordingly with the Pekic and Bolano.

My Own Stimulus Concern

Monday, November 10, 2008


I am back. I read all of Part Two last night in the Dostoevsky, it was an amazing 150 pages of reading after the emotional minefield of last week.

Through the privileged prism of my vocation I was at my typical perch at the library with Bug, she engrossed as usual with the Cultural Atlas of Russia. I noticed that after I read a page or two my eyes would drift over to the Atlas, looking for images of the hazed preterit along the mysterious Neva. I never saw that but I did notice comely portraits of Peter, that monster.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Feeling less than ideal, I have spent the afternoon with Dostoevsky, enjoying the oft-cited poetry of despair, all the while plumbing my own memories of reading this while at IUS and pondering what the road ahead offered. The logical inadequacies of that final clause weren't as apparent then. I do find that holy fools have been invaluable in my life.

Gurgle, Gurgle

It is odd that I sat down to post about Dostoevsky, specifically the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of Crime and Punishment, I was going to ponder my layman's appreciation of the difference between the Garrett and this modern , nuanced fluidity. I opened my email to discover a question from my friend Frank about Rabelais. I responded that the Modern Library edition, which I bought from Harold during Clinton's first term, had always struck me as vibrant and accessible, though I can't remember the name of said translator for the life of me.

I suppose I shouldn't lament how a sea change of historic proportion disrupted my entire reading week of holiday. I have concluded Part One of the Dostoevsky and am awaiting word from Samizdat when we shall enter the Borislav Pekic. I also rec'd word that my copy of Bolano's 2666 has shipped.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

I awoke around five and voted. Ignoring common sense, I downed five double espressos upon my return home and was then awaiting immediate confirmation that progress had been made in this Republic. Alas NPR can only confirm what I already witnessed: record turnout.

I disagree with Clive James in his assessment that Jean-Paul Sartre is the devil. I now agree with Mr. James in his appraisal of the film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. I was moved immensely by the film and then followed Robert Fisk's advice and began reading Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise. It is not cutting literature but the back story haunts on nearly every page. That said, I am exhausted and still wired, much like too many trans-Atlantic flights when I know I need some sleep in effort to adjust.

I applaud Levi and Lena, Roger and Jeff, all those acting as stewards of democracy. My wife asked what kind of revolutionary I fashioned myself: I told her I'm not, I'm an aid worker.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Paused, Not Poised

I finished the Barnes just now. Out there on the front steps, in shorts, in November.I would like to elaborate later on my impressions of the book, which are, to be assured, quite varied and often grounded.

I was thinking earlier of what I was going to tackle next, being on holiday and all that. As noted, I think congestion will steer me away from total immersion in Montaigne and Burton. I had thought of continuing the memoir jaunt with Gabbie's Living To Tell The Tale, which my wife read a few years back on perhaps losing myself for a few days in those novels of Julian Barnes that I hadn't read. There was a touch on shame earlier when considering that I hadn't finished three of the books i have been given over the last year, the two from Joel concerning cinema and The Whisperers by Figes, that my wife bought me for at Christmas.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Baba Yaga

Last night's holiday transpired without event here in our new, domesticated, reality. I passed out candy and read more Julian Barnes and retired after being disappointed by the latest George Romero. My walk today on this unusually balmy November first unholstered significant symbolism in my predisposed imagination as I walked for an hour. The echoes of history, biology and tradition lap upon our jaded selves and we look at the Rapture or Obama 44 with equal trepidation.

I don't harbor affiliation with either religious belief or GOP agendas though I do consider myself somewhat conservative towards the arts, though I will welcome Kathy Acker and John Cassavetes to shit in the Louvre.

I looked up at the skies last night, attempting to reconcile such with memories I have looking up at the age of nine on Halloween night. I think I was more disposed towards an implied menace at that time, rather than an Evil incarnate, though I did accept the devil as real as a child. Hell, how do you explain The Omen? I normally disagree with folksy literary reviews of Garrison Keilor, but I do agree, this time, with his characterization of the Barnes as being dense, not inaccessible but layered, especially now, especially this week with the Zeitgeist being rotated and the heavens about to crash upon our muffled cries.