Saturday, February 28, 2009

Songs of Strife and Passport Control

Much has been made of disorder and sloth. Both are qualities rumbling along the conduits of life this past week, with demands from work shifting gears from simmer to boil while an unwelcome return of a sore throat and fever left me feeling less than smugly equipped.

I thus finished Monsignor Quixote today and was charmed again by Mr. Greene. This is perhaps one more reason to buy the three volumes of biography by Norma Sherry. My reading of The Kindly Ones has been tempered by the brush fire of controversy provoked by its polemical camps of reviewers. I am at page 200 in the Littell and for the prsent, will likely continue with my Scandinavian side route, the present course being The Conqueror by Jan Kjaerstad.

My copy of Les Miserables featured in my dream last night, so was Omar Epps in his House role, Foreman, though the links have vanished in the wakeful hours of internal coughing and outdoor bleakness. i have thought about Jorge Semprum quite often as of late. It could prove to be The Kindly Ones and other thoughts concerning survivor literature. I viewed a bland-to-dreadful documentary about Pynchon the other night. If only its ranks had been more erudite than the potty souls who find the profile of Slothrop on potato crisps.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feeling The Buzz

My progress in The Kindly Ones remains slight. Such pacing shouldn't be construed as an indictment. My initial sluggishness was likely SS fatigue after Pekic's How To Quiet A Vampire. That said, I have found myself cringing only twice. The first was the reference to Brassilach and Celine when the protagonist goes to France and the second was the sort of smug reference to Babi Yar in a translated form: terming it Old Woman. That degree of spouting is rare, at least so far.

Monday, February 23, 2009


My friend Roger recently finished the Alexanderplatz by Doblin and he asked me about the ending. I found my self in an awkward corner. Yes, I did read it, 12 years ago, in fact. I saw the Fassbinder film adaption as well as a 1932 film just two years ago: guess what I remember? Clive James cites Martin Amis that the memory of novels evaporate two years after reading them. I will question the 24 month term, but do agree that unless one reads a novel multiple times, the details tend to fade. This was reconfirmed Saturday night when my wife and I viewed I Served The King of England and I couldn't remember much at all of the plot. Funny, given that I have read Hrabal's Too Loud A Solitude about five times and recall most of that one.


It is only a lithe step out of routine, yet the sun and a splendid day of work have managed wonders after a bleak sabbath and Kate Winslet left me fearful. I actually dreamed about Dexter, the Showtime serial killer. Alas, my reading has been across the kinder curve to the face of negation. I must commend Mr. Greene for his Monsignor Quixote, the first forty pages have been rife with a humorous simplicity, rather a counterpoint to The Power and The Glory. I have also crept into the depths of The Kindly Ones and have to offer my respect for this refusal to submit to cliche. I do respect Complete-Review but i have to offer my disagreement with their conclusion.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Catching Up

I finished my week with pair of forays, one marginally disappointing and the other a delightful surprise. The Tale of Despereaux attempts to extend the empathy of a polyphonic novel to young people, all the while alerting them that they will be regarded as freaks for reading and pursuing a path of independent thought, and also your family and friends may betray you in the course of propriety: this isn't an unfortunate event, only the grimy rules of the day. I found such riveting until the raging chaosmos is calmed and the narrative can be allowed to conclude in a neutered sense of contentment.

My plan was then to continue with The Kindly ones until I noted a reference to A Month In the Country here I was unaware of the novel and thrilled to discover that our library had a copy. my wife found it potty that I would dash out on a snowy afternoon and drive downtown, making it to the biblioteca ten minutes before they locked the door. I was reminded of Wolf Solent during Carr's marvelous descriptions of the languid throes of a rural summer. That said, I don't recall anyone noshing on bread and butter, though beef sandwiches appear plentiful: odd given that it is 1920. The serene stare of man peeping into the distant past to quiet his own discord is an achievement. I think Nicola Baker aspired to such in her Darkmans, but fell short of this jewel.

Monday, February 16, 2009

John Wilson's Lucky Lapse

My words are flopping, untied in the chosen flow. My point , only a few days ago, was that I felt moved by Burgess in his smaller fictions, his criticism and, of course, his Enderby novels. Conversely, the tone of Earthly Powers or Any Old Iron was a sweeping panorama punctuated with the pithy asides and puns, yet his characters fictional and historical alike appeared to be but vehicles for further display of his exceptional erudition. That said, I returned to Kenneth Toomey's exploits today after a day long diversion in Littell's Kindly Ones, and I feel gratitified for the temerity.

My wife finished The Victim by Bellow and we will be read Monisgnor Quixote by Greene in tandem sometime later this week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Considered me slack-jawed in my response to Study in Scarlet. The second segment of the novel broadsided me and it simmered in detail, especially pertaining to the desert and the veiled odium of the Mormons.

Monday, February 09, 2009

False Footing

As noted, I recovered Saturday from the Norwegian funk to spend the day with the delightful if equally disturbing novel Rituals. I was impressed by the pacing throughout, especially towards the silence sought by most of the characters. There is an aside within that relates to the clamor of modern life, indeed it is infernal by any sane metric.

I then felt at a loss. A disturbing product of having a large library in one's home is that surfeit of temptation. One could imagine it as a serpent of temptation, to wax Edenic, each tome in the stack one assembles around one's chair whispers, coos, sighs.

Pushing through, i managed to begin a healthy ledge in Earthly Powers by Burgess. Likewise, the hour before bed has been larded the last few nights with Arthur Conan Doyle. I hope to address both authors in due time.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Cees Nooteboom

Inni stayed behind. He was aware of a great coldness, of fear and humiliation. Like someone, he thought, returning from a journey and finding his house full of broken glass, shit and rubbish. -- Rituals

Friday, February 06, 2009

To Strive

Perhaps the foehn has swept the Ohio Valley as it was 60 today, fifty-three degrees higher than yesterday a.m. Whatever the aura or barometer, I went ahead and finished the book. Bleak.

I am on holiday this week and will be heading to the library sale in the a.m. with hopes for a 2d copy of Rabbit Redux (for the Mrs.) as well as variations on the epistemological: gothic lit from Lewis and Radcliffe as well as titles from Ross MacDonald and Rex Stout.

I am knackered, but will tread another hour with Arthur Conan Doyle, with whom I am criminally removed.

Moment of Freedom

It was only earlier in the week that I believe I first encountered Jens Bjorneboe. Such was through Complete Review and I was interested in their approval of his Bestiality Trilogy, even more so when I discovered that our local library had the first installment Moment of Freedom. (it is odd to find so many vanguard titles of the 60s and 70s at our library. Times have certainly changed.)

The unnamed protagonist works in a courthouse, a Servant of Justice, and between binges he is composing a 12 volume study The History of Bestiality, which still reminds me of W.T. Vollmann's Rising Up Rising Down, if only in ambition not as indicative of eccentricacy. Most people in the Servant's world are divided into little bears and scholastics. Most people lack the Holy Spirit. There is something of Dostoevsky in this, likely even Cortazar's Hopscotch. I must admit that i have thought most of Malaparte while reading. Depicting "a land of Chaos" the Servant declares:

After they die Germans go to the DDR. The DDR is Germany's bad conscience. It's a place where no German can sell pornography, buy stocks, speculate in real estate, earn money on Verdun

It is in many sense that Bjornebow demands Europe admit its folly, its atrocity. Surreal parallels of pogroms and inquisitions stand in rank with observations about the oriental aspects of Stockholm and the twisted allegiances of refugees of WWII. His father's English bred propriety clashes with discussions of appropriate libations for enduring the foehn, the wind which carries sans from the Sahara to Scandinavia, causing the temperature to spike and tempers to explode. Ultimately, the Servant shrugs, drinks and ponders, "To talk about Stockholm is like digging with a fork in a wound; all that exists of flesh and nerves protests against it."

The novel progresses and the Servant discovers the gruesome secrets of town's upper class: judges, priests and businessmen alike are exposed as deviants and pedophiles. The resulting imbibing leads the Servant to ponder notes on depression he compiled in his youth in Italy. A sidebar to this could've been from the pen of Bolano:

One of my friends, who runs a charming little madhouse in Switzerland, says that if one manages to get through it by oneself it will "lead to a significant increase in one's depth of experiencing." That sounds delicious.

I prolly won't finish this one tonight but tomorrow sounds likely. It is a sincere wish to have access to Bjorneboe's other works.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Warschauer Kniefall

I linger congested, still awake only to take my next dose of antibiotic. It isn't only questions of health but the last two mornings and unfolded with the our furnace being paused by serial compromising and freezing in the local gas lines: I have thought of the Ukraine a few times as of late. I am really enjoying the novel from Jens Bjorneboe. I would like to post on such tomorrow at a certain length.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

While pondering the Invisible Library, questions of fines removed, I was thinking of Henry Bech, his two stunning novels and his reception in the Eastern Bloc. I think I should carry the Enderby Omnibus alongside the Norwegian tomorrow.

Damn, I don't like stories. I do appreciate Updike's sober hand in these affairs.


I was finally able to see the doctor today. It is nothing serious, just sinuses gone rogue. I had to wait for a hour, which was fine as I drifted through War and Peace, attending carefully to Andrei under fire. My doctor finally appeared and after a rapt discussion of three minutes she noted the Tolstoy and asked if i was going to buy a Kindle. I smiled and thought of Rabbit, a dozen years younger than myself in Run, how instinctively he crouched near the sage, whether it be a coach or a minister - he sought the bylaws and the Song of Songs, intent on following such as long as he remained in the Elect.

I dipped by the library and recalling yesterday's indecision, I have decided to embark upon both Bech: A Book by Updike and Moment of Freedom by the Norwegian author Jens Bjorneboe.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Rabbits and Slumdogs

A few months ago I heard Danny Boyle on NPR discussing his new film, which I really wanted to see. Since then, it won a number of Golden Globes and now crackles with a made-to-order credibility that I find annoying, if only because I didn't see it beforehand. By the same logic I felt weird reading Rabbit, Run in tandem with my wife this past weekend. The only public space where I was ever reading was the Y but still my actions offered the appearance of being forced. We both enjoyed the novel. Its plot would've collapsed into melodrama with a weaker writer at the helm.

She is now reading Bellow's The Victim. I had hoped to as well, but the library doesn't have a copy. I may pick another early Bellow, Naipaul's Bend In The River or something more obscure. I am sort of saving War and Peace for next week when I'm on holiday.