Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Taste The Wash

We are going to see Gomez tonight and I may take the nerdy track by transporting Measuring the World along for that interminable period before even the opening band struggles on stage with that rambling defiance that seldom fails to annoy me. I thought that I would finish the Kehlmann yesterday but i still have a third of the novel to go. The parallel stories of the historical principals Humboldt and Gauss are close to intersecting and I have to admit to being enthralled throughout. As noted yesterday, the novel is quite humorous, taking a different approach than, say, John Banville in his Kepler and Doctor Copernicus, but not quite being zany like Pynchon or his understudy Neal Stephenson

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Center the Clamor

My distended weeked continues through today. I have made good use of the time. My wife and I went north for commerce, books and Turkish food. Yesterday I read all of Richard Price's Lush Life. Damn, if there wasn't a single Billy Strayhorn reference. I think Dennis Lehane is potty if he actually considers Price to be our Balzac. Perhaps his rum opinion could be refined with some exposure outside of his genre.

I have made it to p. 150 in Moby Dick and i am half way through Daniel Kehlmann's Measuring The World, which is a hilarious novel and no doubt superior in its native German.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Under Weigh

One should consider me pleased with Joel's selection of Moby Dick for samizdat, though I fear that I'll be the only passenger on this particular voyage. That said, I am on holiday in Indiana, unlike my worthy friends in Copenhagen and Athens.

Ed is likewise polished to shove off and I was happy to collect a list for him. While doing such, i paused over Nabokov's biography of Gogol; what a splendid book! The introduction to Moby Dick states that Melville's favorite books were of the baggy variety, such as the works of Rabelais, Montaigne, Robert Burton and Thomas Browne. Personally, I consider the first three to rank amongst my own favorites, though I have never had the opportunity for Browne

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Up To The Pulpit

Inhabiting that poise as readers, our senses have unexpectedly been heightened as each Chapter of Moby Dick breezes into its succesor. We are treading on this familar terrain, immortalized and so familar and despite the narrative generally we find ourselves testing this comfort by asking untimely Nietzschean questions. Melville paints an archetype of pursuit, pointing us outwards if only to allow Homer to take us home again.

These first seventy pages strike me as being steeped in brine. Not pickled but laden with the eternal, even as it rots or is devoured. Ajar from that, the atmosphere of New Bedford is placeless, stateless, a capricious breed dwelling on an unfinished map. Perhaps this isn't Melville or metaphor, but the truer nature of the maritime: passage and commerce along with the reek.

What deadly voids and unbidden infidelities in the lines that seem to gnaw
upon all Faith, and refuse resurrections to the beings who have placelessly
perished without a grave. (p.65)

I really like that passage.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Breeze of Promise

All appears well and I forged ahead in Moby Dick, the next samizdat selection. With Roger in the UK and Joel poised for Greece I thought is prudent to slip ahead. I have made it three chapters and perhaps the evening will yield another pair.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Muddy Lawns

Occasionally I would be surrounded by talking animals or the chopped-off heads
of people with little legs; sometimes Plato would climb out of the church
walls--wearing a dingy cap with a peak and a leather jacket--- the harsh
commissar of the kanukai. There was only one way to determine what was a
hallucination and what was reality--to drink still more then the hallucinations
would usually disappear.
-- Vilnius Poker, p.96

I have been conducting my own research on the sustainability of reality. It is crisp here today, there are a pair of Game Sevens to be resolved and i read a YA novel yesterday in a single sitting. Resurrection Men by T.K. Welsh is a delight, much in the vein of Kidnapped and without all the Michel Faber meta-nonsense.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

To Be Kindly

The immediate benefit of reading Vilnius Poker by Ricardas Gavelis is exploring and anticipating its rich layers, its coy use of convention only to find that the narrative has recoiled off in an unexpected direction. The novel begins with all the trappings of dystopian literature, as well as the more diabolical aspects of the genre, where, much like The Master and Margarita and Mailer's clumsy Castle in the Wood, supernatural evil is revealed beyond the all-too-real horrors of the 20th Century. We are led to believe that the protagonist, through his scholarly acumen, has discovered and explored a hidden, likewise demonic, reality. As the reader adjusts his expectations to these parameters, we then discover that not only is the narrator unreliable, he is a gulag survivor and has suffered greatly, to such an extent, we soon learn, that not only is his sense of reality damaged, but events of his personal past flow into his present experience and are all likewise disaffected by the gruelling history of Lithuania as a whole.

Matters become all the more enhanced as the reader grows accustomed to the derangement. The protagonist praises his good friend Gediminias early in the novel, the two unexpectedly encounter one another all over Vilinius. He appears alternately randy and remorseful and then suddenly, he is imagined to be dead. It is perhaps pivotal to know that Gediminias is also the name of Lithuania's famed pagan ruler of the 14th Century. Is it one and the same, all a hallucination? Pithy conversations drift to the fate of this Baltic state, it being approximate in size and population to Ireland. Just as quickly, the novel skips over the predictability of a lament against social realism. The Baltics have been fucked with much more facility and changing partners than any made for TV of the Black Book of Communism.

I look forward to further dispatches.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Presently Reading

Vilnius Poker
Fall of Paris
The Gamble

As noted elsewhere, it is my goal to finish two of these three rather divergent texts in the next seven days. I spent the weekend with Sidetracked a Wallander mystery by Henning Mankell. I actually enjoyed the novel, limited as it is by the confines of its genre. I approached such in anticipation of the PBS treatment starring Kenneth Branagh and my was I ever disappointed by nearly every aspect of the teledrama.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Balzac and Beyond

My alarm with Lawrence Norfolk faded into the dusk and I was left imagining what would suit my immediate interests. I have some new novels left in that unread position but i thought I would go w/ Balzac insteat, a reread of Old Gorot.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Shrugs and Slugs

My favorite scene in Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying is early on when the hausfrau comes into the book shop and repeatedly espouses her chief virtues in literature: big and human while remaining essentially English. I finished Lawrence Norfolk's Pope's Rhinoceros today and found myself confused if not vexed by this baggy mionster which dazzled at times and yet appeared often, if not predominately opaque especially to character and dialogue.

miraculous coincidence late in the book revives the underlying tragedy and allows the survivor to numerate like a savant, which I suppose merits attention.

"Four hundred and twenty-seven. Four hundred and twenty-five" Amalia's skipping. Both senses.

Norfolk is the proverbial too-clever-by-half and yet he has to know. The cringes couldn't have all been suppressed. Could they?