Monday, October 26, 2009

Listening to Joel Vessels

There is considerable weight in that subject. While discussing literature and the fate of our friends, I pitched the idea that I was considering reading the Stieg Larsson books as I found a mass amrket copy of Girl w/ DT at a charity shop in Chicago. Joel gave valid reasons why I shouldn't, though his characterization of the plot, which was based on seeing the FILM in Sweden, is less than convincing. Like most proto-Reeses amusement, the book melts in your hands. I can't say I have devoured large sections, as much as the banalities of investigation are allowed to spill into my brain as I turn pages and I await the first impulse of literary curiosity. I thought the subject would be timely, though why the legacy of rogue financiers from Sweden? You can track them from Greene's England Made Me up through Mankell's Wallender series. I suppose i will proceed, at least with this first novel, given that effort is necessary and I am waiting for Ms. Salander to become three-dimensional.
One could be terse, The Lazarus Project by Aleksander Hemon is his most complete work to date. That doesn't quite capture the grasp of Hemon's which isn't simply a paean to exile like some latter Joyce, or a burgeoning Conrad, discovering mastery in an adopted tongue. No, Hemon succeeds in keeping his gaze on the spilled entrails of History. Akin in this to Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan, Hemon traces the trajectory of empires and finds continuity in the marginalized. The pastiche of names shared across the centuries is but one jewelled aspect of the Lazarus Project; the willingness to admit the difficulties of assimilation into throes of First World sentimentality is another. The protagonist can be moved to pummel a human trafficker as well as he can remain opaque to Thanksgiving as an organic concept and custom.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

James Wood is an Ass

His review is savvy, by waxing totality, he can criticize Byatt for attempting (and succeeding IMHO) such in her grand novel. I am reminded of the reviews which stated that Michel Faber had crafted the Victorian novel that Dickens was afraid to undertake. It is early but The Children's Book is monumental thus far.

Damn Those Kids

Shame on me, for the second time in the last 6 weeks, I have have hoped to swallow a minor classic, only to discover that my edition is a Puffin Classic; perhaps those comic-book cover art should have been a clue. Alas, I won't be reading Dracula at the present. I was thinking of the P and V translation of The Master and Margarita for the spooky season.

I am at p.250 in Mantel's Place of Greater Safety and i have to admit I would rather be reading or Carlysle or Schama.

I have resumed my reading of The Third Reich In Power and my what a happy tale that is proving.

The Children's Book is an amazing novel. A virtual compendium of Victorian art and mores. It sweeps the reader along.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Finding the Quidity

I really wanted to not like Out Stealing Horses. It was far too popular and composed in minimalist observations. That said, reviews likened it to the Nick Adams stories, which I happen to love (Sorry Dr. Kennedy, I still have your copy) and it was Scandinavian, which has become a region of esteem for my slippery tastes over the last year. The result has already been noted here, I was engrossed immediately and practically swallowed it whole.

The Lazarus Project by Aleksandr Hemon is proving eerily similar.

My thoughts on Hilary Mantel need time for refinement. I picked up The Children's Book by Byatt from the library.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Modest Return

My best friend Joel once complained while mired in the Death March of his dissertation that he should be tested on what he could relate while smoking and drinking, his panache and bricolage would then be revealed as they actually were, infinite. Alas, he is now Doctor Vessels and he never managed to have his orals over Guinness. I think my better thoughts appear on foggy mornings as I take my clients for walks or when I sit in the library with my friend Lesley as she wordlessly flips through atlases and offers smiles to the passing world. My thoughts this a.m. surrounded the French revolution and literature. My pace in Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety has been frantic at times, though the adjustment of returning to work has narrowed those avenues. Perhaps this emblematic of malnourished grasp of French letters, but aside from Balzac's treatment of Fouche and Anatole France's novel, I remain at a loss. Peter Weiss certainly supplied an explosive play. Napoleon looms large by comparison through Stendhal and all subsequent popular uprisings found passage in Hugo, Zola and beyond. Is there, then, a better novel of the Revolution than Dickens Tale of Two Cities?

Friday, October 09, 2009


This week has proved progressive with the brilliant weather allowing ample outdoor reading at cafes, consulates and outside of High Street shopping. The inclimate days have likewise proved conducive. I have finished three books since that last posting: Virgin In The Garden, Gentleman of the Road and Out Stealing Horses. I find it intriguing that Byatt asserts herself with the idea that insular perceptions of academic life were about to be irrevocably changed shortly after the time depicted in her novel by the appearance of Lucky Jim. I am baffled to think of another work which appears like a reaper so often in my discussions and reading. I find that Joel yields it too prominent a pedestal in modern letters, but alas if Dame Byatt feels similar, I should defer.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


The weather has varied each day her ein the suburbs of Chicago, I think it is an approrpaite context for my own conflicted state concerning literature, or, more precisely, my reading presently. My wife moved on from Ovid to Rabelais to my considerable joy. I am hoping to read such in tandem. Bracketing our joint venture, I had her read a Kundera essay on rabelais and the history of literary humor. Like most matters Kunderan, it meanders and pauses, sinuous threads connect, but barely. I enjoyed the piece afterwards, though I admit that I only recalled a fifth of it in the 12 years or so sense i read it last. I thought i would also spur my reading of the Byatt by digesting her story The Day E.M. Forster Died while walking to our public library and back.

Taking off on our trip I proved indecisive and packed nearly every book I have been browsing as of late. I read 70 pages of Age of Cathedral by Geroges Duby and I thank my friend Roz for not only pointing me in its direction but for the illuminating discussion we shared over ale last week. I brought the appropriate Bakhtin but have yet to actually slid into such. My reading of the Byatt flowed freely today as it rained and I was left alone here in the house. We have to go to the consulate tomorrow and then to Powells.

Such digressions inevitably give birth to plans and I hope to read both Dracula and Frankenstein this month to adopt the spirit of the season. That said, my reading Nothing To Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes last year while distributing candy to ghosts and ghouls felt marvy with a doubt.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Sigh

A passion for reading is somewhere in the middle: it can be hinted but not told out, since to describe an impassioned reading of Books would take many more pages than Books itself and be an anti-climax.

A.S. Byatt, The Virgin in the Garden