Thursday, April 29, 2010

Like Tim Conway

This deserves posterity:

(that used to exist here. we miss you Harold.)

It has been a somewhat bum day. My reading remains engaged and new projects are on the horizon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Few of us, Israeli or Palestinian, can be proud of what we have done during these past years, of what we have collaborated in, whether actively or in passive acceptance of the noise--the collaboration of turning away our eyes, of suspending our souls, of anesthetizing ourselves. - David Grossman.

I finished Michael Oren's examination of the Six Day War yesterday, finding time during our holiday to absorb this study in revanchist politics and its continuation by other means. The book is largely a diplomatic history, the first person accounts are sparse and back loaded.

Published in 2002 I will forgive its author, Israel's ambassador to the US, for his brusque characterization that Bush 43 in supporting Israel and castigating the Palestinians to police their own extremists, "succeeded" where LBJ failed; well, such claims couldn't anticipate the further conflicts in Lebanon or Gaza, but the rhetoric and Israel's policy also exclude (or exonerate)the preterit condition of the Palestinans, a condition supported directly or not by a host of Arab states as well.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More Tory Lust

Often when I read the name of the Conservative candidate, I think of Boccaccio. There was a tremendous deluge here yesterday. The duration of this sort of tipped your hand into staying indoors. I wound up reading all of Fall of Troy by Peter Ackroyd. I found it a successful work, perhaps prompted by serial discussions with a friend about Clash of the Titans. Joking aside, Ackroyd has a peculiar pace to his novels that I find rather welcome.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul." - Maggie Thatcher

I read Animal Farm for the third time yesterday. As with the previous readings, it was accomplished in a single day. There is much which remains to be said.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Cessation and a Nod

"Man, y'all be speeding up the clocks in here. No way that was fifteen minutes."

So was a customer's complaint after using the stand-up internet kiosk at the Jeffersonville library. I smiled and glanced down to find the following epigram from de Tocqueville: It is not good to announce every truth.

It has been a stirring week. I have concluded the Chinese literary jaunt. I read Point Omega in a single sitting and found it lacking. It was a barely realized sketch from a sound novelist's notebook. It deserved to be better.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

No Such Pace

I haven't read a 100 pages in a day in well over a week. Such bothers me. Other matters pertain, thanks Hitch.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Shudder

It was a modest plan, one with little urgency. I was going to continue between Beijing Coma and Nicholas Nickelby with the added caveat of reading Delillo's Point omega one day day this weekend. Such were fair preparations I had when I sat yesterday afternoon on the porch and lighted a cigar.

I consider myself a steeled but compassionate observer of the world, particularly through the aperture of literature. That said, I was floored by the graphic depictions of mass hysteria released upon millions during the Cultural Revolution. I found myself gasping and then continuing to read. Such a plight climbed through the evening until I collapsed.

It is a golden yet cool day here. I am rested and yet this daunting novel is tugging me inward. I did discover this gem this morning. I am surprised Joel didn't tell me about it earlier.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Unexpected Richness

This is no effort to diminish The Master and Margatita; its genius lies in its inversion of moral codes between Roman Israel and the glory of the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Bulgakov's thrust encompasses the distance between the nominal and the actual, the noisome threat of actual words and the pending hope which anchors each ideology: that last aspect casts its own resonance on tax day in 2010. I do loathe the bigots masquerading as patriots.

Theater and costume figure heavily in Mephisto by Klaus Mann. A few pages before the novel's conclusion the chief character Hendrik Hofgen espouses:

"I am absolutely indispensable!" yelled the director into the dark garden.
"The theater needs me. Every regime needs the theater. No regime can get along
without me."

This isn't an exploration of Evil. It isn't a taxonomy of totalitarianism. It isn't even really modelled on a Faustian wager. Instead it is steeped in detail and likely offers more of an emigre perspective than anything more polemical.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spending time amongst Nicholas Nickelby, Beijing Coma and the essays of DF Wallace, I sought a certain depthand departure in Mephisto by Klaus Mann. I read an interesting article in the LRB about the family Mann and this pushed me that direction, I was already wrestling with related questions (no pun per the relative) but then I read this today.

Friday, April 09, 2010

So It Was

This past week achieved. I completed three books including House of Meetings by Martin Amis and the Naipaul biography by Patrick French. I won't say much about the novel as it is a samizdat selection. Though I regard it as a triumph by being an Amis novel, not an effort to emulate survivor literature; instead it is cranky and insecure, Marty gone wild above the Arctic Circle.

The Naipaul affair revealed it self to be a bitchy one. There is a catty gossip about the biography, a linking of Antonia Fraser, her ex Hugh, her second Harold, all the while Anthony Powell snoops in and out of the Naipaul's world, (AP) reveals a dislike for Graham Greene (whereas Naipaul dismisses Powell's Dance To The music of Time) and in between we have Naipaul dismissing the entire developing world and all of French Literature, poor Vidia swaps carnal partners only to return to Tolkien's class back at Uni.

No, it isn't that tawdry, no Nancy Mitford at work here. I enjoyed it, found the frame of focus curious and felt that Paul Theroux is an ass. Well, I thought that before reading the book. Oh, I don't think I will read any Naipaul just now. Though his brother Shiva's work does appear interesting.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The People! Definitely!

Last night, perhaps spurred by drift, i decided that I wanted to read contemporary Chinese literature. I discovered that IUS had half dozen or so recent titles and veered there after work.

One of the novels was Serve The People! by Yan Lianke which I proceeded to devour in a single sitting. I found it less than moving, think James Cain with the added contrast of Mao references every 3-5 sentences. I hope the others resonate to a greater extent.