Monday, June 28, 2010


"On Friday nights, Wanda had to serve, that was it: upon Shabbos eves rare in Hannah's happiness, her having plucked no fruited fault from the tree whose boughs, pruned daily, would overnight, over eves, branch into all species of tasks, errands, resentment. It was Hannah's elected responsibility to prepare the family dinner--duty, the Schedule, just doing her part, hauling her own pregnant weight--and then, how she'd sit in the shade of accomplishment, accepting compliments heaped into her cups, bowls, and plates, blushing the rose of an apple and eating all the courses from the challah on down to dessert even and drinking her wine, too, and Israel's as well, though not while with kinder while Wanda would serve."

Such are the elevated codes of conduct in Joshua Cohen's masterwork. It is decidedly uphill but three days inward, it has yielded bliss.

I need to defer to samizdat some this week as elders have raised voices over Dostoevsky.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Orwell's Birthday

Alas, such was yesterday and my day was infiltrated with musings on Burma, rats and Victory gin. I have contemplated over the last few years reading Olivia Manning's Fortunes of war novels including the Balkan Trilogy and the Levant Trilogy. My knee was recovering nicely so I read The great Fortune, the first in the Balkan endeavor and it relates the arrival of largely autobiographical characters in Bucharest during the onset of the Phony War with the bitter fumes of Molotov-Ribbentrop in the air and the future suddenly bleak in Romania.

This is a curious premise. What unfolds is essently a catalog of Ms. Manning's (through the proxy of Harriet Pringle) issues with Romanian people, the insufferable alterity of the Balkans, characterizations which slip into the anti-Semitic and castigations of the aristocracy.

I finished the novel yesterday. At this time, I think I would be more favored to puruse Paul Scott's Raj Quartet or the Cairo Trilogy from Mahfouz.

Immediately, though, I am anchored to Witz by Joshua Cohen, a book I have become rather excited about.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Night Watch

One of the damaged souls in Case Histories by Kate Atkinson quips that an indulgence in novels is harmful, especially of the bulky 19th Century variety, for the perception that life's narrative has an ending where it is simply undulating events that persist and affect without neat demarcation. My thoughts were of a parallel bent when engrossed in the first section of Night Watch by Sarah Waters. The novel begins in 1947 and then moves back to 1944 and finally 1941. Deft unfolding by Waters keeps most of the baggage hidden, the secrets remain safe. I enjoyed it and paused to note that everyone was as addled in 1941 as they were after the war. Sigh.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

As Quoted in The guardian

Soccer was not meant to be enjoyed. It was meant to be experienced. The World Cup was a festival of fate – man accepting his hard circumstances, the near certainty of his failure. There is after all, something familiar about a contest in which nobody wins and nobody pots a goal. Nil-nil is the score of life. - Adam Gopnik

While mending this week, I have enjoyed well over 20 matches, reflecting perhaps too much on the transcendent. Nigel Beale invited some time back to This week allowed me margins to stock my shelves on such, affording a sidelong survey of what I have actually read, especially in recent years: the contrast with ambitious books begun and abandoned is stark.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More Lost Children

We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answers to inquiries say, "Oh, nothing!" Pride helps us; and pride is not bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts--not to hurt others.
-- Middlemarch

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson is a delivery device for a mortal pain slightly beyond pale lips and lachrymose concealment. It is a novel about grief and the murky agency which threatens from beyond, part and parcel of our transparent, connected world.

Atkinson's novel shifts gradually into noir format. Its antagonist, a Wallender of Cambridge, grieves for his own ghosts, the ruins of his marriage and the future of his daughter. Ultimately its disparate threads are revealed connected. This didn't suit me at all. I understand coincidence in Dickens and Dostoevsky; I nearly crave it as well. The application of such to our own time appears maudlin. I have to agree with David Foster Wallace that such is incongruous with our access to communication and information.
Left incapacitated this week, I swung lower than usual and finished this one in two days. I am interested in her other work, though not the subsequent novels which incorporate the above-mentioned detective, one Jackson Brodie

Unsure (more of a note, actually)

I have read 600 pages this week. I was also intrigued by this. I've read three of those but not the titualar apex. I thought this might prove the year. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Leaning Back

There's an eerie deja vu to it all lately. The Celtics-Lakers, a sublime World Cup and, well, I may have wrecked a knee again. There's no pain, but a rather limiting distension. The sawbones will be consulted tomorrow.

I have found between match respite in returning to Middlemarch.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Detours and Challenges

Sunday evening I finished Rodinsky's Room coauthored by Iain Sinclair (along with Rachel Lichenstein) and I found it a rich experience. I preferred the Sinclair sections and was troubled by a number of errors in the Lichenstein narrative. It was an agreeable venture.

As noted previously, I have braced a for a series of summer novels. There is also that ongoing Great Summer Distraction to confront. While waiting for the cable technician the other night I read 100 pages of Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

A Sort of Countdown

Myriad influences collided and elcited an idea that I was going to pursue three major novels through the summer: Brothers Karamazov via samizdat and then a robust return to both Gravity's Rainbow and the Woods translation of Magic Mountain. Then I encountered:

I ordered the book and will be Ed Harris qua Enemies at the Gate.

A Simple Soreness

Thursday evening I finished White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings by Sinclair. It was an evening which appeared eager to enhance and please. The choice bits of the novel weren't concerned with the Ripper or the cabala, instead it was the ambrosia of buying used books, the gamble, the dust, the dipshits blocking the aisle. I went to a sale with my good friend Edward from Bedford last night. It was a sauna and the place was choked with ebay hyenas, mercenaries who don't know anything of literature, only resale prices. My arm is sore today from toting a dozen books as i cleared the score or so tables.

Sunrise struck me eager and I was at the local library's sale and what a bounty was found at hand! The Wandering Scholars by Helen Waddell has been coveted for almost a decade and there it was for a quarter. I also found a replacement copy of the 10 and 1/2 Chapters from Julian Barnes as well as a collection of Kipling's stories of the macabre and supernatural with a curious one page introduction from Neil Gaiman.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Running The Triangle

There was a reference to a G. Burgess in the concluding barrage of Radon Daughters. It struck me last night that Guy Burgess was the likely reference. Damn. I never remember Burgess but always Blunt (thanks Banville) and Philby.

The terrain of Sinclair remains embodied by the English death, as Durrell was wont to term it. Amidst the decay and the allure of subterranean currents are the names of literary figures: they spill over from the page, a crowd of references, largely named!

The need to remember also materialized the other morning when I was royally reading Clive James on not Chesterton but Eugenio Montale: "The reason I keep on reading on reading Lucky Jim and the Great Gatsby is that otherwise I would be certain to forget them, and I know it's time to read Madam Bovary again when all i can remember is (a) Emma's lewd cab-ride in Rouen, (b)her being impressed by the physical glossiness of the landed gentry, and (c) her husband's lack of success with his operation on somebody's-whose-foot."

I tend to agree with James though it is likely my rereading of him which have shifted scenes (a) and (c) to the fore. My wife has read End of the Affair, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter in the last week. I have been unable to answer most of her queries.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Event Horizon

Finishing the Best European Fiction 2010, I thought my interests would be bent towards an emerging voice, though the obscure observations of Iain Sinclair were not what I imagined. Finishing Radon daughters I am now deep into White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings and will likely complete such soon. The Ripper motif is starting to tire. We shall see. I have a few more at home and will certainly spring for another. There is no sign of life at samizdat.

More importantly, tomorrow issues the advent of my Summer Distraction. The NBA Finals begin Thursday and then eight days later the World Cup. Unlike 2006, this year's Finals should be rather interesting which doesn't bode well for my sleeping and reading for the next few weeks.

Radon Daughters

It shouldn't surprise anyone when three-fifths of the way through Iain Sinclair's novel there is a epigram from James Ellroy, a kindred insurgent against the Latin sentence. That said, it isn't far into the work when the pun of the novel's chief character becomes evident: Todd Sileen. Dr Destouches aside, there a great deal of the better early Celine in these pages. This proved a challenge, much as when Levi Stahl termed a reading of Henry James as requiring those higher registers of one's acumen, an endeavor akin to reading the Bard.