Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Groups and my need for Manic Solitude

Outside of samizdat, I tend to shy away from group reads though I am forever enchanted with people's selections. That said, I ordered Helen DeWitt's The Last Samurai and began reading it yesterday. I am presently over 200 pages in and am delighted.

It isn't about Tom Cruise or Scientology. What does move its action? I'll quote George Meredith in response.

. . . In tragic life, God wot,
No villain need be!
Passions spin the plot:
We are betrayed by what is false within.

Oryx and Crake

My complaint with the novel refers exclusively to the dearth of the title characters. They are but sketches in an otherwise lush detour of the apocalyptic decline. I noted previously that I find Ms. Atwood's prose enchanting. I still do. I was just troubled by the underdevelopment of what I consider to be the chief elements in this captivating novel.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Extinct Grammar

Perhaps the grand Inquisitor was correct. much of Ivan's monologue has proved prescient. While the samizdat discussion has cooled as the humidity has ascended, the riveting section before Zosima's has clung to me since.

I read Ishiguro's Never Let Me go the other day and while not overwhelmed was inspired to ponder the post-human while cycling about nightly. It is fair to say that I don't think that our detritus and our sentimentality are grounds for exceptionalism.

This burden, much like that of Witz's Benjamin, persists. I am now reading Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake. My tastes towards post apocalyptic letters are well known. Ms. Atwood's prose is nuanced and somehow familiar like a whispered story before bed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Were I a betting man or one burdened with belief, I might find the last week unsettling. Looking for a diversion from the twin tons of Witz and Karamazov, I picked up a pair of novels by Alan Furst at the library. The following day Levi Stahl posted upon one of them, Spies of the Balkans and referenced in comparison the other, Dark Star.

That was odd.

I wound up reading The Keep by Jennifer Egan. I must impart that I truly loathed the novel, its use of Wilkie Collins and the decision to populate its pages with entitled immature folks reminiscent of Clair Messud's The Emperor's Children and Richard Price's Lush Life. There was even a prompt to post something pissy about grad school hep cats in contemporary literature but such has thankfully exhausted itself before landing on the page.

Keith Nearing spends most of his days in Pregnant Widow absorbed in the trajectory of the English novel from Richardson to Eliot. Amis uses such to illustrate the evolution of behavioral codes not just during the sexual revolution but as on ongoing process. Ms. Egan's effort to recall the mechanics of the Gothic novel fails miserably.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Return To Form

The great Summer Distraction is over. Espana reigns and I have spent spent the last 72 hours finishing The Pregnant Widow and pushing ahead in Witz and Brothers Karamazov.

I appreciated the Amis, this is shaping to be a year of certain study: I've completed four of his novels already.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Elif Batuman

The last ten days have witnessed me plugging away at Witz and, likewise, a rejuvenation in spirit towards the Karamazov via samizdat. My 30 pages per day with Joshua Cohen were derailed late in the week as I went IUS and checked out their copy of The Possessed. Ms. Batuman's memoir of sorts of reading Russian literature and trips to such over the last decade. it begins strong, anchored with Babel's: Spectacles on his nose, Autumn in his heart. It becomes a bit chatty after that. Substance ebbs and personal anecdotes reign.

I finished it in two days. Unfairly, I found it couldn't compete with Germany/Argentina.

Before finding myself shackled with a sore throat for the remainder of my holiday, I did find a copy of Quest For Corvo at the library book sale.