Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dear Nick Hornby,

Knowing you are a rabid enthusiast for FC Arsenal, I thought perhaps you made the journey to Belgrade last night for the Champions League match against Partizan. If so, I was there as well. I was quietly cheering for Arsenal, surrounded by thousands of black-clad, self-proclaimed Gravediggers. Needless to say, I kept my opinions to myself.

The effects of plum brandy slowed the pace for many in the household the day after the wedding. Having only imbibed beer the night before, I was spared these ravages and thus read a great deal of Wolf Hall in the courtyard, enjoying the soft breeze, the aroma of the fruit trees a true delight.

I finished Wolf Hall last night. The novel is a true achievement, not simply an inversion of popular historical views, but an examination of power and its stewards.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Smelling Citrus

Before Freedom, there was a torrent about Wolf Hall. I don't think at the time I constructed any tangible reservations about approaching it. It simply didn't happen. Perhaps the present springs optimistic, but my pristine paperback copy has accompanied me on this five thousand mile trek and thus allowed considerable time for its tics and details.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Game of Kings

A torrent of guesses and clinging circumstances have pushed me in the direction of this first volume of the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett.

Not To Ascribe To Poor Form

I completed Hitch-22 Saturday evening. I felt that I had previously absorbed the better parts. This is likely because the cream of the book is pithy observations about Kinglsey and Martin Amis, all of which is recreated in both Martin's memoir Experience as well as Zachary Leader's biography of Kingsley.

I read earlier today that Hitchens isn't doing very well with his cancer treatments. I do wish him all the best.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Where the first 400 pages of Celestial Harmonies are a construction of aphorisms and anecdotes, the distilled experience of 400 years of Esterhazy nobility, the second half constitues a more visceral novel. I found the first part remniscent of Perec's Life: A Users Manual. It wasn't a puzzle of exact precision, but rather, a tumbling monologue on futility and vanity.

On the other hand, my father--specifically, my grandfather and his family--never felt that they had anything to lose since (repetition!) they had so much that they had every reason to think they couldn't lose it all, for everything can't be lost, only a lot. But if you lose a lot from this everything, there's still everything left. Accordingly, everything remains the same, and accordingly, it is not worth thinking about. Later, when historical happenstance took from them everything they possessed, this line of reasoning came full circle: if you have nothing, no matter how much of it you may lose, the same amount remains. Accordingly, everything remains the same. And--teetering on the brink of a great nothing--they concluded that it's something not worth thinking about, and they either marched out to the potato patch to rake the potatoes (having taken on the work for half the yield), or else sat out on the porch and quietly reflected on the vagaries of fortune.

My friend Roger is reading a book by Jerzy Pilch and we were sharing examples of this perspective which runs through both of the novels.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Reading Now

Celestial Harmonies by Peter Esterhazy is presently the primary read. Eight years ago I was in Novi Beograd, totally in love, reading a series of books under a soft September sky. One of those was by Esterhazy, an author I was then unfamiliar with. The pages of the novel were framed as death notices and I didn't understand the reference. So much as changed in eight years and I am now 200 pages into this brick of a tome.

My reading into Hitch-22 has increased and improved. I found his thoughts about his mother rather touching.

Rattles in the Attic

Holiday tidings have arrived, toting a welcome drop in temperature and unfurling an amazing azure sky. The antipode of this was two gothic conundrums courtesy of Sarah Waters and Edger Allan Poe. Ms. Waters is rather fluent in the emotional vernacular of rejection. This was the masterful edge of Night Watch. Her use of this argot in The Little Stranger was more limited and, then, there was the other problem. It was one hundred pages too long and it couldn't decide whether it hoped to be a pithy ghost story or a novel of manners detailing class tensions in postwar England. I was hoping for the latter.

That said, Ms. Waters would've benefited by the economy displayed by Poe in The Fall of the House of Usher. Aside from some purple embroidering, the story was a lyrical sigh.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Well, Really?

I am 13 pages into Hitch-22 and find myself cringing at this steward of discourse making his own allusions to a Madeleine. Such is awkward, given my affection for his peer group. Memoirs are a tricky terrain, no doubt. It is just this incessant grapple, this wrestling to say, enough, damnit, you DO know better Christopher. Somehow I have never had this issue with Julian Barnes and his Nothing To Be Afraid Of.

I a 250 pages across Little Stranger and my verdict is sweeping towards a middlebrow assessment. That said, I am making my list for the trip to Serbia.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Erasing the Enabled

August ended without so much as a whisper here. I thought of Dorothy Parky typing that sentence.

I finished the Chabon on Sunday and then read Nazi Literature of the Americas by Roberto Bolano in a single sitting. The second book proved an apt bookend to the essence of the former: Chabon's lament over Israel the symbol and its complicating essence, especially in Middle Eastern geopolitics. Bolano's effort is an earnest one, its employment of bigotry, chauvinism and zealotry from the United States was exemplary.

I am now two hundred pages into The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters and my response so far is rather nondescript. Hitch-22 is also at the house and i may begin that one tomorrow.

Listening to BBC excerpts from Tony Blair's memoirs, I was left rather melancholy about the procession of the last 15 years or so.