Monday, November 29, 2010

Holidays Heeled

I presently require a cure or heal of own, nothing chronic, of course, only more crud exacerbated by schizophrenic weather and lying on my back in a winter rainstorm. The first holiday hurdle of the season was negotiated and I realized Thanksgiving Night that I wasn't going to occupy myself with very middling literature, as it were. This realization occurred after I was amped up on 800 mgs of ibuprofen and had spent the evening reading 160 pages of Special Topics in Calamity Physics. That's enough, I muttered to the night amid the dulcet drone of our new furnace.

Since then I have spent time, again, with Dorothy Dunnett, have braved more effort with Henry James, in tandem with my wife, and devoted significant time to Sarah Bakewell's book on Montaigne.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thérèse Raquin

I completed this one the other day. It has been a strange week, equally disoriented by the brief visit from Joel and then the ongoing holiday. I had to admit i was disappointed by this first major work from Zola, lost was broad pacing and meditative dialogue that I so enjoyed in Germinal. I kept thinking with Therese Ranquin that Cain certainly surpassed it with The Postman Always Rings Twice.

We are home and I hoped to read for a few hours. Happy holidays, good people.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Aced Holy

Someone asked me the other day whether I was sliding along a charge of impropriety, possibly anti-Semitism, towards the novel Freedom. I replied, no exactly, though Franzen does create situations of stereotype which do appear disproportionate, particularly Patty's cousin.

It should be noted that I finished Zone by Mathias Enard last week and was struck by its scope and unrelenting foment. I thought of Umberto Eco being asked about his definition of a polymath: someone interested in everything and nothing else. It appeared that Enard had melded Braudel's classic study of the Mediterranean with Robert Fisk's account of recent Middle Eastern tumult.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thoughts on Freedom

This was cobbled from some of my samizdat postings, forgive the incontinuity.

A few years ago Tom Wolfe, whose journalism I do admire, wrote another god-awful novel, this one titled I am Charlotte Simmons. It detailed the sexual rituals of entitlement at a state university. It was regarded as a shit book by everyone except for neo-cons, who championed it as evidence of atheistic education gone asunder. I am curious about Mr. Franzen's pedagogic ideas. How is Patty broadened by her college experience, well, for one thing, it allows her to sever ties with a her New York Jew Ways (not exactly sure of why Franzen situated this), and, then, discover herself, well, in sport-- no she doesn't learn a skill or cultivate a nuanced appreciation of the world or history or art.What does she do, then, exactly? She creates a surrogate family in her teammates and off the hardwood she becomes linked to a gaggle of fuck ups. I suppose Joey's khaki and flip-flop experience of hookups and mobile phone melancholy serves as a contrast to jock life with all the aside of an art freak. Perhaps, Eric, I mean Walter, is supposed to redeem us all.

Not pointing fingers, mind you. I read a review the other day which frankly stated that if Franzen were female, there would be no attempts at highbrow classification, it would simply be understood as an example of chick lit. Patty's lack is the core of the novel and I find myself leaning in Roger's direction as far as sympathy is concerned.

Consumption, consumption, what's that function, to paraphrase a favorite Saturday morning jingle from my youth. My own annoyance is steadily rising this morning, with no burly men and furnace in tow. Yahoo has been consistently touting this year's Black Friday deals for days now, and it is only November12th! Nabokov chimed on and on about coincidence as a plot device in both Dickens andDostoevsky. He then confirmed his point by making the mother of Dolores Haze die in a timely car crash, thus allowing Lolita (and Humbert Humbert) to stretch their, um,legs - if you will. When Walter's Boo dies, I muttered aloud, you hack.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Last Orders

A friend of mine passed away last night. Lloyd wasn't a close friend but I have found my morning filled with memories of him. He didn't read much but he certainly had the temperament of a philosopher. He spent his life working with hands, most often, as a long haul driver. He was well well versed with the nation's highways, its shipping bureaucracy and its ever diminishing industrial output.

He had a cluster of serious illnesses over the last decade. His strength, candor and humor always impressed me in the face of such. I think it fitting that the last time we spoke, we drank until all was delightful. Aware of a limited time frame, we had discussed a subsequent summit but alas, it didn't happen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Eugenie Grandet

There is an aspect of the Balzac explosion that is agreeable that I want it to continue. My thoughts presently rest upon a pair of recent translations Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada and the soon to be released Zone by Mathias Enard which I acquired yesterday. The afterward to my copy of Eguenie Grandet insisted that the novel begs for a sequel. While I found the second half of the narrative rushed, I can't say I found this charming tale incomplete: quite the contrary. The fate of Charles as a slave trader with aristocratic ambitions was masterful.

Monday, November 08, 2010

When Is it Enough

There's much to be said for enjoying Eugenie Grandet on a brilliant autumn day. That said, the dogmatic avarice of Father Grandet has struck me uncomfortable, especially with regards to my own family. With great haste, I will add that no one in my family suffered privation, nor is anyone in my family a cooper and winemaker.

Those familiar with this site know that I am a repentant sucker for melody in my prose. The rolling depicitions of the Grandet family are delightful. their austerity amid such wealth is a paen itself.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

La Peau de chagrin

I finished the above this afternoon. Puns aside, I was spellbound by the segmented work. My copy was translated as The Fateful Skin whereas the standard title in English is The Wild Ass' Skin, a copy of which Joel bought in Bloomington 17 years ago. I am enjoying this Balzac turn and will continue with Eugenie Grandet.

Estimates Being Considered

Paris is a meeting place, swarming with talent, for all the forceful vigorous young men who spring up like wild seedlings in French soil. They haven't a roof over their heads, but they are equal to anything. and set on making their fortune. Your humble servant was just such a young man in his time, and I have known some others! -- Balzac

I finished The novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse Thursday night. I was predisposed by the lukewarm reviews I had encountered and nothing within proved to change this estimation. That said, the novel does tap the glaring dearth of contemporary French prose in translation.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A Further Kick

I just read that Harry Mulisch has passed. I believe I have read four of his novels and I greatly appreciate his floating prose and piercing degree of sensibility.

Lessons Learned, Allegedly

1992 saw me vote for the first time. I voted in the Democratic primary for presidential hopeful Jerry Brown. Yes, I knew the numbers, but was attempting for the first time to reframe the debate in Indiana in progressive terms. Moving forward to yesterday, every candidate that I voted for lost. I must however commend Jerry Brown for a temerity and finesse which demand praise.

Somewhere in midpoint, the early spring of 1997, I was in Rome where I touched Raphael's tomb. Having recently finished Call of the Toad by Grass, I was tingling also with more present masters and there was a sense, however cliched, that history still at lived at the particular spot. I am reading Balzac for the time being, who dotes, as a matter of fact, upon Raphael whenever possible. In a time when sanctioned entitlement, avarice and pervasive fear appear to be the only sanctioned choice, I am refreshed by this other continuity.

I finished Monday night Ian McEwan's debut, the collection First Love, Last Rites, which aptly situated him on his wonky course.