Friday, December 31, 2010

The Gurionic War

Shanghaied earlier in the week by a nasty sinus infection I completed The Instructions by Adam Levin on Wednesday and have since found the temerity to then plunge into Ulysses, reading almost 120 pages in a single insomniac sitting. I wish I could depict the wonderful world painted in The Instructions, though presently it still splattered in brutality, for that is the course yielded in the novel's 200 page denouement.

More of merit should follow.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Lingering Heft

While halfway through Levin's The Instructions, I can't help but ponder the effect of recent reads. If Weber is to be believed an Christendom suffered a blow of disenchantment in my beloved 16 th Century, then certainly that structural worship was replaced by avarice and such is the core of Balzac's broad canvas.
(pause while I sing along with Tegan and Sara)

It is thus, that I am assured I will continue to be visited by Couisin Bette, much as Sister Carrie remains haunting: anyone have two tens?

As Gurion ponders the proper terms to express his love for June Watermark and, yet, Esther Salt launches her own epistle to the young Maccabee as to why the two broke up, we are confronted with extensive further flashback to delineate the world of slapslap ( a nod to Eschaton and Infinite Jest) and the fissure of September the 11th.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More Thoughts

Perhaps it is winter, but I've found myself brooding on the roulette of contemporary lit: for every Zone or Wolf Hall, well, there's Freedom or Special Topics in Calamity Physics. A honest albeit flawed effort like The Imperfectionists can convey you only so far. I noted previously that this is the season of Balzac for me personally. Thus qualified, I am so glad I picked up The Instructions by Adam Levin at the library yesterday. I am well past p. 200 and elated with the transportive world so brilliantly depicted. I scoured reviews and interviews concerning such last night. It was intriguing to find Joshua Cohen all pissy about the book and its reception.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Another for the Commonplace

Benji Nakamook thought we should waterboard each other, me and him and Vincie Portite. We wouldn't count the seconds to see who was bravest or whose lungs were deepest--this wasn't for a contest. We'd each be held under til the moment the possibility of death became real to us, and in that moment, according to Benji, we'd have to draw one of the following conclusions: "My best friends are about to accidentally drown me!" or "My best friends are actually trying to drown me!" The point was to learn what it was we feared more: being misunderstood or being betrayed. -- Adam Levin


I did buy a pair of books this morning: Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's tale and a new translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, one solid dollar spent.

I also checked out a pair of books from the Jeffersonville library, Adam Levin's massive The instructions as well as Alex Butterwoth's history of anarchism The World That Never Was. I should dive into both of the latter two this week. As for this weekend, I think I will divide my time between James, Forester and the Christmas Books of Dickens.

Now The Thaw

The knot has finally loosened. The ice throttled timely commerce in our neck of the woods for a pair of days. my work continued, if only barely. I did finish the Szerb Thursday night. I enjoyed the novel, although it didn't live up to its ravishing beginning but it was impressive without doubt.

It has been a ponderous morning. The weather cancelled the Premiere League schedule for the entire weekend. I have thought a bit about my reading this past year, though after the agony and indulgence of compiling best of decade lists, I think I can only manage that this has been the season of Balzac, one which I hope lingers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Awaiting The Ice

Well, matters weather wise may worsen tomorrow, so why worry tonight? It appears I may read Howard's End in tandem with my friend Tim and my wife has been whiling away A Portrait of a Lady the last few days.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Avoiding The Tryanny of Fact

It would be polite to extend my apologies to the memory and mind of Matthew Arnold for my subject. That said, we persevere, much as Celts. I worked but a half day today due to the snow. I have returned home to marvel at Antal Szerb and his wonderful novel Journey By Moonlight.

Yesterday was one of rolling leisure, including a walk to the library. Towards evening I finished Cousin Bette and I find it my favorite Balzac novel. Despite some narrative leaps and a reversal of fortune for several of the characters, I truly loved this novel. It was a perfect, snowy weekend for such. The pacing, except for the end, was sublime and supported with equal measures of vitriol and detail. There is much to say about a family in decline, if not peril. I rank Cousin Bette with Buddenbrooks and The Sound and the Fury.

I gave my wife pause later in the night when I told her that I didn't regard Sartre as a fine novelist.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Previous

That meme was realized courtesy of a crib sheet I had compiled last week. I don't find myself as occupied with lists of my own read, not like in the past. It was then that I encountered a question on concerning how I procure most of my books. This engendered a certain confusion about whether the question concerned the books I own, those I read or those I finish: three very different lists. I decided upon those i had finished and went to determine the origins of all those completed in 2010. About 12 percent are courtesy of a library, about the same for a new purchase at an independent store, the same for amazon and likewise for buying used: I didn't differentiate between charity shops and used bookstores. Half of the books i finished this year I had owned beforehand, regardless of origin.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Saw This

Using only the titles of books i have read this year, I hope to complete this parlor game without duplication by answering the following questions

DESCRIBE YOURSELF: Slowness (Kundera).

HOW DO YOU FEEL: Little Stranger (Waters)




YOUR BEST FRIEND IS: Immoralist (Gide)

YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS ARE: Imperfectionists (Rachman)

WHAT'S THE WEATHER LIKE: Petersburg (Bely)

FAVORITE TIME OF DAY: Almost Dead (Gavron)

IF YOUR LIFE WAS A: The Keep (Egan)

WHAT LIFE IS TO YOU House of Meetings (Amis)

YOUR FEAR: Finishing School (Spark)


THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself (Lipsky)

HOW I WOULD LIKE TO DIE: Sea of Poppies (Ghosh)

MY SOUL"S PRESENT CONDITION: Case Histories (Atkinson)

More from the Commonplace

There is no syntax: there is a magnetized impulse, a longing for the stern of a ship, a longing for a forage of worms, a longing for an unpromulgated law, a longing for Florence. - O. Mandelstam

Money never misses the slightest occasion to demonstrate its stupidity. -- Balzac

Sunday, December 05, 2010


It was J Barry who first placed Balzac in my hands, the text was Old Gorot and the class concerned modern ethics. I bucked at such. Three Trapped Tigers and Midnight's Children were more my speed during those heady days. Yes, I was rather impetuous.

I have spent much of the day gnawing on the radiance of Cousin Bette.

Sunday Quotes

Take a step or two forward, lads. It will be easier that way. -- Erskine Childers to the men of the firing squad about to execute him

The moralist cannot deny that, generally speaking, well-bred people addicted to vice are much more likeable than the virtuous are. -- Balzac

My Joy

My best friend was in town a few weeks back. What lingers from his whirlwind arrival was his reading choice. He carried a Penguin copy of Maugham's Mrs. Craddock and while I think he was mistaken about the novel's origins, I found it a remarkable read for a trip back to the heartland. I recall the presence of such while we discussed the failures of character within Freedom, it sat there on the bar mocking us. It recalled the decisions of others to only read the established. I can safely commend that temerity. Years before, Joel bought me Franco Moretti's Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900. I have consulted that tome rather often this year. Dr. Moretti asserts that, personally, he prefers Balzac to Dickens. My own opinion, which may be pegged specifically to the end of 2010, remains I have to agree.

I finished a pair of books this week, Michel Butor's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ape and Sarah Bakewell's magnificent book on Montaigne. Butor's slim effort cradles the germ of something really remarkable, but as is, it is only a sketchbook of postmodern autobiography. How To Live, conversely, was a touch overwritten, at least initially. The first 80 pages are an exhausting overview of the French Renaissance and Greek philosophy. I recalled a review of the Rest Is Noise which asserted that the book contained an entire university education of music. My response was terse, really, where? Ms. Bakewell finds her stride by allowing Montaigne to dictate terms in all life's meanderings and contradictions. Weaving together Pascal, Hazlitt, Nietzsche and Zweig and the blogospehere, Bakewell provides an admirable spirit to Borges' creation of one's antecedents and influences.

It is rather Arctic here today. I have dove into Cousin Bette and feel incredibly enriched.