Sunday, January 30, 2011

Not The Best Week

Certainly, in terms of reading it was a sub par performance on my part. I attribute this to Manchester United's comeback victory on Tuesday, my pair of visits to see my sister in the hospital and the return of hospitable weather to our region. I am about 200 pages into both Balzac's Lost Illusions and Patrick White's The Vivisector.

Mahfouz is obviously on my mind these days. It would be interesting to see how many people have picked up his work in the last few days.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A.B. Yehoshua

This weekend's weather nudged me towards another novel, as initially Balzac was proving elusive or resistant -- that has since been resolved and Lost Illusion is presently sparkling in my imagination. So the snow and the cold thinned the palette of possibilities and I wound up with the Faulkner of Israel as Mr. Yehoshua has been dubbed. The Woman in Jeruslaem thrives in anonymity, I was slow to greet this perspective and found the novel needlessly abstract until one fathoms the parallels between a frightened populace desperate for stability and only equipped with a technocratic grammar at its disposal. That said, the human elements have to transcend this for the narrative to be effective: they weren't and it didn't.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Polish Complex

As to my best ability, I believe I first encountered Tadeusz Konwicki's work in late 1995. The ennui of my 20s, my feeling helpless in the wake of events abroad and towards art at home left me, well, precarious. I recall that after reading Konwicki's A Minor Apocalypse I thought it would be an impressive gesture to imitate such with a public display at the local Dickens on Main holiday celebration. Long discussions dipping into the following morning convinced me of my error and I soon loaned it to my friend Roger Baylor, whom having spent a decent amount of time in the Eastern Bloc during the 80s, found the surreal disorder of time depicted in the prose to be eerily accurate.
As part of my pledge to the 2011 Read East I had decided upon Polish Literature and planned to focus on such exclusively, thus my reading of Klima (however Ost he might be)doesn't go towards my goal of , say, 15 Polish novels before Christmas.
I finished my second novel, The Polish Complex last night, a quiet wet evening where the FA Cup pined wistfully. It is a classic Protest novel of long queues, empty storefronts and ubiquitous dipsomania; it is punctuated by a pair of episodes during the failed Polish/Lithuanian Revolt of the late 19th Century. I was moved by the melody of the prose which despite its drunken characters never collapses into farce. It is my understanding that The Mighty Angel a novel by Jerzy Pilch (and another one I plan to read for the Challenge) inverts the classic Polish Drinking novel: no doubt, I look forward to such.
I am returning to Balzac for now.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Another Failure

"On the whole, literature means abnormality, transcendence, aberration."
-- Tadeuz Konwicki

My wife has finished The Portrait of A Lady and I only managed 50 pages. And, no, I didn't read Howard's End with my friend Tim. Yes, yes, I know I keep harping over what I have read, I finished five books in eight days, Let he Great World Spin was completed Wednesday and I finished My Golden Trades by Ivan Klima this a.m.

Ivan Klima

As I walked among the graves, it occurred to me that our obsession with measuring, counting, drawing and inventing comes not just from trying to expel mystery from the world, but also from the need to hold life itself at a distance, since otherwise it would terrify us by its brevity and its transience. In a digitalized world, not only does life vanish, death disappears as well. What remains, at the most, are citizens, populations, property and land registries.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Acts of Encouragement

Several weeks back, i was sitting w/ ed over a pint at the Irish Exit, we were in accord per our appreciation of the film Winter's Bone. Ed mentioned that the film was based on a novel by an author, daniel woodrell, who was rather prolific in detailing the exigencies of Ozark noir. we agreed that we should attend to such whenever possible. Before bed, I read 60 pages of Give Us A Kiss: A Country Noir and while I found the dialogue delightful, it is hampered by the snares and structure of its genre.

Terra Albaster

Such a sublime snow outside. Such creates a great relief to our imperfections. My favorite quote from yesterday was reading a review of Bellow's Letters and the reviewer referred to the author as, "a manic jew who swallowed a library." I have spent considerable time recently surveying my imagined Semitic roots. It is a small comfort, but one I hold close.

Yes, I am still in the depths of the "now, what" hangover after finishing Ulysses and two other fine books. I read a good 20 pages of Colum Mccann this morning and found it resonant, which is nearly a surprise.I haven't found the muster for Henry James and stare helplessly as my wife continues her mad trek ahead.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Storms, Calm and Aches

After yesterday's reading eruption, I feel somewhat lost in the mist as Monday rolled along and my back began to hurt. Here's to hoping it is but a muscle pull. I have tucked into Let The Great World Spin and The Portrait of a Lady, though neither has enkindled today.

I was eager to rhapsodize upon Molly's soliloquy this morning but the day has dented such aspirations. I chuckled aloud as I read her reference to Rabelais. Given the agenda of my year long safari of literary elephants, I should be priming my implements for Pynchon about now. The snow expected for tomorrow may just engender the resolve.

Hat Trick

Make it three books finished on an Arctic Sunday. I initiated the Challenge as it were by thoroughly enjoying Eighth Day of the Week by the ill fated Marek Hlasko.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Ulysses, Finished?

There is something shallow about this lingering satisfaction. I completed Joyce's hefty project earlier today. Given the cold, I elected to read Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz in a single sitting, perhaps to calm the waters from Molly's episode. Oh, nobodaddy, there is so much Bloom in us all. Indeed the star's apathy is absolute and maybe i should reconsider this project for 2011.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

May I Say Damn, Peking Duck?

I have been pulling my hair over the Oxen Of The Sun episode in Ulysses. Up until this point it has proved a rollicking ride, where allusions slipped past me blind, but I have nearly thirsted for this gushing display of word alchemy. That has stalled as I have consulted some online resources.

My ambitious plan from the weekend is still operational, though the week has yielded insights towards improvement. Honestly, I was only thinking of about eight of those novels for 2011 and improvised to fill the calendar. I am guessing that Mervyn Peake is more likely to be sought than that Bolly-Telenova Sacred Games.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Humble Plan

Matters percolate as normal. The jaunt through Ulysses is often riveting. That said, the holiday weekend has, of course, prompted some scheming.

I joined the Eastern European Reading Challenge and thought i would use the opportunity to explore Polish literature.

My thoughts then floated back to another organizing principle. Maybe I should attempt to finish one large meganovel a month. This is much more feasible during winter months or when I am on holiday, but what is January for, if not fool's errands.
January: Ulysses
February: Against the Day (reread)
March : Runaway Soul
April: Magic Mountain(reread)
May: Moby Dick (reread)
June: Witz
July: A Suitable Boy
August: Sacred Games
September: Gravity's Rainbow (reread; hopefully in Berlin)
October: Our Mutual Friend
November: Gargantua and Pantagruel
December: Golden Notebook

My mind is presently flush with when I will abandon this charade. I would be rather pleased if I complete half of these during the year.