Monday, February 28, 2011

Ears Stoneward

Pynchon continues to boggle. Yes, it has been 15 years since I last read V. but aspects of the novel have completely eluded my memory. The overture to Melville's Confidence Man is stellar in the Stencil sections and the community of sewer rats being spiritually advised by a human priest is remarkable sortie, especially when considering that Lawrence Norfolk reworked the material in The Pope's Rhinoceros.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Somewhat Funk

My reading has derailed a few times since the weekend. It would be proper to attribute aspects of this to gulping wrongheaded hype about contemporary books. No, The Passage by Justin Cronin isn't high literature and , likewise, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray isn't akin to Infinite Jest. I hesitate to dismiss them both as shit books, but i feel robbed somehow by the market forces of darkness, robbed of my time, especially on quiet evening when I should've been worried about Dickens.

Years ago I bought Vs by Pearl Jam for my cousin Amber for Christmas and later I bought an album from Poe, though the thought of actually buying her House of Leaves never entered the equation. The news has arranged serial mule kicks and I bluff for composure, reeling as it were, I have sought out Pynchon, yes, I'm rereading V.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stoner by John Williams

I noted earlier on samizdat about my fetish for piebald literature, messy novels overripe with wastrels, tyros and counterfeiters are my bag, man. That said, the last two novels I've finished by David Mitchell and John Williams respectively run rather the contrary. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and Stoner offer achievements in precision, not gambits of excess. Remarkably, I loved both of them.

Williams steels his narrative with a dichotomy of brilliant but elemental forces, light, heat, stoic trees and featureless fields exhausted in use and barren in promise. Opposing this backdrop is a character forever out of focus, the voices around him lack clarity, most are lost as mumbles, his own agency appears equally indefinite until he actualizes his passion for literature. This affords him purpose but the entanglements of human baggage bring him low. There is still a triumph in this literal account of failure. I felt moved by its accomplishment.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Legs Are Queer

The rolling tide of Our Mutual Friend carried me along a few times yesterday. There is a great deal to be said for such. The pacing is remarkable and I've managed, I think, to keep tabs on the legion of characters.

It was a book sale Saturday and I travelled down early with a certain reluctance. This appears to be an arid stretch for such and I braved the claustrophobia and the dozens of souls evidently raised in barns. I was nearly through my circuit when I saw a pristine copy of Stoner by John Williams, a book I have been interested in for a few years now. This was certainly a moment requiring me to catch my breath. Now, for the third time in the last twelve months, I have managed upon an elusive text, as Stoner joins Quest For Corvo and The Wandering Scholars.

Given that antibiotics tend to squeeze any initial drowsiness, I managed 175 pages before I retired. The title character is an academic in the English Department at the University of Missouri in the first half of the 20th Century. The narrative arc is rather linear accounting for his agrarian upbringing, the ecstasy that literature delivers, his plagued marriage and his encounters with university politics. There is an austere peace to this sibilant journey. I will likely adhere to the Dickens today.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Feeling Fatigued

It was my first day on the bike today, second day of antibiotics. I finished a book last night but will defer any discussion for now.

My friend Jeff was telling me about Miroslav Holub a few weeks ago, I may pursue such in the future. There has been a likewise spike in my interest in Raymond Queneau.

The Balzac from Better World arrived today, I have to consider myself pleased this evening.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


My skull is killing me. I am bearing witness to a supreme sinus inflammation. It has made sleep fleeting and left me truncheoned for the last two days. Such debility has cleared away room for the narcotic effects of David Mitchell's The thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet. I am now at p. 300.

I decided that the duelling reads format I employed the week before holidays isn't what I desire these days. Thusly, I have sat aside Mr. Dickens, being 250 pages into Our Mutual Friend and have decided to push through the Mitchell.
I bought a copy of the Wood translation of Doktor Faustus today and I think I will be reading that soon. Another Balzac The Harlot high and Low was ordered last week from Better Worlds and that will likely be it for the month. The need to complete an entire book in a single day has also vacated me for now.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Early in the Swedish film Tillsammans, the commune awakes to the news that, Franco Is Dead. The entire house celebrates, small children are chanting, Franco is dead, Franco is dead. The tears which stung my eyes a few minutes ago have now adjusted to my more familiar squint.

That said, there is this

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Drawers of Cutlery

I completed Lost Illusions Tuesday and was left with a simmering dread. Lucien's saga continues with The Harlot High and Low and there are no copies at my immediate digestion, not locally. Oh, I looked. The project of Gissing in New Grub Street has an added context when viewed through the prism of Balzac's observations concerning the Fourth estate, alleged objectivity and the grist of commerce which sullies everything. I had to chuckle earlier today viewing Pandora's Box by G.W. Pabst at the promises Schon makes about the production's success, he is the editor-in-chief of the city newspaper, after all.

Monday, February 07, 2011

A Laugh

(courtesy of my wife's brother, and apparently enhanced if related w/ Croatian emphasis)

Immigration officials at LaGuardia were stunned by the appearance of a loudmouthed red-skinned being who quickly announced,
I'm a little Devil
I have a little suitcase
I came here to steal

The officials thought of immediate rendition but instead admonished the Devil that the USA was a free nation which didn't allow such and that he'd better head back across the ocean.

Arriving in Heathrow, Devil approached the authorities and , again, announced
I'm a little Devil
I have a little suitcase
I came here to steal

Needless to say, the authorities weren't amused. One informed the devil that the UK was a nation of laws and such transgressions were simply forbidden.

So off the Devil went. Landing in Berlin, the Devil was greeted by a now familiar group of stern officials. Still, the diminutive tourist thought, why not and sat down his luggage, announcing

I'm a little Devil
I have a little suitcase
I came here to steal.

The German authorities weren't amused but still hoping to dissuade any ideas or images of autocracy or intimidation, smiled and entreated, listen friend, we're part of the EU now and such enterprise isn't exactly promoted here, but as a favor, I will tell you about a country south of here, where laws are slogans but little else and everyone steals and there is no real consequence.

So the Devil landed in Belgrade and approached the immigration cadre and stated

I'm a little Devil
I have -- hey, where the fuck is my suitcase!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Seasonal Challenges

Holiday has arrived again for me, perhaps all too soon. I am nearing the end of Lost Illusions and I find it to be Balzac at his most incendiary, rivalling Cousin Bette, though Coralie's fate appeared to be a convenient device. The details of 19th Century journalism are harrowing, though perhaps only a more naked form of what presently constitutes the Fourth Estate.

Samizdat has undertaken the latest from David Mitchell and the first three chapters have proved rich and evocative. I am still massaging The Vivisector, though as someone on goodreads noted, Patrick White appears to hate equally all of his characters.

I picked up The Collected Letters from Saul Bellow today at IUS and I think such will be engaging on this long, frigid week. Levi Stahl has issued a challenge and while I would relish the opportunity to address Boccaccio, I was thinking, instead, that given my aversion to short story collections, I should propose to read a story a night from Carson McCullers until completion and then move on to Nabokov and, possibly, Maupassant.