Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pest House

Though once a keen reader herself, particularly when she was younger, she always thought of library books as grubby and with a potential for infection - not intellectual infection either. Lurking among the municipally owned pages might be the germs of TB or scarlet fever, so one must never be seen to peer at a library book too closely or lick your finger before turning over still less read such a book in bed.

-- Alan Bennett in the LRB discussing his mother and public libraries

My friend Ed sent me this link yesterday. All of these disparate matters congeal however briefly in the people we become.

I finished two books by Iain Sinclair today.

From The Guardian

"The convoluted, time-shifting plot of Andrey Kurkov's novel The President's Last Love includes a president of Ukraine being poisoned by his political enemies. In 2004, a few years after the book was written, the Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was actually poisoned in just one of the bizarre twists that accompanied the Orange revolution in that country. After the revolution Kurkov was invited to a Kiev restaurant by two secret service generals. "They gave me coffee and cognac and asked if I thought my book could have been used by the plotters. I said people who poison presidents don't read books like mine."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Weighing Matters

Default is an operating term at the moment. I consider my own stand-by status, my faults and fancies. I was at a wake last weekend and I found myself isolated, but by choice, and lost myself in the pages of Nooteboom, especially his ruminations on the sprawl of history. One extension of this leaves one with a sense of spastic irrelevance. That was me.

It was a great fortune to have discovered Iain Sinclair. I first encountered him years ago in The Guardian. There was a certain crackle in his reviews and interviews. It was my return last year to the stacks at IUS which allowed this to germinate. This weekend revealed another near-miss of mortal sense. No, not to me, personally. The distinction is slight. Mr. Sinclair has yielded considerable purpose to me today. I remain grateful.

Upon A Knoll

With all the smarmy revelations about News Corporation, I found jean echenoz's novel Lightning of peculiar interest. It is a brisk biographical novel about Nikola Tesla, though he's referred to as Gregor throughout. His encounters with Edison, Westinghouse and J.P. Morgan all brought Mr. Murdoch to mind. I can attest that dark smiles proliferated.

I also read The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells and found it horrible.

One of the Sinclair books arrived.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So and Then That

Roads To Santiago was completed as was Invisible Man by H.G. Wells while I grumbled over the tardy service from Half-Price. There is no ready explanation given the price of shipping.

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Course Ahead

I have just about completed Nooteboom's Road To Santiago and will be shifting gears to run with Iain Sinclair for a spell. Half Price has an online store, along the lines of abebooks and I found a number of desired texts from Mr. Sinclair, each with the requisite $3.99 S & H, of course.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Disparate Outcomes

I completed The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks last weekend after another Holy Shit moment at the library book sale. as I noted elsewhere, a different Iain, but just as Macabre. This first novel is a piece of Grisly Perfection.

That was followed with my reading of Frederic Morton's Nervous Splendor which surveys of the Hapsburg Crown Prince Rudolf and the fate of Vienna and many of its noted artists and intellectuals. This reminded me of Solomon Volkov's cultural history of St. Petersburg, which is not a compliment. The opening chapters scour the diaries of Mahler, Freud and others while peeking back at Rudolf, likely already doomed in his own mind, but such is speculation. That's my point, the entire book is flimsy biography gelled with speculation

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sticky Rice

He seemed like a walking blasphemy, a blend of the angel and the ape. -- G.K. Chesterton

This last week has allowed four books to be completed. Beginning with The Rifles By W.T. Vollmann, a tragic comedy of manners coupled with Vollmann's ickish exploit with Intuit women and then camping above the Arctic Circle. It was this last bit which I found compelling. Saturday I picked up a copy of Facing The Congo by Jeffrey Tayler, a book I had noticed before. it was only a dollar and I thought it would mark an odd counterpart to the polar adventure noted by Vollmann. I was wrong, it was shit book about Yank emulating a canoe trip undertaken by Stanley down the Congo river. It reeks of incessant whining and the mission and all intellectual poise are eschewed early in the horrible exercise in journalism.

You may be asking about the inclusion of the dichotomy cited by GKC above. Well, my reading then took a fortunate turn as I finished the stretch with Cees Nooteboom's stunning Nomad's Hotel and Chesterton's seminal The Man Who Was Thursday. I didn't read Kingsley Amis' introduction to Thursday until after i completed the fanciful jaunt. The language establishes its terms

"Over the whole landscape lay a luminous and unnatural discoloration, as of that
disastrous twilight which Milton spoke of as shed by the sun in eclipse; so that
Syme fell easily into his first thought, that he was actually on some other and
emptier planet, which circled round some sadder star. But the more he felt this
glittering desolation in the moonlit land, the more his own chivalric folly
glowed in the night like a great fire."

Without question these terms are explicated in the novel's subtitle: A Nightmare.
Notteboom by extension approaches the horrible and the inexplicable with the most sober eye imaginable. His descriptions and extrapolations are impeccable and the images linger, scratch and whisper.

"An elderly priest in a green chausible blesses his parishioners and is about to
say something. The church is full; it looks like a living room where the guests
have kept their coats on. They are among friends, they know one another, it is
as though they are aware that there has been praying on the spot for 1500 years,
as though they themselves have stood at the deathbed of the Roman gods, just as
they have also heard, from beyond, the peculiar uproar of the Reformation and
the French Revolution, the screams coming form the Sportpalast and the clanking
of the Iron Curtain. Here, in the meantime, nothing had changed. Somebody who,
later on, in Turin, embraced a carthorse had apparently claimed that God was
dead, but they had still continued to address him in the same words they had
always used, and now the old man shuffled up to the alter of St. Anthony and
held aloft a holy relic; a bone or a bit of monk's habit behind glass, I could
not see which."

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Moment in The Sun

There was an element of Papa's dictum in my reading of John Sayles' doorstop qua cinder block of a narrative, it sat gradually until suddenly I devoured its 1000 pages. My cheekiest nod to the novel is that its as if the Chums of Chance (Pynchon's creations in Against The Day) chose to chronicle American Race and Imperium. That said, Sayles never appears overwrought nor resigned to types or constructs in establishing his dramatic web.

As many may know, I once considered African-American history to be a desired career path. The plausibility of that now strikes me as either ancient or a thumbnail sketch I was considering for a screenplay. My focus and affairs drifted quite far afield and I was thus caught unawares by how the description of the purge of Wilmington affected me. Not that I find evens removed from any other pogrom, far from it, but as domestic political discourse appears as of late to be saturated with racial codes, I do wonder.