Thursday, December 29, 2011

A January Plan

The first month of 2012 will be devoted to those who confronted Stalin whether in aggregate or through abstraction. The month will involve texts by or about Shostakovich, Trotsky and Babel.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Such is not only the amazing shortish book by Umberto Eco that was finished this morning, it is also an apt description of the mountain of books which arrived here for the holidays thanks to the thought of those I love.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Very Houellebecq Christmas

Tihana mailed us the new novel The Map and the Territory and it was quite the surprise. Noting that she was already reading such the other day I picked up Public Enemies, his exchanges with BHL, while shopping at Half Price and began plowing through such. This isn't the day for H's professed Depressionism but I would like it noted that yesterday I also completed The Victim by Saul Bellow and Roberto Bolano's By Night in Chile. These are two amazing works by authors discovering their prowess; you can sense both men calibrating their reach and imagining the pounds per inch of their respective impacts. These are pristine examples of the novelist as pugilist.

I hope all enjoy this festive season.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Grim Shakes

I have privately hazarded a theory that many of the great literary plots became void upon the arrival of air conditioning in the modern world. Saul Bellows' early novel The Victim is another example. If Levanthal had central air, he would likely have slept better and with an improved nervous disposition he would have been better disposed to encounter Allbee, his antagonist.

I feel no spirit this year. I am looking forward to being with my wife the next few days.

I am leaning towards a reading goal for 2012. I have wrestled with the idea of trying to complete 40 biographies. The pull for such remains inexplicable.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Missing Hitch

The novel I was reading Friday was Fateless by Imre Kert├ęsz. It must have been waiting near here by the computer. I was stepping into the shower when my wife told me that Christopher Hitchens had passed. I completed the novel that day. It appears appropriate for myriad metrics.

My choice to then later read The Successor by Kadare was influenced, if not dictated, by the passing of the Dear Leader. Somewhere lurking within was my recollection that Hitchens once smirked that the loony totalitarian North Korean state would implode by the publication of an essay he penned 6 years ago. That wasn't to be, but the Albanian master sparkled in his political novel about the mysterious death of Mehmet Shehu in 1980.

Each passing day sheds more of this oblong pain which I find so awkward about someone I never met. I read two novels by David Lodge (Small World and Home Truths) and a collection of stories by Ian McEwan, (Between The Sheets) perhaps to staunch some related wound.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Life offers an odor of being hectic, though it isn't, not really. The weather has been remarkably stable and work unfolds without any throat punches, so, that's a plus. I have completed a number of books since my last posting. There was The History of Love by Nicole Kraus. I found that oddly affecting while still fuelled by that youthful desire link the stars in a fitting celestial tapestry. I finished Cold Comfort Farm which I enjoyed, though largely for Gibbons' imagination about a near future when private aircraft would be as ubiquitous as Fords. Her wit was biting throughout and it reminded me of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies.

Following a wonderful weekend I swept through J.M. Coetzee's Life and Times of Michael K, which I consider profound. Coupled with his Waiting For The Barbarians, Coetzee's vision is penetrating and poetic. I simply wish he would write his lesser novels which simply frustrate in contrast. That remains my problem, not his.

I am nearly finished with another pair of novels: The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz and Next by James Hynes. I selected the latter as I found it for a dollar and The Believer raved over it. It is a recycled Mrs. Dalloway, substituting a smarmy, blase protagonist for the insights of Woolf's characters. I devoured 200 pages of it last night and I found myself shaking my head, incredulous. I often think these days that the Nobel Committee was correct in their assessment of Contemporay American Literature.

I am to embark upon my reread endeavor starting tomorrow and then likely some history for samizdat over the holidays.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

To Mourn

While waiting in line last week at the MOTH Radio hour, my wife told me that Svetlana Stalin had passed away in Wisconsin. This affected me unexpectedly. Knowledge that she lived a few states away always intrigued me. Perhaps I harbored thoughts of visiting her, creating a portal for her to disclose that most extraordinary of childhoods.

I belatedly discovered just now that Christa Wolf has also passed away. I regard her novel Accident as powerful meditation on what it means to be modern.

Shaking Off The Dust

Nearing completion in a pair of books, I have drifted into a mode for rereading. My thoughts appear anchored on a short stack for the next few weeks:

Too Loud A Solitude - Hrabal
Amsterdam - McEwan
Norwegian Wood - Murakami

This remains morning speculation, nothing more.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Often when I think about John Gardner, my thoughts sort of hyperlink to Iris Murdoch. I'm not sure about the causes for such.

I completed Babel Tower, which was a messy shit of a book; an unfortunate detour form the narrative of Virgin In The Garden and Still Life. I then read Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark, which amused me but felt as if it were an exercise. I also think of Severed Head by Iris Murdoch when I think of Muriel Spark. I have only read a pair of her lesser efforts but both betray the the interior mechanisms of Severed Head: that isn't a compliment.

I did pick up Books Burn Badly and am nearly through such. head ways have also been made in The Doll and Cold Comfort Farm.