Andrzej Stasiuk’s novel Dziewięć (Nine) came to me heavily recommended. Stasiuk is a bonafide celebrity in his native Poland and is one of the few contemporary authors form that country to generate a significant amount of international acclaim. Critics have made favorable comparisons to Sarte, Camus, Hamsun, and even Kafka. The book uses a highly fragmented, highly oblique approach that has generally been hailed as modernistic in the best sense of the word. It is also said to grippingly portray the realities of the post-communism generation in Poland.
I think there is a fair amount . . . continue reading, and add your comments
After breezing through the first hundred pages of 2666, I had the feeling that I’d finish the book in a week. I read By Night in Chile in a single sitting, Amulet in two, and Distant Star in perhaps three at most, so by extrapolating out, a week seemed perfectly reasonable.
2666 turned out to be a much slower read than I anticipated.
I think, probably, if it was like a 1,000-page version of By Night in Chile, I would have read the book in a week; but I’m not even sure what I just . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Now that I’ve knocked off a good inch of 2666, I feel like it’s time to say a little about my reactions to it.
At this point, I can’t say I’m very much reminded of The Savage Detectives (other than in terms of some very general themes that seem to be present in every book Bolano wrote); that book was about youth and what happens to youth as it grows old and forgotten. It focused on people above society–by that I mean it was about rendering a certain kind of emotional response to a life gone awry. . . . continue reading, and add your comments
(When I decided to discuss Thomas Mann’s novel Doctor Faustus on this blog, it quickly became clear that I could expend thousands and thousands of words without nearly exhausting everything there is to discuss in this book. Thus, I’m going to break up my discussion of Faustus into a number of pieces taking on certain of th book’s themes and ideas. This is the first.
Note that all quotes are from the original 1948 translation made by H.T. Lowe-Porter. There is a more recent one made by John E. Woods, which I have some reason to believe is a . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I’ve been reading Bakhtin’s long essay on the chronotopic (that’s his word for time and space) in the novel. Basically, in this essay he’s laying out how the use of time and space has changed since the first novel-like books appeared.
As the earliest novel precusors, Bakhtin identifies the Greek romances. What happens here is that there’s a man who falls in love with a woman, but before the marriage can be achieved something happens, leading to an array of adventures which cumulate in the successful marriage.
Now, a lot of other novelistic genres also use this form, but . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I’ve been slowly making my way through Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus. Despite recently reading proust, Grass, and Kenzaburo Oe, I can pretty easily say that this is the most challenging read I’ve embarked on in a long time. I’ve found myself retreating to the safe harbor of Bakhtin just to take on something a little less bracing.
Other than a too-early read of Death in Venice, this is the first Mann I’ve read, and I’m wondering if all of his books are this intellectual. By that I mean that here Mann is pretty explicitly working out . . . continue reading, and add your comments
It has been said repeatedly, and I think correctly, that in this heavily ironized, mediated era we are each method actors performing ourselves. That is, TV, movies, and other mass media surrounds us with role models for any conceivable identity we may want to inhabit, and our well-developed consumer economy offers us everything we need to wear and own to be the person we think we are. From an early age we are sent off on a search to find ourselves—because, after all, postmodern society makes each of us feel the center of the world—and on this . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier seems to me to possess precisely those virtues to which the novel narrated in the first-person is best suited. Often in first-person novels, the narrator is magically able to relate her story with the polish and skill of a novelist, and no effort is ever made to address why an otherwise ordinary person possesses such sharp storytelling abilities. The Good Soldier strikes me as such an accomplishment because Ford does not only provide us with a narrator whose storytelling skills are realistically diminished; he also integrates the narrator’s diminished capacity into . . . continue reading, and add your comments
The Ministry of Special Cases is not a great novel. It is, however, a pretty good novel that could have been great and certainly shows signs of greatness. It’s author, Nathan Englander, is worthy of your attention.
Let’s try, for instance, this passage from page 93. Here’s the set-up: 1976, Buenos Aires. The military has just taken power, and in true paranoid style it’s been rounding up teenagers. Kaddish has been having intense arguments with his son, Pato, over burning his books before some Fascist decides they’re subversive. Now Kaddish has up . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Something tells me Georges Perec would find all this ruckus over plagiarism silly.
From Life A User’s Manual:
. . . and Moriane with its alabaster gates transparent in the sunlight, its coral columns supporting pediments encrusted with serpentine, its villas all of glass, like aquariums where the shadows of dancing girls with silvery scales swim beneath medusa-shaped chandeliers.
From Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities:
When you have forded the river, when you have crossed the mountain pass, you suddenly find before you the city of Moriana, its alabaster gates transparent in the sunlight, its coral columns supporting . . . continue reading, and add your comments