So I want to try something new here. Each week I’ll post a question thread, and then we all can post any questions at all we have about this week’s section in the comments. This can be anything, from, What does the story about X mean? to How do you translate trompe-l’œil, and what exactly is it? to Where did we last see Madame de Beaumont?
I’ll do my best to answer all the questions, but I’d like everyone else to provide answers as well!
I’ll get things started: Does anyone know if the Kubus, the tribe that Appenzzell . . . continue reading, and add your comments
manual-big-read-schedule/”>this week’s section, with some more fully fleshed thoughts to come later in the week, once we’ve all had a fair chance to get through to the end. We’ve already been talking a great deal about things and descriptions, so now it’s time to talk about surfaces. I’m thinking specifically in terms of Sherwood’s Tale, in which he purchases what he believes to be the Holy Grail but is in fact scammed by crooks [pp. 96 - 109]. It is one of those elaborate confidence scams where a person is shown one small piece of evidence after another to slowly build up trust in what is ultimately a big, unbelievable falsehood . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments
So now that we’ve finished up with Part I of Life A User’s Manual, I’m curious to know how people are getting along. You’ll no doubt have noticed that the form the book takes is very particular–there’s a lot of description (as I discussed in this post), and not a lot happens; all we really get are these brief stories and anecdotes about people and objects encountered in the apartment. Do people like this? Why do you think Perec has structured the book in this way? Another point of discussion–we’ve already had some various opinions on the value of knowing about the various constraints Perec embedded in this book. For my own part, I think knowing about at least a couple of the major ones is important. I view something like The Knight’s Tour as being as much a part of the book as Bartlebooth because this funny little constraint is very much conditioning how Perec tells this story. He can’t just jump from character to character as per his whim–he has to navigate over there via his knight’s leaps. By turning the form of his novel into a chessboard, he’s added an element of space to his composition in a way that few books ever will. This conditions they way the story can be told, which itself conditions which stories can be told. Similarly, I think Perec’s choice . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments
So now that we’ve had a chance to experience a bit of Life A User’s Manual, let’s talk about one of the most distinctive things about Perec’s prose in this book: the extraordinary tangibility of it. To explain what I mean, let’s go back to one of Perec’s very first books, titled simply Things. This is a great, small book about two young French professionals who have just begun making their way in life. The book is titled Things because that’s just what the two protagonists are obsessed with–things, namely chic consumer goods. Perec’s protagonists are in their late 20s, the age when one’s youthful aspirations for a romantic, bohemian life are beginning to seriously clash with one’s aspirations for a place of some status in society. To put it simply, they’re torn between a life of nothing and a life of things. Clearly, Perec was aware of the powerful force that could be exerted by consumer objects in a capitalistic society . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Okay everyone, the Life A User’s Manual Big Read starts today. Welcome! If you need a refresher on the schedule of reading, have a look here. Now then, first things first: everyone observe that there’s no colon in the title of this book. No, I’m not sure why either. Maybe we can figure it out. I don’t want to say too much about this week’s reading yet, so for today just a few words about how Perec set this book up. Famously . . . . . . continue reading, and add your comments
In this post you’ll find the reading schedule for the 2011 Life A User’s Manual Big Read, plus a list of resources and books you may want to have a look at in conjunction with the read. The read will start on Sunday, March 13, one week after we launch the spring issue of The Quarterly Conversation. If you want to join in, this is the text we’ll be working with. . . . continue reading, and add your comments
We have chosen our Big Read for this spring, and it is Life A User’s Manual by Georges Perec. Thanks to everyone who voted. If you are going to be reading along with us, I recommend Godine’s corrected translation of the book (published in 2008), in which David Bellos updates his original 1987 translation. (For information as to the differences between the two, see my interview with Godine editor Susan Barba.) . . . continue reading, and add your comments