The Big One

I don’t want to say too much about Parallel Stories since I’ve got a review of it coming out soon and that’ll say most of what I’ve thought, but since people are starting to dig into it I thought I should say something. Is it worth reading? Yes. Does it represent the strain of East European post-modernist (as opposed to postmodernist) writing that I find most interesting right now? No.

Like most (all?) 1,100-page books, there were lots of awesome moments and lots of slog-worthy moments (though I do think that people will tend to agree where the awesomeness and slogfullness lies, which, in my opinion, is not a good thing). Nadas is clearly taking on something big here, and I think he does a worthy job with it, but these days I’m more interested in the kind of writing that an author like Laszlo Krasznahorkai is doing (for instance, The Melancholy of Resistance). The latter, to me, is more representative of literature as an art form, whereas what Nadas is doing is a little more pedantic. That’s not to say there aren’t a number of great, artistic moments, but on the whole the project feels different.

One thing I don’t recall touching on in the review is that the form is totally different from A Book of Memories. The epic sentences and paragraphs are completely gone in favor of very short, direct sentences. The result is a much quicker, easier-to-read book, but I thought the long sentences were much more interesting.

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I am anticipating your review Scott. I’m reading Melancholy presently, along with Memories-which has been churning in the background since June, so I am really curious about your comparative reading, or contrast between these amazing authors. It’s interest that you refer to Nadas’s writing as more pedantic, and I’m wonder what you mean exactly. Are you referring to his more traditional emphasis . . . on an interest in examining and developing characters-his exploration of the interior domain seems unmatched by any other writer I have read-, or his mode of story telling, or do you mean more broadly his assumptions about how the novel can work or what the novelistic form is capable of ?

I’m about 30% through Parallel Stories, and so far I think it is the most incredible fiction of maybe the last 50 years. It is just overwhelming me with the precision of his sentences, and blinding attention to detail, his ability to tie together an endless number of minor details into a larger and larger canvas. There is, to me, not a single loose thread or section of inattention. At least thus far.

um…the previous was posted before rereading. I didn’t mean to be so bombastic. It is the finest fiction I’ve come across written in the last 50 years.

Stephen: Essentially, I mean that I feel that Nadas has certain points about history that he wants to “get across” in his book. In contrast, the Krasznahorkai feels to me like someone following his obsessions and giving off an interesting document with no real educational purpose.

I: I’m glad you’re enjoying the book so much. To be sure, Nadas is an incredible writer, but his book seriously lagged for me in places, and some of the sex scenes were just awful.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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