Friday, June 14, 2024

Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light: 100 Art Writings 1988-2018 by Peter Schjeldal


The show was conceived on the Planet of the Scholars, where every question is considered except "So what?" [178]

I began to imagine the artist's [Picasso's] pictures as a steamrolled sculpture. [190]

Cartier-Bresson: [Photography] is a marvelous profession while it remains a modest one. [320]

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

James by Percival Everett


Another classic from Everett, this time longer and "more conventional" than his other novels, a resonant and deeply felt re-telling of the brunt of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the point of view of Jim, who in this version is far from the ignorant version Mark Twain gives us.

Monday, June 03, 2024

Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson


Have had this on the shelf for literally 35 years - but have I ever read this? No sign of markings, no memory. And it's a lot to take in: none of the colorful and hallucinatory characters and action of LAS VEGAS, which I remember well (well, mostly for the drugs). And the 1972 McGovern presidential candidacy is not something I know a thing about.

Thompson's political writing style (if one can call it that) is absurd - he reports a ton about what other reporters are reporting, and he reports on his own personality.

In Memoriam by Alice Winn


Stunning WWI novel about two English schoolboys who fall in love, enlist, and then meet again in the trenches at the battle of the Somme.  Terribly sad, quite beautiful - and even ends well! Well, not for most, that is. It's apparently Winn's first novel, but seems a much accomplished and polished and thoughtful work. Her close writing about men on the battlefield is exquisite.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir by Jann S. Wenner


Had to put it down not even halfway through. Though the dude knew everybody from the 1960s, his sly and immodest style of claiming to influence almost any important work that took place during his tenure as publisher of Rolling Stone became too annoying for me to take.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro

 Munro's first published book, and a fitting way to kick off my retrospective of her important body of work. She hasn't yet unleashed the "time torquing" technique of her later work, but the stories are wonderfully detailed and the characters deeply engraved.

The Pigman by Paul Zindel


Revisiting this 1968 YA title after fifty years! Still pretty good, pretty sad, little melodramatic, but basically a strong story. The ending particularly bittersweet -- narrator's rumination on how the whole human race are "baboons" waiting around the monkey house for someone to visit.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Alice Munro RIP

Self-deception seems almost like something that’s a big mistake, that we should learn not to do. But I’m not sure if we can. Everybody's doing their own novel of their own lives. The novel changes -- at first we have a romance, a very satisfying novel that has a rather simple technique, and then we grow out of that and we end up with a very discontinuous, discordant, very contemporary kind of novel. I think that what happens to a lot of us in middle age is that we can't really hang on to our fiction any more.

Memory is the way we keep telling ourselves our stories – and telling other people a somewhat different version of our stories. We can hardly manage our lives without a powerful ongoing narrative. And underneath all these edited, inspired, self-serving stories there is, we suppose, some big bulging awful mysterious entity called THE TRUTH, which our fictional stories are supposed to be poking at and grabbing pieces of. What would be more interesting as a life’s occupation? One of the ways we do this, I think, is by trying to look at what memory does (different tricks at different stages of our lives) and at the way people’s different memories deal with the same (shared) experience. The more disconcerting the differences are, the more the writer in me feels an odd exhilaration.

I’m sad that I haven’t written a lot of things, but I’m incredibly happy that I’ve written as much as I have. Because there was a point when I was younger where there was a very good chance that I wouldn’t write anything – I was just too frightened.

I want to tell a story, in the old-fashioned way – what happens to somebody – but I want that ‘what happens’ to be delivered with quite a bit of interruption, turnarounds, and strangeness. I want the reader to feel something that is astonishing – not the ‘what happens’ but the way everything happens. These long short story fictions do that best, for me.

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