Thursday, January 09, 2020

The Revisionaries by A.R. Moxon

The doubt was the faith, and the faith was the doubt.

Why I am a Bad Reader

Rather than discuss whether this novel was "good" or "bad," in keeping with the fictive spirit of the book, I'd rather treat myself as a character in the book (one of the all-powerful "readers") and judge my own performance as reader, my rendition of the role. Can God create a being so slippery even He cannot apprehend him?

Well, I'm not too sure of that. It's a relief to me, at least, to be free of A.R. Moxon's intelligent, probing, playful hands. Ron Charles' Washington Post review was what drew me in: it made it seem like it was everything I wanted. (Charles does a good job in capsulizing the "plot" and general movements, thank God, so check him out.) Late in the year, the book flew up to the top of my Christmas list, and I soon dove right in.

I am a bad reader because I insist on finishing monstrously long, incredibly discursive experimental novels that make me wonder what's the difference between a publishable bad novel, and an unpublishable bad novel. I read a lot, every day. I read the Washington Post, I read an hour of fiction, I read some poetry, I read or scan online all day long. I have a fetish about reading: keep going. Even this novel, which was borderline boring for the first 200 pages, borderline interesting for the next 200 pages, and careeningly bad for the last 200 pages. Why do I do it? Don't I have something better to do?

In fact, I don't. More than anything else in this life, I read, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

Was I hopeful that it might get better? Yes, for a while, in the middle.

Was I incredulous that it seemed to be getting worse, and wanted to hang around for the gory finish? Definitely.

Was I struck throughout from time to time, by the philosophical speculation and dimension of essential spiritual life given to almost all the main characters? Yes.

Never mind that the final genre for this book is somewhere in the speculative/science fiction - fantasy realm, a realm I largely abandoned when I was about 13 years old.

But Moxon is also an interesting twitter-er, and publishes this newsletter about the process of writing TR which reminded me of some of my youthful conversations with friends about getting something going on the page.

But why even make it a choice? Why make me the middle man in some moralizing transfiguring partially visible comic book freak show nonsense?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Trump Sky Alpha by Mark Doten

from the NY Times review, a quote from Jonathan Swift: "Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.”

The opening section -- and its paired section very close to the end-- are in Trump's voice, first-person, and the first section led me to believe this was going to be an entirely different book. The lengthy middle of the book is a less interesting story of "researching the end of the internet" after civilization has largely been destroyed by nuclear weapons, after the internet has mysteriously gone down for four days, wrecking the global market and triggering the ensuing maelstrom. Well, Trump actually presses the button.

Enjoyable but strange. The Trump sections - particularly the first - were stunning. I'm impressed overall with Doten's work.

...Trump is a symptom of the internet, of American sickness on the internet, he's an internet creation, this avatar of white regressive blowhard resentment...

Cucktard, ashtray fags. Those words, that time.

They say that every film is a documentary of the actors in it, and the actors all bad, in every movie, they have always been bad...

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Other End of the Line by Andrea Camilleri

My introduction to this Sicilian novelist, who died this past July. He apparently dictated this book out loud, as he had gone blind. Camilleri has a nice, colorful touch with the detective genre -- his descriptions of cafe food and meals left in the oven by the detective Montalbano's housekeeper bring slices of the Sicilian culture vividly to life. And his plot -- the murder of an attractive and engaging local tailoress with a pair of fabric shears -- keeps deepening as one goes along, without becoming too fanciful or complex.

Monday, December 09, 2019

The Plotters by Un-Su Kim

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

Starts out promisingly enough, if you're a fan of Lerner's brainy prose. But either I missed something, or he pulled some punches with the plot (that I also missed) since the second half and ending felt flat to me.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Thirteen by Steve Cavanaugh

Unputdownable if totally a genre piece. You don't need more to know than the blurb: The serial killer isn't on trial. He's on the jury."

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

If she seems sometimes to write the same novel again and again, it's never without something new and different -- and this one I find as affecting as any or her previous work.

It reminders me of Angela's Ashes more than anything else.

The close reading and description of the nuns is fantastic -- and their voices remind me of Richard Russo's great short story, "The Whore's Daughter."

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Water Dance by Ta-Nehisi Coates

very slow beginning but gave it the benefit of my the doubt, because I enjoyed Coates non-fiction books so much.

But ultimately, closed the books after getting not even halfway through. He writes beautifully and grandly, but core elements of fiction -- distinctive characters, a compelling plot line -- are missing.

Coates seems to assume we are familiar with all of the usual stuff of slave narratives, and that he doesn't have to re-hash that. But the mystery at the core of the book -- what magical powers the narrator possess -- had still not been clear to me by page 150, and I have up trying to care.