Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

Proof of God? Proof was in the world, and the way you visited the world was on foot... Your walking was a devotion. (44)

LuEtta had recently decided she would be a wonder instead of a beauty.  She had seen beauties go mad in middle age, as their beauty turned less live and more monumental, beauty still but mostly to mark the space where greater beauty once had been. But wondrous was wondrous, even when you outgrew it.

Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos

Monday, May 06, 2019

Fear by Bob Woodward

Ill Will by Dan Chaon

Compelling.  Multiple points of view, multiple time frames, putting together a tormented family history of murder and treachery.  Falters a bit at the end, but some very interesting swings of sympathy with characters you thought you knew well.  And some interesting clinical explanations on the psychology of memory and personality.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Proof of Collusion by Seth Abramson

Epitaph of a Small Winner by Machado de Assis

In justice to my father, one should note that he resorted to elaborate invention only after first experimenting with simple falsehood.

Virgilia was a beautiful sin, and it is so easy to confess a beautiful sin!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke

Couldn't quite get this novel.  Feels like a science fiction/dystopian exercise addressing the famines and failed social engineering experiments in China in the middle of the 20th century.   A small village begins experiencing a wave of sleepwalking and mental disease.

One chilling note:  the production, storage, and uses of "corpse oil," which is rendered by a family that runs the local crematorium, pressed from dead bodies before they are burned.

The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace

First novel, written while he was a graduate student.  Re-reading it, I find it charming and breezy, compared to Infinite Jest and The Pale King. Still a handful of a novel, though. Many of the same elements -- the disturbed, brilliant, manic nuclear family, the meta-presence of philosophical theory as part of the plot, the post-modern experiments with narrative and dialogue.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

These stories I enjoy more than her novels - but still not much.  Enough of her already.

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano

A sprawling, beguiling, Borgesian exercise in literary history and narrative focus.  Two poets, leaders of the so-called "visceral poetry" movement in Mexicon, dart in and out of a 600 page novel that features many dozens of "interview" with other poets and people whose lives intersected with the two poets.


everything began to tangle in my head, as if the words I had to say were plants and all of a sudden they began to wither, fade, and die.

when I was in high school we had a teacher who claimed to know exactly what he would do if World War III broke out: go back to his hometown, because nothing ever happened there, probably a joke, I don't know, but in a way he was right, when the whole civilized world disappears Mexico will keep existing, when the planet vaporizes or disintegrates, Mexico will still be Mexico.

... I could peel my hands off that glass of that old mirror (noticing, all the same, how my fingerprints lingered like ten tiny face speaking in unison and so quickly that I couldn't make out their words).

Monday, February 11, 2019

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow

My sister Maureen gave me this book on Christmas in 1977 when she was a freshman at Fordham University and I was a junior in high school.  I don't know if she'd read it - when I reminded her of the gift two weeks ago, she had no idea what I was talking about - or if, at the time, she'd read it was Bellow's impassioned extension of his friend with the great doomed poet Delmore Schwartz, and figured, since at age 16 I was talking great guns about becoming a poet, that it was a gift that would sit right with me.

But I've just finished it for the first time, I will confess.  Although I'm a Saul Bellow fan - his Adventures of Augie March certainly makes my top ten American Novels list, and I've read several others and fervently admire them for their intellect.  

And what a staggering book! Infuriating, too.  

He [H] said that history was a nightmare during which he was trying to get a good night's rest.

Well, we woo one other with everything we've got.

Look, professor, you don't mix things up. That's not what a wife is about. And if you have a funny foot you have to look for a funny shoe. And if you find the right fit you just let it alone.

acts of exalted violence by dedicated ideologists to shock the bourgeoisie and regenerate its dying nerve.

Blake was naked and saw man naked, and from the center of his own crystal.

At the center of the beholder there must be space for the whole, and this nothing-space is not an empty nothing but a nothing reserved for everything

'Though you are said to be alive you are dead. Wake up and put some strength into what is left, which must otherwise die.' That's from the Revelation of Saint John, more or less.

By means of music a man affirmed that the logically unanswerable was, in a different form, answerable. Sounds without determinate meaning become more and more pertinent, the greater the music.

[Humboldt] "I ask myself why you figured so prominently in my obsessions and fixations. You may be one of those people who arouse family emotions, you're a son-and-brother type. Mind, you want to arouse feeling but not necessarily to return it. The idea is that the current should flow your way."

[Humboldt] "Good old Henry James, of whom Mrs. Henry Adams said that he chewed more than he bit off..."

[Humboldt quoting William Blake] "Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth. I feel that a man may be happy in this world. And I know that this world is a world of imagination and vision. I see every thing I paint in this world, but everybody does not see alike. To the eyes of a miser a guinea is far more beautiful than the Sun, and a bag worn with the use of money has more beautiful proportions than a vine filled with grapes. The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity, and by these I shall not regulate my proportions; and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. As a man is, so he sees."