Monday, December 09, 2013

Transatlantic by Colum McCann

Mo said she was quirky by James Kelman

Only 200 pages mustered.  Too bad, a big fan of Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late.

Now it seems to be by my fault that I'm not finishing reading books, after always priding myself on being a finisher, good or bad.  Impatience?  Extended bad mood?  Encroaching old age?  Sudden clarification of sharp personal idiosyncratic literary taste?  Advancing alcoholism?

The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner

Was liking this a great deal during the wartime and motorcyle sections, but quickly lost interest once the Manhattan art-scene-talk started happening.

Too bad.  It's that sexy, nyc book-du-jour movement that I'd loved to seem to be a part of, but ain't.

Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem

Didn't finish it.  Not my fault, author's fault: I finish reading books all the time.

New label?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

An extended short-story cycle from 1971 that plays as a novel.  Dense, wonderful characters.  Absolutely unique voice of a young girl, young woman's coming-of-age story.  Still ringing in my head, I miss reading it already.

Conversations there [at my aunt's house] had many levels, nothing could be stated directly, every joke might be a thrust turned inside out.  My mother's disapproval was open and unmistakable, like heavy weather; theirs came like tiny razor cuts, bewilderingly, in the middle of kindness.  They had the Irish gift for rampaging mockery, embroidered with deference.

There is twas, the mysterious and to me novel suggestion that choosing not to do things showed, in the end, more wisdom and self-respect than choosing to do them.

I wanted me to love me, and I wanted to think of the universe when I looked at the moon.

People's wishes, and their other offerings, were what I took then naturally, a bit distractedly, as if they were never anything more than my due.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Nimrod Flip Out by Etgar Keret

Indescribably pleasurable super-short stories.  Translated from the Hebrew and sort of (I guess) about the complexities and madness of that country's imaginative life.  Sexy and violent and funny and jarring juxtapositions abound.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth

An interesting New Yorker piece by Claudia Roth Pierpont ("Book of Laughter: Philip Roth and his friends" in Life and Letters, October 7) compelled to pick up The Ghost Writer for the first time.

The summer of 1998:  "Terrorism-- which had replaced communism as the prevailing threat to the country's security-- was succeeded by cocking-sucking." (Roth, The Human Stain)

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

Gave up after a hundred pages,  As this is the fourth novel in a row I have been unable to finish, one can suspect it is moi and the condition of contemporary fiction.

But I love (or always say I love) Pynch.  Well, I love V and Gravity's Rainbow and the short stories in Slow Learner.  Reading alot of DF Wallace lately, who idolized Pynchon, made me curious about this new title.

But no dice.  An exhausting swirl on interesting description, heavily-worked-over-like-in-the-Catskills comedic dialogue, new characters appearing and disappearing before the old ones have been set in stone, pop cultural references stacked like deli sandwiches from hell, lots of exposition in dialogue and in the mouthy third-person-narrator's insights:  it wore me out. 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Ezra Pound: The Solitary Volcano by John Tytell

In prose as in algebra concrete things are embodied in signs or counters, which are moved about according to rules, without being visualized at all in the process... Poetry, in one aspect  at any rate, may be considered as an effort to avoid this characteristic of prose.  It is not a counter language, but a concrete visual one.  It is a compromise for a language of intuition which would hand over sensations bodily.  It always endeavors to arrest you, and to make you see a physical thing, to prevent you from gliding through an abstract process. (EP, in the magazine The New Age )

Great literary history/biography of the infamous Modernist Pound.
Tytell makes a convincing case for excusing Pound's vicious anti-Semitism and more general hatred of America and anyone who didn't support him (and many who did). 

Take Ford Madox Ford, for example, who had this pungency to say about Pound.

Ezra would approach with the step of a dancer, making passes with a cane at an imaginary opponent. He would wear trousers made of green billiard cloth, a pink coat, a blue shirt, a tie hand-painted by a Japanese friend, an immense sombrero, a flaming beard cut to a point and a single large blue earring.

Pound encouraged, supported, pushed and published Ford, WB Yeats, James Joyce, TS Eliot, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and H.D., just to name the giants.  He was enormously influential on (if not exactly imitable by) an entire generation of younger poets -- Allen Ginsberg, Charles Olson, Robert Lowell, Zukowsky).

The twitching of three abdominal muscles cannot be a lasting Nirvana.

You funghus, you continuous gangren.  (Pound on his audience)

The gagged reviewers and slut-bellied obstructionists.  (Pound on his critics)

Pound was arrested for treason in Italy at the close of WWII for his virulent anti-American radio broadcast which were encouraged by the Italian fascist regime.  His political view were savage and unrepentant (the real trouble with the war, he famously wrote to Harriet Monroe in the early days of WWI, was "that it gives no one the chance to kill the right people.")

A spectator of Surrealism (Pound thought the Dadaists were a case of blague, a French term which he explained as a "satire upon stupidity, an attack.  It is the weapon of intelligence fighting against an alignment of odds."), Pound created short-lived Vorticist art movement.

"A profound correspondence existed between Cubist painting and the spirit of the war that had erupted in 1914:  in fact, camouflage, introduced during the war to disguise troops from airplanes, had been inspired by Cubist painting." Tytell, p. 189.  Fact to be checked and brooded upon!

Dante was "propelled by a deep, an almost venomous hatred for what he did not stand for in his civilization." (FM Ford)

not the whirl of madness of the senses, but a glow arising from the exact nature of the perception.

Tytell's defense of Pound's greatness: he writes as if increasingly convinced of it, and a legion of Pound friends, devotees and prodigies echo it -- that Pound was somehow beyond the charges of treason and prejudice, that he had shown from an early age a talent for madness and a mad talent, that it mattered more how much of an effect he had on literature as an artist than the effect he had as a citizen.  It's a sad book, and not just at the end:  we see Pound as driven by his demons from early on in his public life, powerless, cagey, unrepentant and brilliant to the very end.

"America seems clenched and somehow nervous and muscle bound," Robert Lowell wrote to Pound in 1952.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Couldn't quite finish it, Part Two.  Liked the descriptions of the Google campus/universe, but whole thing got a little too Harry Potter meets the Da Vinci code for me.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

Couldn't quite finish it.  I cannot put my finger on it exactly -- hope this doesn't typify my critical mien, and I have broad taste and a huge hunger for fiction and often finish reading books I don't particularly like -- but this one also annoyed me.  Third person narrator steering us through multiple points of view got out of hand, everyone started sounding (while thinking) (and often talking) alike.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max

Wallace’s best work, perhaps by far, is “The Pale King,” an unfinished novel about I.R.S. employees that was assembled posthumously by Wallace’s editor, Michael Pietsch. 

This was not the only sentence, and tendency, of Rivka Galchen's condescending and trivial review of this early, but accomplished, biography of the late, great, personally mourned DFW that I found extraordinarily annoying, but it was the most ridiculous sentence.

The Pale King, the ONLY work that Wallace did not finish in his lifetime, has moments of grandeur and expected brilliance, but was a deeply unsatisfying pastiche of a long novel that he labored over for years but wasn't close to finishing.

Max's plotting of the course Wallace's life -- his extraordinary literary achievements and tragic suicide in 2008 at the age of 46, is deft.  Generous helpings of correspondence (mostly from Wallace, but telling excerpts from his friend and friendly competitor Jonathan Franzen) are revelatory.

Wallace was precocious, enigmatic, furtive, generous, callous, sensitive and suffered from childhood from deepening bi-polar depression and anxiety.  He survived addiction and sobriety, but killed himself after a risky six-month experiment with trying to change his anti-depressant medication regimen.  He evolved from a striking, brilliantly logic-and grammar-obsessed  literary technician to a profoundly moving moralist. 

He began The Broom of the System, his first novel, while still an undergraduate, as part of a creative writing thesis, and published it in 1987 when he was 25. Flawed, sprawling, but still enjoyable, it was described by Wallace himself as as a dialogue between Wittgenstein and Derrida.  Heady and heavy.  I could barely write a one page draft at that age.

Infinite Jest was his masterpiece.  Smarter than Pynchon, more moving that Delillo (to name only two of his many heroes) it corralled television, addiction, family dysfunction, Quebecois separatism in an enormous 1100 page world of irony satellited by short-story-length footnotes that seemed to encompass another novel (or two) by their own dang selves.

His non-fiction was also superlative (there is a world of readers who swear by not possessing the fortitude for his fiction -- they won't touch the stuff -- but delight in "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," an extended essay on the cruise ship experience, a political (for awhile) piece about John McCain's aborted Presidential campaign, "McCain's Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express with John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope."

He could do the dextral pain the same way: Abiding. No one single instant of it was unendurable. Here was a second right here: he endured it. What was undealable-with was the thought of all the instants all lined up and stretching ahead, glittering. And the projected future fear… It’s too much to think about. To Abide there. But none of it’s as of now real… He could just hunker down in the space between each heartbeat and make each heartbeat a wall and live in there. Not let his head look over. What’s unendurable is what his own head could make of it all. What his head could report to him, looking over and ahead and reporting. But he could choose not to listen… He hadn’t quite gotten this before now, how it wasn’t just the matter of riding out cravings for a Substance: everything unendurable was in the head, was the head not Abiding in the Present but hopping the wall and doing a recon and then returning with unendurable news you then somehow believed. (Infinite Jest)

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

Never been a fan.  Read WOMEN many years ago, enjoyed for the gratuitous sex and booze, seen a couple of poems over the year.  Always thought he was sort of monotonic, a scenester, beat literature for the lazy, writing for those not serious about writing.

This is some book, though.  Apparently a late novel, it is the early years of Bukowski's autobiographical alter ego Henry Chinaski.  Poor to a poor family, beaten by his father several times a week for five years as a child, Chinaski never gets a break.  Ugly (afflicted with serious skin problems, boils and acne), poor, unloved and unlovable, Henry survives on his stubborness alone, eventually developing a supremely cynical toughness.  He is dangerously uncaring about his fate in the world.

Prose is workmanlike but relentless. Couldn't really put it down.  Now lining up the collected poems to read, and the other novels.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journy by Candice Millard

"I do not like to think of where I should be now had it not been for your father, [Edward Arlington] Robinson later wrote to Kermit [Theodore's son]. "He fished me out of hell by the hair of the head."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

These questions will plague certain readers-- those raised, I suspect, in a different sort of family.  Evasion comes naturally to my tribe, this loose jumble of McGann, Devine and Breen.  Thre reasons for this are not so mysterious.  My father is a man of shameful habits.  My mother is lace-curtain Irish.  She will settle for correctness, or the appearance of it; but in her heart she wants only to be good.  The space between them is criss-crossed with silent bridges, built of half-truths and suppressions.  The chasm beneath is deep and wide.

Those same bridges exist across generations:  my mother and her parents, my father and his.  On both sides, we are a family of open secrets.  When I was a child they enclosed my innocence like a tourniquet.  Without knowing quite how I knew it, I understood what might be said, and what must be kept quiet.  If from the outside the rules appeared arbitrary, from the inside they were perfectly clear.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Son by Philipp Meyer

Remarkable.  One Hundred Years of Solitude meets Cormac McCarthy meets Lonesome Dove.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Submission by Amy Waldman

A great premise -- a blind-juried competition for a memorial for the WTC attacks is won by an American Muslim architect -- grows preachy and long-winded in the execution.  Waldman's didactism is overwhelming -- a dozen characters all start to sound alike as she uses them to educate the reader about the subtleties of the rhetorical conflict between the forces of imagination, religious faith, freedom, patriotism and political power.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blake: A Biography by Peter Ackroyd

I know of no other Christianity and of no other Gospel than the liberty both of body & mind to exercise the Divine Arts of the Imagination. 

The human body is vapour materialized by sunshine mixed with the life of the stars.  Paracelsus

Man must be at war with himself if he wishes to be a heavenly citizen... fighting must be the watchword, not with tongue and sword, but with mind and spirit, and not to give over.  Boehme

[Blake] might not have wanted to come too close to himself, in case he did not care for what he found there.  He may have recognized that the sources of his greatness lay in sufferings long forgotten or in childhood fears long buried.  Blake: A Biography, Peter Ackroyd

The stern Bard ceas'd, asham'd of his own song; enrag'd he swung
His harp aloft sounding, then dash'd its shining frame against
A ruin'd pillar in glittring fragments; silent he turn'd away,
And wander'd down among the vales of Kent in sick & drear lamentings

Blake, America (draft)

As Unity is the cloke of folly so Goodness is the cloke of knavery Those who will have Unity exclusively in Homer come out with a Moral like a sting in the tail: Aristotle says Characters are either Good or Bad: now Goodness or Badness has nothing to do with Character. an Apple tree a Pear tree a Horse a Lion, are Characters but a Good Apple tree or a Bad, is an Apple tree still: a Horse is not more a Lion for being a Bad Horse. that is its Character; its Goodness or Badness is another consideration.

Nature has no Outline, but Imagination has. Nature has no Tune, but Imagination has! Nature has no Supernatural & dissolves: Imagination is Eternity!

... the joys of God advance
For he is Righteous: he is not a Being of Pity & Compassion     
He cannot feel Distress: he feeds on Sacrifice & Offering:    
Delighting in cries & tears & clothed in Holiness & solitude    
But my griefs advance also, for ever & ever without end    
O that I could cease to be! Despair! I am Despair
Created to be the great example of horror & agony: also my    
Prayer is vain I called for compassion: compassion mockd    
Mercy & pity threw the grave stone over me & with lead    
And iron, bound it over me for ever: Life lives on my    
Consuming: & the Almighty hath made me his Contrary    
To be all evil, all reversed & for ever dead: knowing    
And seeing life, yet living not; how can I then behold    
And not tremble; how can I be beheld & not abhorrd     

from "Jerusalem":

". . . He soon became accustomed to the smell of nut oil, varnish and lamp black from Germany as well as to the ink smeared across his hands and his face. For the next seven years--indeed for the rest of his life--he was surrounded by iron pots for the boiling of the oil, pans forwarming the copper plates, tallow candles, racks of needles and gravers, fine linen cloths to strain in the plates, old rags for wiping the ink off the plates, pumice stones to polish the plates, feathers for smoothing the ground of varnish on the plates. Stacked around him were the sheets of fine paper, as well as the plates themselves, which were the thickness of a half-crown; there was the small leather cushion filled with sand, upon which he rested the plate while engraving, and the square wooden press with its tables, rollers and woolen cloths. It was a dirty and malodorous workplace but it was one against which he never felt the slightest revulsion."

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

As compelling as I found Wolitzer's The Wife several weeks ago, I thought this was weak, trumped up stuff.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life by Adam Feinstein

It was so beautiful to live
when you were alive!

(from "Final" by Pablo Neruda, from El mar y las campanas)

In an intensely circuitous month of sustained reading and study and recitation, I have plunged into the poems of Pablo Neruda.

The route was accidental: a student brought in an old videotape of Il Postino for the continuing education/humanities Literature class I was teaching to watch.  I remember really liking it the first time I saw it, when it came out, but barely remembered the Neruda poems featured, except that they were almost exclusively love poems and there was a gorgeous young Italian woman that the mailman woos, and wins, using Neruda as an inspiration and a source.

Always impressionable, I re-read 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair. then read Feinstein's workmanlike biography, which has some good stuff like this:  Soon after Neruda's death, Francisco Velasco found an eagle trapped in his Santiago house, in the room where Neruda always stayed. Velasco recalls Neruda once telling him, that, 'if there was another life, he would like to be an eagle.'

In short order, I dug out my old copy of Neruda and Vallejo (translated by Robert Bly, from The Seventies Press), a copy of Neruda's Political Poetry, checked out from the library the Stephen Mitchell translations (Fleshly Apple etc.) and the massive selected poems "The Poetry of Pablo Neruda" (edited by Ilan Stavan). 

Am now drowning in Neruda, as is easy to do.  His first collection (20 Love Poems...) came out when he was barely twenty and made him a celebrity in Chile.  He wrote over 2000 poems over fifty years, and eventually became internationally famous as a poet.  Workers, peasants, the poor, and everyone else, it seemed, in South America, Mexico, Russia, China, the Far East and Europe, stopped Neruda on the street and recited their favorite poem of his, often in tears.

His was a passionate, first-person writing.  "I am not a contemplative," he once said, comparing himself to Mallarme, who was an early influence but, Neruda maintained, wrote "closed room poems."  Neruda progressed from love poems (20 poems) to tormented poems in exile (the first two Recidencia collections) to the political poetry of the Canto General in support of working people and the poor all over the world (an unashamed Communist from age 25 onwards, he completely ignored Stalin's monstrosities until many years after the murderous facts had become universally accepted), to the monumental Elemental Odes, a return to writing more simply about nature and love.

Boris Pasternak to Yevtushenko:  "I didn't intend to lead anyone anywhere.  I think a poet is a tree -- it stands still and rustles its leaves."

On September 15, 1970, President Nixon instructed CIA Director Richard Helms to prevent Allende taking power in Chile by lending assistance to a military coup.  Neruda wrote a blistering poem,“A call for the destruction of Nixon and praise for Chilean revolution” (in Spanish, “IncitaciĆ³n al nixonicidio y alabanza de la revoluciĆ³n chilena”):

Because I love my country
I claim you, essential brother,
Old Walt Whitman with your gray hands.
So that, with your special help
Line by line, we will tear out the roots
And destroy the bloodthirsty President Nixon.

There can be no happy man on earth,
No one can work well on this planet
While that nose continues to breathe in Washington.
Asking the old bard to confer with me
I assume the duties of a poet
Armed with a terrorist’s sonnet

Because I must carry out with no regrets
This sentence, never before witnessed,
Of shooting a criminal under siege,
Who in spite of his trips to the moon
Has killed so many here on earth
That the paper flies up and the pen is unsheathed
To set down the name of this villain

Who practices genocide from the White House.

There's lots of dross -- how couldn't there be in 2,500 poems? -- but there's a consistent, heady, charismatic first-person speaker in many of the poems who celebrates the abundance and goodness and mystery of the natural world in gorgeous close detail and ear-snapping juxtaposition and connection.

And that's just in English! For the first time in my life, I've forced myself to slowly, haltingly read the original Spanish verse ("remember that the real poem is on the other side of the page," Neruda once chided his legions of translators and, by extension, his millions of readers).  Jorge Edwards said of Neruda's years in self-imposed 'exile' in the Orient: "Actually, his Spanish became quite odd.  It was very much influenced by solitude.  He heard chiefly English, as spoken in the English colonies, and his use of verbs is not altogether Chilean or Spanish.  It was something new..."

A young Hispanic woman in my humanities class read "Ode to My Suit" in the original Spanish from the Elemental Odes in our final class, and I almost wept at the liquid abundance of her pronunciation.  I asked her what it was like to read it out loud in Spanish.  "The words are common," she said.  "I know most of them already -- but have never seen them altogether like this!"  She perfectly defined great poetry.

Ode To Wine

Day-colored wine,
night-colored wine,
wine with purple feet
or wine with topaz blood,
starry child
of earth,
wine, smooth
as a golden sword,
as lascivious velvet,
wine, spiral-seashelled
and full of wonder,
never has one goblet contained you,
one song, one man,
you are choral, gregarious,
at the least, you must be shared.
At times
you feed on mortal
your wave carries us
from tomb to tomb,
stonecutter of icy sepulchers,
and we weep
transitory tears;
spring dress
is different,
blood rises through the shoots,
wind incites the day,
nothing is left
of your immutable soul.
stirs the spring, happiness
bursts through the earth like a plant,
walls crumble,
and rocky cliffs,
chasms close,
as song is born.
A jug of wine, and thou beside me
in the wilderness,
sang the ancient poet.
Let the wine pitcher
add to the kiss of love its own.

My darling, suddenly
the line of your hip
becomes the brimming curve
of the wine goblet,
your breast is the grape cluster,
your nipples are the grapes,
the gleam of spirits lights your hair,
and your navel is a chaste seal
stamped on the vessel of your belly,
your love an inexhaustible
cascade of wine,
light that illuminates my senses,
the earthly splendor of life.

But you are more than love,
the fiery kiss,
the heat of fire,
more than the wine of life;
you are
the community of man,
chorus of discipline,
abundance of flowers.
I like on the table,
when we're speaking,
the light of a bottle
of intelligent wine.
Drink it,
and remember in every
drop of gold,
in every topaz glass,
in every purple ladle,
that autumn labored
to fill the vessel with wine;
and in the ritual of his office,
let the simple man remember
to think of the soil and of his duty,
to propagate the canticle of the wine. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Broken Harbor, Tana French

A police procedural featuring the old-guy/rookie detectice team that is really a psychological thriller: a married couple and their two children are brutally attacked, the husband stabbed to death, the kids smothered in their beds.  The couple purchased a flimsy, nice-on-outside house in part of a huge new development on the beach in Ireland, part of a larger Irish economic boom that saddled a lot of people with houses they couldn't afford in a market that collapsed and left them trapped.  Who's the bad guy?  The husband who's lost his job, and spent his last few months alive increasingly obsessed with the sound of a phantom "animal" in the attic, behind the walls, installing web-cams and tearing holes in the drywall and lurking on an internet bulletin boards asking questions about animal traps?  A childhood friend of the couple, best friend of the husband, secretly in love with the wife, who's also unemployed and has taken up residence in the unfinished house across the street, who watches them through binoculars and knows their every move?  The wife herself, struggling to keep things perfect as her life dissolves?

French's writing is strong but at times she seems in love with the sound of her own voice: characters (particularly the narrator, the old guy detective) go on and on and on, in speaking, and in the narrator's case, in an elegant, often melodramatic reporting of his thoughts and observations.  In the second half of the book, this style works against her, as the plot certainly thickens and the reader wants to get places faster.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

Strong.  Reminded me alot of The English Patient and The Comforters by Muriel Spark.  An old woman is dying in a London hospital, and telling herself (and us) the history of the world as focussed on her, the black hole of which was her brief, ill-fated love affair with an army officer in the British tank battles with Rommel in the Egyptian desert during World War II.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

Engaging, easy narrative voice: I was in love with Wolitzer's style from the very first sentence.  This deceptive novel about the faithful, good, strong, clever wife behind the insecure, philandering writer delivers a sucker punch in the final third, a surprise I didn't completely buy.  But am seeing out the rest of Wolitzer's work for sure, particularly her new one, The Interestings.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

American Rust by Philipp Meyer

He continued heading south.  The tracks passed through a wide meadow and the night was clear and black and the stars stretched down to the horizon.  Billions of them out there, all around us, an ocean of them, you're right in the middle.  There's your God -- star particles.  Come from and go back.  Star becomes earth becomes man becomes God.  Your mother becomes river becomes ocean. Becomes rain.  You can forgive someone who is dead.  He had a sense of something draining out of him, down his head and neck and the rest of his body, like stepping out of a skin.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Last Friends by Jane Gardam

Last in the trilogy.  A joy to read.  Finally the story of Terry Veerling's childhood.  Fiscal-Smith's redemption as a sort of bonus.  Gardam's powerful method of exposition ---misdirection and understatement and ellipsis -- make it much more important to pay attention to WHO'S doing the telling and WHEN they're telling it than the act itself.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tenth of December by George Saunders

Big fan of Saunders, but found this collection underwhelming.

Stoner by John Williams

She was, he knew-- and had known very early, he supposed -- one of those rare and always lovely humans whose moral nature was so delicate that it must be nourished and cared for that it might be fulfilled.  Alien to the world it had to live where it could not be at home; avid for tenderness and quiet, it had to feed upon indifference and callousness and noise.  It was a nature that, even in the strange and inimical place where it had to live, had not the savagery to fight off the brutal forces that opposed it and could withdraw to a quietness where it was forlorn and small and gently still.
Beautiful, tender quiet masterpiece about a poor farm boy who falls in love with literature and works his entire life in obscurity teaching at a Midwestern university.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

First read this 1995, and remember admiring it enormously -- but that's about the extent of my recollection.  After reading Joseph Anton, I decided to re-read MC (as a warmup to another attempt on The Satatnic Verses).

An overwhelming book.  This time around, it seemed clear to me that Rushie had The Tin Drum in mind as a model for the book -- a personal history of a precocious (and damaged child) whose birth, life and conflicts cunningly mirror his country's fortunes.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzro

Seaching for Caleb by Anne Tyler

Slow starter but builds terrifically.

Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century

Trying to set aside envy and self-pity is difficult.

The Beats: A Graphic History

Got this from the library-- as a goof! -- and really enjoyed it.  There's something perfect in tracing the memory and legacy of the beats as a series of black and white cartoon panels.  Can't judge the accuracy of the history in contains, but the spirit seems right.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

Headache inducing.

First extended Kindle experience. Did not enjoy it.


Like Philip Roth without pleasure.

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