“That was the way many things struck me at that time, in England—as reproductions of something that existed primarily in art or literature. It was not the pictures, the poem, the fictive page, that seemed to me like a copy; these things were the originals, and the life of happy and distinguished people was fashioned in their image.”
— Henry James, “The Author of Beltraffio”
1:18 am • 9 February 2012 • 4 notes
Anonymous asked: Happy Dickens's Big 200th!
6:56 pm • 7 February 2012
My alma mater revealed its new mascot last night. Apparently they were banking on the Rick Perry campaign lasting a lot longer than it did.
2:01 pm • 21 January 2012 • 9 notes
“She was proud of her power of prophecy, though she had not yet lived to see any of her prophecies fulfilled.”
— Graham Greene, Orient Express
7:00 pm • 16 December 2011 • 10 notes
“She thought for the first time, with happiness: perhaps I have a life in people’s minds when I am not there to be seen or talked to.”
— Graham Greene, Orient Express
11:26 pm • 15 December 2011 • 2 notes
Just finished the new Roberto Bolano novel, The Third Reich. I shouldn’t really say “new:” he wrote it in 1989 and stuffed it in a suitcase, where it was found after his death. The Third Reich continues the trail of posthumous books that have trickled out, one every six months or so, starting with the incredible 2666 and dropping off in quality from there. His publishers seem to be scraping the barrel: a recent book, Antwerp, is a collection of vague jottings Bolano made while working as a campground security guard, a book too short and scattered to be marketed as a short story collection (I think they were calling them “prose poems”). I was fully expecting The Third Reich to be a collection of Bolano’s grocery lists.
Fortunately, it is not. Actually, it’s a compelling short novel that reverses the recent trend of sloppy posthumous publications. A lot of people, I think, are intimidated by Bolano’s two big books—The Savage Detectives and 2666—both because these novels are so long and so lauded. For these intimidated would-be readers, The Third Reich is a good entry point into Bolano’s world. The novel follows Udo Berger, a German war-games champion (think Risk, but more complicated) vacationing in Spain. Udo meets a collection of strange characters, including El Quemado, a muscular man covered in burns who lives beneath a pile of pedal boats. An accident happens, and for reasons he can’t quite explain, Udo finds himself unable to leave Spain. El Quemado draws him into a war game that becomes closer and closer to the violence of real war.
This is a rough outline of the plot, but The Third Reich (and all of Bolano’s work) is difficult to summarize because so much of it lies in the telling. Udo’s mind is slowly working itself to death, which Bolano depicts with wonderful subtlety. Things go wrong, but they go wrong very slowly and almost coherently. His admiration of Kafka shows here: like in Kafka, The Third Reich always feels just a page or two from explaining its secret, its vague dread, the shadowy force driving Udo crazy and binding him to the hotel. It’s a good primer into the menacing side of Bolano, but if anything, it’s a bit much: there’s not any of the Bolano’s particular kind of joy, as in , say, the first part of The Savage Detectives. It’s one side of him, but one side done very well.
8:09 pm • 15 December 2011 • 5 notes
books i read in november
Very late, but…
Martha and Hanwell - Zadie Smith
The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach
The Defense - Vladimir Nabokov
Motherless Brooklyn - Jonathan Lethem
Freedom - Jonathan Franzen
Plus a bunch of dreck for grad school
12:50 am • 13 December 2011
One thing I forgot to mention about Martin Chuzzlewit: weak as it may be, it does not disappoint when it comes to great Dickens character names. We have:
Paul “Poll” Sweedlepipe
Montague Tigg (who later changes his name to Tigg Montague)
And of course the title character(s). As if Martin Chuzzlewit wasn’t a good enough name, my edition of the novel has this note: “Dickens considered various alternatives to ‘Chuzzlewit,’ viz. ‘Chubblewig,’ ‘Chuzzletoe,’ ‘Chuzzleboy,’ ‘Chuzzlewig,’ ‘Sweezleback,’ ‘Sweezlewag.’”
12:44 am • 13 December 2011 • 3 notes