Wednesday, May 31, 2006

And beneath the feet of the ancients, and arched over them and over the throne and over the tetramorphic group, arrranged in symmetrical bands, barely distinguishable one from another because the artist's skill had made them all so mutually proportionate, united in their variety and varied in their unity, unique in their diversity and diverse in their apt assembly, in wondrous congruency of the parts with the delightful sweetness of hues, miracle of consonance and concord of voices among themselves dissimilar, a company arrayed like strings of the zither, consentient and conspiring continued cognition through deep and interior force suited to perform univocally in the same alternating play of the equivocal, decoration and collage of creatures beyond reduction to vicistudes and to vicissitudes reduced, work of amorous connecting sustained by law at once heavenly and worldly (bond and stable nexus of peace, love, virtue, regimen, power, origin, life, light, splendor, species, and figure), numerous and resplendent equality through the shining of the form over the proporionate parts of the material-there, all the flowers and leaves and vines and bushes and corymbs were entwined, of all the grasses that adorn the gardens of earth and heaven, violet, cystus, thyme, lily, privet, narcissus, taro, acanthus, mallow, myrrh, and Mecca balsam.

-Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose

One sentence. Had to quote it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Finally got a call back. I have an interview Saturday morning for the manager position at an indenpendent book store her in Boston. Well, it's right outside of Boston. Fingers crossed.

Thanks to an hour delay on the T today, I was able to finish Hilary Mantel's Fludd. I'm not quite sure if I'm going to write about it yet. And I don't know if it has inspired me to read anything else by Mantel. It was a decent, short book, but I'm going to sleep on it until I pass any more judgement on it.

I'm trying to decide what book to lend my friend, the one who hated Case Histories and who struggled through Sarah Hall's The Electric Michelangelo. However, I talked enough about Coetzee's Disgrace that she finally borrowed it and really liked it. Now, what to do...

Just read:
Hilary Mantel Fludd

Now reading:
Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose

On deck:
Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin

Monday, May 29, 2006

One of the used book stores I frequent in Middleton was hit hard in the recent floodings in Massachusetts. The owner said they lost about 3,000 books. Entire listings of authors, who lived on the lower shelves, are gone. The W's did look a little thin. No Thomas Wolfe to be had.

Though some books were washed away, I picked up seven titles for $25. Not bad for a quick stop. Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Library, Robertson Davies's What's Bred in the Bone, Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, Michael Dorris's A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin and Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories all found their way into my awaiting hands.

(This book store still uses the old credit card machine where they slide the press over the card. No computer.)

The books remained dormant that night as I took my sister out for her 23rd birthday. Happy 23rd A.B.!

That night, nestled snugly into his own high feather bed beneath the only roof he had ever called his own, he was, without awareness of a transition, plunged precipitously into dreams of terrific violence that shuddered him awake hours later to a quaking darkness and bedclothes damp with sweat, unable to locate precisely where or even who he was. Then he remembered. It's America, he thought, and you, whoever you are, will be alright. It's America, and everything was going to be fine.

And so ended Amalgamation Polka, Stephen Wright's nod to the gothic Civil War tale. I was waiting for a great ending and Wright fulfilled my expectations with this killer paragraph. At a time when the America seemed like it was going to break at the seems of the Republic, Liberty Fish shudders at his memories of war, but remains optimistic of our future, an all too common thread in history. But without such people, our country, as we know it, would never have been.

Wright captures the onslaught of war and one's difficulty in finding their place in it better than Charles Frazier ever did in Cold Mountain. When Cold Mountain and it's ubersentimentality, was laden with romance and war better left to the masters like Tolstoy or in the pages of Doctor Zhivago. Wright dodged sentimentality with ease and portrayed a truer world. A world that is often left to the imagination.

Even as a child Liberty had known-though he couldn't begin to say how-that this world was not what it seemed, that closely hidden behind the mundane affairs of the day lurked layer upon unexamined layer of outright strangeness, of which what passed for ordinary was merely protective out covering, the skin, so to speak, of a beast so huge, so vital, it could never be discerned whole in all its proportions. This vacant town was permitting him a modest peek.

Liberty Fish is more than just a young man on a rite of passage, men like him always are. Liberty walks through life observing human nature at its best (at home with his mother and father, vehement abolitionists) and the worst (in the South with his maternal grandparents,) and we are allowed to see the breadth of humanity in his travels. Once again, as in many books I find moving and poignant, as Liberty explored his world and discovered himself, we discovered a little of ourselves along the way.

I've written almost an identical conclusion before, but it seems to endure in my mind like few other themes.

The snow fell between them like a cheap, disintegrating curtain.
"I was fortunate," admitted Liberty, attempting to conceal his discomfort behind a wan smile.
"No, you wasn't, that's for true. It's how it was writ down in the book before you, me or anybody was ever born. It's how you was writ from the beginning, the character you was dictated to impersonate through all the daylong turnings of the page."

Now reading:
Hilary Mantel Fludd

On deck:
Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I wouldn't say I was hesitant to read Stephen Wright's Amalgamation Polka, but I couldn't stop thinking about the Boston comic, Stephen Wright. Yes, I kept hearing the monotone Wright and his dry, "Why do you park in a driveway and drive on a parkway?" But I overcame my strange momentary apprehension and picked up Amalgamation at the library last week. Good move. Each sentence is sewn together with beautiful words, seemingly plucked from the sky or picked out of a thesaurus that I've never seen. The storytelling is old story telling, with a modern sense of the world.

Last night, my dears as often occurs in someone of my advanced years, I experienced some difficulty sleeping. The mind, you should understand, possesses a will of its own that not even prayer can always correct. So, as is my custom on such occasions, I sat for many an hour in my rocker in the parlor window, watching the dead wandering like fireflies among the stones of the cemetery across the valley. They can't sleep either, poor things. They're here with us, you know, every minute of every hour. No, no, don't bother twisting your necks about. You cannot see them from where you are sitting. If you could step outside yourselves even for a moment and view the world through your spiritual eye, then all would be instantly apprehensible. This is heaven, children. We have, each blessed one of us, already been translated. Our earthly senses are like blinders beguiling us from the truth.

Is Ma'am L'Orange speaking to us or the kids, her students? It comes through the page as if we were the ones being preached to by an old, somewhat daft lady. Though she was out of her senses, I'm sure we've all been told worse stories than her beautiful elegy.

From now on, it's breath Stephen Wright, author, in and Stephen Wright, comedian, out.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Contrary to what most people think, making a decision is one of the easiest decisions in the world, as is more than proved by the fact that we make decision upon decision throughout the day, there, however, we run straight into the heart of the matter, for these decisions come to us afterward with their particular little problems, or to make ourselves quite clear, with their right edges needing to be smoothed, the first of these problems being our capacity for sticking to a decision and the second our willingness to follow through it.

It's easier to touch upon the larger themes of Double than the plot and characters. If I tried to explain the layers of the plot, in my amateur methods, I'd probably give too many hints and uncover the Saramago-ness of it all.

I guess I have more questions than answers after reading this book and I know that's not always a bad thing. Saramago prods us to think about life in ways that many of us could never fathom. Reality doesn't necessarily have layers as some artists argue, but according to my reading of Saramago, reality can be altered with our slightest actions. I like this concept. Giving humans the knowledge and will to change their lives is godly and Saramago doesn't mind touching upon humans' idea of what is natural. Is is it natural to have an exact duplicate of ourselves? Is it natural to accept things just because they've always been so? Is it natural to kill and rape just because we can? Who creates these laws and norms? Can they be changed? Should they be changed?

Double was a second tier book, not Saramago's finest. Yet, ideas and words flow from him as if from another life source. I don't know if Saramago is our conscience or the devil in us, but he stimulates me. What more can you ask from literature?
I wouldn't be worried or think it's the world would end. What's that? Oh that's the answer to a question I've been asking myself the entire way through Double. What's the question? How would I (you) feel if I suddenly realized that there was another person walking around that looked absolutely identical to me? Same eyes, same wrinkles, same scars, same hairline. I wouldn't be worried or think it's the end of the world. But Tertuliano Maximo Afonso seems to think just this. He starts to flake and care less about his classes and students (he's a high school history teacher,) he doesn't tell his girlfriend, he doesn't tell his mother. Instead he becomes obsessed, crazed to find his doppleganger. But what does it all mean? What is Saramago trying to tell me? Unlike Blindness and The History of the Siege of Lisbon, I don't see Saramago's big picture. Of course all that we know, or all that we think, to be true would be turned upside down, but that happens in a lot of real situations as well. What is it about an exact duplicate that creates a bizarre world? Jose, what are you trying to tell me? I can't hear you...yet. I'll try and finish it tonight, then I'll sleep on it and dream of a world in which there are two Liquid Thoughts out there. The world might not end, but I think one's enough.

Now reading:
Jose Saramago Double

On deck:
Stephen Wright The Amalgamation Polka

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I think I may go back and finish three books that I started and abandoned. Henry Jame's The Portrait of a Lady, Gogol's Dead Souls and Balzac's Euegenie Grandet. I owe it to James and Gogol to finish their masterpieces and I owe it to Balzac who's never led me astray in the past. But the clouds seem to have parted and the sun is making itself felt now so I don't know how much reading I'll get done tonight. Tonight may be more apt for dreaming instead of reading, but I have Saramago to near my side. And though it's not nearly as interesting as The History of the Siege of Lisbon or Blindness, Double still has enough of Saramago's supreme language to maintain my enthusiasm. It's six o'clock Sunday and I'm going to enjoy the rest of the day.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Finished Eco's Mysterious Flame last night and made my way to the half way point of Saramago's Double.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I stole this top ten list idea from Danielle at A Work in Progress. My mother always said, when there's a fire, everyone grab the photo albums. Well, these are the top ten books I'd save from a order.

1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
2. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
3. Volume 1 of Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust
5. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
7, The Idiot by Fydor Dostoevsky
7. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
8. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
9. A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton
10. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
What is it about memory that makes intrigues writers? Proust, Kerouac, Eco and a list of others write about memories. Proust and Kerouac wrote about their youths as they remembered them. Or more correctly, as they wanted to remember them. Can Proust really remember exactly how he felt when he visited Combray or can Kerouac really remember what he saw from his crib? I don't think they actually want us to think they could. It's their relation to their memory that has made them search for themselves in art as a way to explain themselves or those around them. Eco plays with the concept of memory in a more problematic way. For the first part of The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana he questions the derivatives of memory and what memory is. If we don't remember something, but we're told a story that relayed what happened, does that constitute a memory? Is memory only something that we think we remember or is it anything in our past? Did it have to happen to be a memory? Or can we think it happened? Then in the second part of the novel, Eco begins to remember his childhood perfectly. Only problem is that it isn't necessarily in order. And I agree with this because I don't believe we can reach into our minds and pull out experiences without dragging out various other experiences that related to one another. Chaos with no order as Saramago would say.

I think writers deal with memory because it's a topic that has no definitive answer. I certainly wouldn't read a writer that was simply spewing facts at me. I like reading something that makes me think, especially about the world and myself. And as an amateur writer, I would never want to write about something I'm certain about. I write because it's the investigation that interests me. Writers are supposed to be inquisitive and relay their findings, no matter how vague, to us. At least that's how I see it. I guess that's why I don't care much for books that have tied-up endings. Life isn't that way and neither should my art. I think.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I decided to leave Eco at home today for a number of reasons. First, my bag was loaded with library books I have to return during lunch. Second, I only have about 70 pages left and I didn't want to have to bring another book along in case I finished Eco before I got home (Imagine spending a 45 minute train ride with no book?!) Third(ly?), I wanted to have it at home, waiting for me to finish it. I like that sort of excitement.

In place of Eco, I brought along Mr. Saramago's Double. I know I've read one his books earlier in the year, but the man is brilliant. I read with a pen in my hand, within striking distance of the page, ready to underline any passage, sentence, name, or town I want...and I could underline every line of a Saramago novel.

Why, Because you're not content with anything, I'd be content with very little if I had it.

Tertuliano Maximo Afonso cannot shake off the idea that so many chance events and coincidences coming all together could very well correspond to a plan, as yet unrevealed.

The fact that history does not record a fact doesn't mean the fact did not exist.

However great an effort it may take, we know that all it requires to escape from a nightmare is to open our eyes, but the cure in this case was to close the eyes, not his own, but those reflected in the mirror.

In the first 36 pages, I noted these passages. With 300 more to go, I know I'll be able to find more shards of wisdom from Mr. Saramago.

Intuitive. That's how I'd describe him. Does that make sense?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"I did not read everything word for word. Some books and magazines I skimmed as though I were flying over a landscape, and as I did I was aware of already knowing what was written in them. As though a single word could summon back a thousand others, or could blossom into a full-bodied summary, likethose Japanese flowers that open in water. As though something were striking out on its own to settle in my memory, to keep Oedipus and Don Quixote company. At times the short circuit was caused by drawing, three thousand words for one picture. At times I would read slowly, savoring a phrase, a passage, a chapter, experiencing perhaps the same emotions sparked by my first, forgotten reading."

Waiting for the coffee to finish percolating, I keep going back to Eco's perception of rereading his life. In an attempt to regain is memory, Eco's narrator, Yambo, retreats to his family home and spends hours sweating in the attic or in his grandfather's old study, refamiliarizing himself, with, well, himself. Would you want to reread all the books of you childhood? I know many of the ones that I remember are part of popular culture and I've reread them many times since my first experience with them, but I'm not thinking about Curious George or Dr. Seuss. More like Robert Louis Stevenson or Jules Verne, as Eco writes about. The problem with my childhood, is that the books of my youth are nothing on par with Eco or most others. Since I didn't start reading or appreciating stories until the seventh grade, when I was a little bit older, my memories of Matt Christopher sports novels. I know many readers still remember the books their parents read them or they read to themselves on their top bunk at night. My only other frame of referene is the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I seemingly read every mystery, but lack the memory of particular episodes.

In Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana,as Yambo discovers a memory brought out by a particular book, I feel like I'm remembering something as well. It's impossible, I know. But it's a mysterious and wonderful feeling to have a memory of something you didn't experience. As Yambo plays pulls out his notebooks from his grammar school days during World War II, I'm rummaging through the attic of my youth, spreading out my life for the first time...again. I had never heard of Le Avventure di Ciuffettino...The Adventures of Ciuffettino. A boy who had "an immense quiff that gave him a curious appearence, causing him to resemble a feather duster. And do you know, he was fond of his quiff!

I never had a Ciuffettino, but because of Eco, I now hold part of him and will only hope to get more.

Now reading:
Eco The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
W.G. Sebald After Nature

Listening to:
Billie Holiday Lady in Satin

Friday, May 12, 2006

I'm surviving, but barely. My internet connection at home has been down for two days. I never realized how much I use the world wide web before. Checking ESPN for baseball scores, checking e-mail, writing posts, browsing my daily blog...anything and everything I seem to do, is on-line. And I'm not. But that should change today. I called Comcast last night and a tech is coming out today to check our modem. My sister's going to be there so I don't have to take a day off of work, which wouldn't have actually been a bad thing.

In my new found time of not blogging or losing myself in space, I finished Tussing's The Best People in the World and have moved on to Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. It's my first Eco and I've been surprised so far. I never really took him for a modern writer, but his style is a cohesive version of post-World War II literature. Which, I guess it is because that's what he is. He plays with sentence structure and memory and I'm digging it so far.

The story's about a man who has had some sort of problem and ended up in the hospital with now memory of his personal life. We haven't been told how/why he ended up in the hospital, but that's part of Eco's game I take it. The narrator, is an antiquarian book dealer in Italy that can remember everything he's read and learned, but not his children, his wife or favorite food. He's fully functional and Eco allows the narrator, nicknamed Yambo, but who's actually named after the great Type and Font creator Bondoni, to experience firsts again. He eats his favorite food for the first time again; he falls in love with his grandchildren for the first time again; he makes love for the first time again; and most importantly, he goes home for the first time again. And that's where I am right now. Yambo has arrived at his family's country home and now the secrets will be least I think and hope they will.

Eco's a master craftsman and now my only regret is that I put off reading The Name of the Rose for so long simply because I saw the movie so many times.

Onward and upward.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I don't know where it's going, but I'm going with it. Justin Tussing's The Best People in the World is not spectacular, but I'm interested enough. I sense there's some climactic episode about to happen and I don't know what it'll be. Thomas has run away from his family, has left Kentucky for the backwoods of Vermont with his lover and history teacher Alice and the local character Shiloh. The three are squating in a house and are on the verge of joining a cult/commune, led by an accented leader, Gregor. But it's Shiloh's sketchy friend Parker that I think'll be the crux of the story. Everyone seems on the verge of cracking, but who will go first? Will Alice's conscience get the better of her or will she simply abandon Thomas for one of the older men? Will Shiloh's secret(s) be revealed? Are Gregor and Parker even crazier and more dangerous than they appear? Or will Thomas come to his senses and leave the wilds of the unknown and return to his home?

"The Plymouth shivered up the loose gravel of those washboard, nowhere roads. The roads I chose petered out in trenchlike ruts, at muddy stream crossings. We found little hollows with one-room schoolhouses and corrugated steel hutches. Cornfields extended into narrow pie slices of land where two similar roads reached an agreement. We saw a young girl riding a chestnut horse in her underpants. A man, his car, and a long machine, alone in a clearing, split wood; the man fed the machine rounds of wood and the machine halved them. The land canted and tilted and fell away. I lost all faith in the here and there. The name of the countryside was deja vu. The roads digressed. I drove too fast and nobody tried to stop me. I caught myself grinding my teeth. The road straightened out. I slowed down. We saw a black car in the distance, but when we caught up, it was an ox. Loops of saliva were suspended from t he animal's gums. In front of the ox, a small boy was occupied with pushing a stick through the gravel."

Tussing's writing is concise, beautiful and purposeful, reminiscent of Hemingway. But it's not the writing I'm having trouble with, it's the characters and story. I feel for Thomas, the narrator, but none of the other characters have showed redeeming qualities, except Shiloh and his occasional words of wisdom.

Let the novel take me and I shall report what I have seen.

It's a good feeling, to be reading (and thinking) again and The Best People in the World was the right choice to crack me out of my spell. Though I've wanted to read Tussing's novel, I borrowed it from the library because it was small enough to carry around, unlike A History of Reading or the Whitman biography I picked up. Portability was the key.

Now reading:
Justin Tussing The Best People in the World
Balzac Eugenie Grandet
Alberto Manguel A History of Reading

On deck:
Umberto Eco The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
Jose Saramago The Double
I'm back in gear thanks to Justin Tussing's The Best People in the World.

Monday, May 08, 2006

I guess I don't read as much when I have a lot on my mind. Of course I always have a lot on my mind...stress, work, friends moving away. But these past few days I feel like reading and yes, thinking, has only made me more apprehensive. I tried to come home tonight after work, make a small dinner, then sit on the couch and read. Nothing more, nothing less. By seven o'clock, I had read about five pages of A History of Reading and no more. During lunch today I read about ten pages of Balzac's Eugenie Grandet and spent the rest of my hour watching the water bubbling in the Boston Public Library courtyard. I'm hoping that tomorrow will be the transition day to revive my reading state of mind. Does anyone else get discouraged because they haven't read too much? My god, sometimes writing these posts makes me think I'm a bigger geek than I really am.

On a side note, my father just got a new Mustang. Thirty-five years after he sold his old Mustang (for a 1969 GTO) he finally got another one. It's a gorgeous metallic red with the Mustang stencilling on the side panelling and sounds like a car should.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I've never read a book that seemed as easily written as Jeffrey Ford's The Girl In the Glass. That isn't to say that it's a simple book. It was a breeze to read. Ford just has a way with storytelling. After finishing Hrabal's book and beginning Manguel's the night before, yesterday morning I woke up, picked up Ford's book and headed to work. Ten hours later I was almost done with it. By 10pm I was done and left wanting more.

"I turned back to the beginning of the tale and read the first few paragraphs. It had been many years since I'd read about the demon who had created a mirror, the special nature of which reflected all of the true and good things in the world so that they seemed distorted, absurd, frightening. When the demon tried to take his mirror to heaven to show the angels their warped reflections, he dropped it and it fell back to earth, shattering into a million tiny particles. The wind blew these infinitesimal shards of evil into the eyes of two children who loved each other, and their views of the world and each other turned dark and disturbing. The image in my mind's eye of Charlotte's corpse was a shard from the demonic mirror."

More please...

The Girl In the Glass unravels like a an old mystery movie, full of carnival geeks, strong men, Mexicans acting as Indians and most importantly, slight of hand artists. Thomas Schell is a great slight of hand artist working the rich neighborhods of Long Island during The Depression. But Schell has found his niche...seances. With young Diego, our narrator, acting the part of Indian guru Ondoo and former strong man turned body guard and friend, Antony Cleopatra, working as chaffeur, Schell has made the rounds of Long Islands richest, playing on their fears and insecurities and bilking them of their dough. But when Schell supposedly sees the image of a young girl in the glass window of one of his clients, he decides to put all his effort into finding who she is. Turns out, she's the missing daughter of another rich family. The mystery unfolds with the trio employing their skills for good to find out what happened to the young girl.

Diego is telling us the story looking back on his life with Schell, whom he calls his father, and Antony. It is a story about family as much as it is a mystery with exciting characters. It's a story about how life tosses us around, leaving some of us alone in the world, only to be saved by another human. Diego was alone in the world, slowly dying in the streets during the early part of the Depression, until Schell plucked him out of the gutter and into an exciting life. This instant bond created a relationship stronger than most blood relationships I know.

I may write a little more on this tomorrow, but I just got in from my second job and I'm a bit tired. I'm going to go for now, but you can check out more on this book at the Litblog Co-op where Ford has been a guest blogger for the past few days. His blogs are worth checking the site out. You can get a sense of his writing and grasp his understanding of his subjects. He's an interesting guy and I'm definitely going tot read more of his work.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I had never heard of Bohumil Hrabal before last week when I read about him in different lists on recommended reading. (Thanks to Of Books and Bikes) Then I picked up Too Loud a Solitude. From the first paragraph on, I knew that I'd finish the short novella (redundant?) in a sitting, no problem.

For thirty-five years now I've been in wastepaper, and it's my love story. For thirty-five years I've been compacting wastepaper and books, smearing myself with letters until I've come to look like my encyclopedias-and a good three tons of them I've compacted over the years. I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me."

Like the compactor that he lovingly employs, Hant a, the narrator, repeatedly pounds away "for thirty-five years now, I've been compacting old paper and books." But not all the books end up compressed into waste. Some, many, find their way into the hands of Hant a, the safe keeper of words. Goethe, Shiller and Nietzshce are saved from the ruins by their supposed executioner and brought back to his cramped apartment where they'll live among a throng of thousands.

Tons of books are stacked precariously above Hant a's head. The sheer weight of them would crush him to death. "I've been bringing home books every evening in my briefcase, and my two-floor Holesovice apartment is all books: what with the cellar and the shed long since been packed and the kitchen, pantry, and even bathroom full, the only space free is a path to the window and stove. Even the bathroom has only room enough for me to sit down in: just above the toilet bowl, about five feet off the floor, I have a whole series of shelve, planks piled high to the ceiling, holding over a thousand pounds of books, and one careless roost, one careless rise, one brush with a shelf, and a half ton of books would come tumbling down on me, catching me with my pants down."

I imagine my apartment like that if I didn't have roommates, or had a job in which I could afford more books.

The thing about the book that caught me by surprise though isn't the humor of it, but rather the baseness of the bibliophilia. So many times when I read about a love of books or the all consuming passion for books and reading, it's about old, nostalgic libraries and reading in the confines of a favorite comfy chair. Hrabal is able to show the humanity of books. How books are so easily discarded after they're used, even if only once. It could have been written by Bukowski. Bibliophilia is a compulsion and can lead to severe effects on one's life. I don't think Hrabal is making this strong a point, it's just something I thought about while reading about Hant a. While writing that sentence, I was tempted to write, lonely Hant a, but I can't write that someone is lonely when they have visions of Jesus and Lao-tze while working

"I saw Jesus as a romantic, Lao-tze as a classicist, Jesus as the flow, Lao-tze as the ebb, Jesus as spring, Lao-tze as autumn, Jesus as the embodiment of love for one's neighbor, Lao-tze as the height of emptiness, Jesus as progressus ad futurum, Lao-tze as regressus ad originem."

My mind wanders at work as well, but I'm usually trying to decide what I want for lunch. Burger King as the tasty choice, Souper Salad as the healthy choice. Is Hant a lonely? Some may see him as such. I tend to see him and people like him, as the mystics of the modern world...or maybe they're just crazy.

Just read:
Bohumil Hrabal Too Loud a Solitude
Jeffrey Ford The Girl In the Glass

Now reading:
Alberto Manguel A History of Reading

Listening to:
Blue Jays at the Red Sox on a soggy Wednesday night in the Fens

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Now I'm just pissed at the publishing industry and feel sorry for her. She seems to have been a kid that was in way over her head. How come I feel this wouldn't have happened under the eye of editors like Max Perkins or Sterling Lord? Should we be blaming Little, Brown? I am.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The concept behind Marilynne Robinson's Gilead is interesting and she succeeds in the most part. The novel is written as a long letter being written by a 77-year-old minister in Gilead, Iowa, to his 7-year-old son. I like how this man, who is in the slow process of dying, takes time to write a beautiful letter to his son. Part eulogy, part spiritual guide and part genealogy, the letter tells the story of the Ames family focusing on the three generations of preachers. "I'm trying to make the best of our situation. That is, I'm trying to tell you things I might never have thought to tell you if I had brought you up myself, father and son, in the usual companionable way."It was a heartfelt, old fashioned story, but I wasn't interested in it. I kept on waiting for some passage to blow me away, or some great fatherly advice to hit home. The writing was sparse and tolerable, but I never became engaged in the story. John Ames is leaving his legacy in words, yet he never seems to say or tell anybody what he really feels. Do as I say, not as I preach? Really?

Ames is a genteel man with an obvious good heart. At least according to him. I'm alright with that because one of the more difficult things to do in art is to look at yourself critically and express your faults for the world to see. However, Ames wasn't writing for the world, he was writing for his son and only his son. Shouldn't this have made him more willing and able to point out his own flaws? And I can only hope to have a wife as saintly as his, but she seems too good to be true. I guess to a minister, he sees her as a blessing. I know we all wish/hope someone would look upon us in such a way. Unrealistic? I don't know. According to Ames, her only fault was in the way she spoke when they first met. Adding to her saintliness, Ames doesn't think of it as a flaw. He sees her poor vocabulary and grammar as an endearing trait.

What Ames and Robinson in effect, were able to do, was preach without being too religious. Ames used "the Scripture" as a way of explaining his feelings instead of using it to tell us how to feel. In fact, I was overcome with how simple he made religion seem. There was no heavy handed preaching, no speaking down to his son, i.e. the reader. Religion in this setting and in Ames's life was a connection to the past, to his father and grandfather. I envied this relationship even if I don't envy their religion. Ames doesn't know if he's going to be the last in the line of ministers and he doesn't much care. He turns his intentions on letting his son know something about his family before their story was lost forever, before their history was forgotten. Now that it's written, it is so.

Gilead had a lot of hype and I can see why. There were some parts that spoke the truth as I see it and I like the idea of sitting down as an old man and writing my son or grandson a letter in this fashion. For making me think of the future and dream of a day when I can sit with my child and tell him about his grandfather and grandmother, I thank Robinson. I know I'll have some stories to tell.

Now reading:
Bohumil Hrabal Too Loud a Solitude
Alberto Manguel A History of Reading

On deck:
Umberto Eco The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
I did it. What did I do you ask? Not only did I go to the library, but I borrowed four books. That's right, I borrowed books from a library. How novel of me. You see, I'm a buyer. I like being able to dog ear pages, write in the margins, loan them to friends and generally like seeing them sitting on my bookshelves for eternity as dust forms around their yellowing spine. Today I broke from my comfort zone (what that is, I don't really know) by renewing my library card and then took out the much blogged about A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel, Marginalia by H.J. Jackson, The Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford and Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal.

Thanks to Dorothy at Of Books and Bicycles for the for the Manguel book. I already know I'll dig it.