Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Public Transport

I've been interspersing reading The Man without Qualities with books better adapted for commuting, since toting a paper cinderblock has its disadvantages; so, with Clarisse being a major character in the foregoing, it seemed natural to turn to Clarice Lispector's The Hour of the Star (**spoilert**) as one of the intermezzi. (Not so geographically displaced, either, as I learned she was of Ukrainian extraction.) For those who prefer a sketch giving little away: a writer tackles the ultramundane existence of an inexperienced provincial woman lost in Rio. The NDP translator commits a critical error outside the text (that is, in the Afterword [the backcover is more incisive{link's geography's confused}]) in claiming the author's identification with the narrator; others have erred oppositely in seeing the author's personal travails represented by (rather than reflected in) the severely deprived protagonist (nearly a nonentity, nonetheless skillfully brought to life [if you call that living]) as a sort of ultimate anti-MarySue. But the novella breaks all the rules in order to achieve a style worthy of its subject, with a highly discontinuous flow, numerous 'authorial intrusions' by the narrator, and other such malfunctioning devices, left as an exercise to the reader; this deprivation, or insensitivity, places Lispector's last preposthumous delivery right alongside Poe's The Purloined Letter.

But what is uncanny is that in the very chapter to which I returned in TMw/oQ: V.II §22, I was pulled up by the following rumination, waiting between trams:

He suddenly realized that what he was getting at could best be defined, without much ado, as the futile actuality or the eternal momentariness of literature. Does it lead to anything? Literature is either a tremendous detour from experience to experience, ending back where it came from, or an epitome of sensations that leads to nothing at all definite. "A puddle," he thought, "has often made a stronger impression of depth on someone than the ocean, for the simple reason that we have more occasion to experience puddles than oceans." It seemed to him that it was the same with feelings, which was the only reason commonplace feelings are regarded as the deepest. Putting the ability to feel above the feeling itself -- the characteristic of all sensitive people -- like the wanting to make others feel and be made to feel that it is the common impulse behind all our arrangements concerning the emotional life, amounts to downgrading the importance and nature of the feelings compared with their fleeting presence as a subjective state, and so leads to that shallowness, stunted development, and utter irrelevance, for which there is no lack of examples. "Of course," Ulrich added mentally, "this view will repel all those people who feel as cozy in their feelings as a rooster in his feathers and who even preen themselves on the idea that eternity starts all over again with every separate 'personality'!" He had a clear mental image of an immense perversity of a scope involving all mankind, but he could not find a way to express it that would satisfy him, probably because its ramifications were too intricate.

Now, my critical error is not that of forging illicit connections between these widely separated books at some textual level, but rather of fortuitously juxtaposing such problems in the train of thought arising from my reading schedule. And I should note that Danilo Kiŝ (garden, ashes) put me on this track ...


Anonymous O'Shannahan said...

Your prose reminds me of like a drunk Liberace doing Rachmaninoff: rich, ornate, while incredibly nauseating and superficial.

Where's the NAMBLA link already

28/10/05 15:40  
Blogger nnyhav said...

So my stylings are not for you. Bear in mind, per profile, I'm a self-described kibitzer, by definition annoying for being in over my head in the shallow end of the pool and oblivious to the occasional flash of insight provoked (which is all the more annoying to those deep in the know). But the gratuitous afterthought (even if playing off 'illicit connections', or double-entendring 'doing') invites deletion, not just from the flame-retardant standpoint (though such may entertain in some contexts), but from searchbot considerations as well. Please, if you want to stay, stay civil.

28/10/05 23:26  
Anonymous quin said...

"Your prose reminds me of like a drunk Liberace..." How well does that parse? What does NAMBLA have to do with anything here? It's not that I don't want to be nice; I just don't think O'Shannahan is making much sense here.

As for Hour of the Star, what exactly is the connection to Kis? Extraordinary writer, but from the passages you quote here, I don't quite see it.

I actually think it's a very fine blog. I think the comments on Pale Fire are very astute, so much so that I think Boyd and some of the other published critics are going to have to quote you eventually. Or perhaps you publish under a different name? At any rate, keep it up!

29/10/05 01:31  
Anonymous o'shannahan said...

Ghastly! Do I have to point out the connections, as well, poetaster? You regularly pull out connotations and ironies from Nabakov and fail to see the image here.

Rococco, is what I think you might term it. I'm not asserting that there's not power and sophistication here and there, as really Liberace was supposedly quite a decent classical pianist, but the tinsel quotient is so high.

That said, if you were to offer a Celebration of EA Poe (you know, All Hallow's Eve type of thing), maybe I might buy one of your coffee mugs.

Viva Masque of the Red Death!


29/10/05 10:36  
Blogger nnyhav said...

quin - Kiŝ' garden, ashes I brought up only in the context of the father's "Bus, Ship, Rail and Air Travel Guide", and that this novel (along with Hrabal's Closely Watched Trains) spurred me to pick up Musil again as well as lesser-known Eastern European authors I'd neglected. Nothing much to do with Lispector (Lat-Am lit is another area where I'm still getting up to speed [cf NYT bookchat] -- but I could say that about nearly every category -- but then, who couldn't? but she deserves wider notice). The coincidence that I should happen upon Musil playing on the same conceit in a different key (instrument for that matter) was as far as I intended to go with it. (Just as the blog, FWIW, is as far as I intend to go with either scholarship or publishing.)

29/10/05 14:19  

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