Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence



Early August reading has been excellent.

Jacques Roubaud, The Great Fire of London: The first (and only English-available) branch of a monument in remembrance of his late wife. Dalkey has assembled a casebook, providing useful information and some insight, but ultimately in this portrait the artist remains absent. I knew him, however, as both mathematician and poet, and my measures were adapted with reference to the circumstances by which he was surrounded. A few observations:
A minor point: §61 projects rigid body transformations (translation, rotation, reflection) into the literary (translation in language, palindrome, mirroring). Projection is one (geometric) key to the project and its shadow, the novel.
The book is divided proportionately (between story, insertions, bifurcations) to the time spent in conceptualizing it.
Of his habits, walking, swimming, counting, reading are transits over land, sea, number, word, but it is the transit through time that prevails, under the core axioms "Poetry is the memory of language" and "Mathematics is the rhythm of the world."

Jerzy Ficowski, Waiting for the Dog to Sleep: Poet, Roma scholar and Bruno Schulz rehabilitator Ficowski brings the some of the latter's (and his own) technique to bear upon a less magical, more melancholy world.

Gilbert Sorrentino, A Strange Commonplace: After Crystal Vision, the deck has diminished from the Tarot to a regular deck of cards (cut in the middle), but the relationships between vignettes now take precedence. Dan Green (of The Reading Experience) summarized in Jacket, to which I'll add: the underlying structure depends upon relative position in each half as well as (if not more than) repeated titles, and upon the commonality of character names as well as physical elements and incidents shared among the stories. This became a must-read for me due to the money graf from an early (in MSM terms) LATimes review:
"Sorrentino couldn't help nodding to Melville's 'The Confidence-Man,' a text to which 'A Strange Commonplace' clearly owes a great deal. But where Melville's oddest novel employed a similar range of trickery as part of a formal inquisition into truth, appearance and identity's infinite masquerade, here the rancor overwhelms. Sorrentino, always in control, was aware of the risk he ran. Just at the point that the narration of another generically squalid affair begins to feel unbearable, the author mugs: "To rehearse the ups and downs of this shabby amour … would be tedious for me, and for you as well." A few chapters later, detailing yet another iteration, he winks, sadistically: 'It was especially boring and tiresome to hear him tell the story, again and yet again.'"
But this misleads, and misreads both: Sorrentino is not doing with sex (and love) what Melville was with money (and trust), the latter depending on explicitly on tradition both religious and literary for its sense of paradox, and on the progression of a journey. A Strange Commonplace is wrenched free of such referents, is static even as time moves on. Various excerpts: Brooklyn Rail, P&W, RSB.

But enough with the mature works; I'm returning to childhood with Gombrowicz's Ferdydurke.


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