Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Back to schooltime

... picking up where I left off:

Robert Graves, Good-bye to All That: Remarkable in its time, so successful in setting the standard that it seems less remarkable now. I preferred Cummings' The Enormous Room.
(And the Borges bestiary is a minor work, sporadically insightful; I'd prefer to see more of his poetry and essays translated.)

Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Castle to Castle: I'm withholding comment until I'm through the rest of the journey; North & Rigadoon grace my TBR shelf. Oh well, just one comment: Being decreed an island governor, a la Sancho Panza, is a brilliant touch, or brilliantly touched.

Peter Ackroyd, Chatterton: This novel deserves wider notice for posing the problem of authorial posing, and of the muddy lines between plagiary and fair use: A fair idea of the layered complications may be had in §2 here. In many respects it makes Peter Carey's My Life as a Fake superfluous. The story, motivated by the difficulties of publishing from the late 18th century to now, also succeeds in revisioning the circumstances of the proto-Romantic's death in such a way as to comment on subsequent Romanticism, especially its image of itself. (I stumbled upon this in looking into an alternative version of The Great Fire of London, per Roubaud; my tastes are tuned to just this sort of literary perplexity, when it works, as this does; YMMV [not May, Must], but you knew that already.)

John Banville, The Book of Evidence: A disappointment. Derivative of Nabokov's Lolita (with heavy allusion thereto), it deploys a new strategem of exculpation, that egoism and lack of empathy are, in their way, innocent. But this sordid, naïvil tale is unrelieved by any object motivating its narrator, including inculcating any empathy on the part of the reader, withholding Nabokov's implication by rhetorical sway, a neat trick if you can pull it off, as Nabokov does, often, but which fails under a bleaker (I was going to say Graham Greene of Brighton Beach, but Ian McEwen of The Cement Garden is closer) sort of sensibility. As commentary on Lolita it leaves too much out, and stand-alone it leaves Lolita out, with too little remaining.

I shan't say so much about the best by three Nobelaureates, so much has already been said:
Halldór Laxness, Independent People: Sort of the Moby-Dick of sheep-farming, updating the Sagas;
Yasunari Kawabata, Snow Country: Novel as renku? Precise and spare.
Imre Kertész, Kaddish for an Unborn Child: A "no" with a bow to Thomas Bernhard -- the finishing school ruminations bring me fullcircle to Graves. Full stop.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Graves' novel was remarkable for its time, but hardly set the pace. Remarque's 'Im Westen nichts Neues,' had been serialised the year before, in 28, but came out contemporaneously with Graves's vol, in 1929. But that same year the Australian Frederick Manning published his powerful pseudo-fictional 'The Middle Parts of Fortune',in a limited private edition, a masterpiece equal and, in some parts, superior to Graves' autobiographical account. It was censored, and the full text came out some years later as 'Her Privates We'.'pd

23/9/06 15:17  
Blogger nnyhav said...

I had thought (and meant to say) it set a standard for (auto-)biography, though the line blurs ... it wasn't so much WWI memiors that got me on to this track, more novels (and then memoirs) by poets, so Manning is of particular interest; thanks for the pointer.

24/9/06 00:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know about Mottram's trilogy, so thanks. I haven't even read 'Le Feu', though I have a vague memory of seeing it 'analysed' when I read that memorable piece of forgettable trash, Colin Wilson's 'The Outsider' back in 1966. One of the 'Angry men' his rage was misdirected from his own incapacity to know what he was talking about. In any case, I'm intrigued by Barbusse's influence on Sassoon and Owen, and so it means a trot over to Via della Scrofa to the French bookstore to pick up a copy. Thanks

24/9/06 05:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nope. Wilson's book is in my Rome apartment, and I can't check it but the book Wilson refers to must be Barbusse's 'L'Enfer', otherwise I wouldn't be suffering from mnemnonic indigestion all afternoon. Not that it matters, much, but as Karl Kraus and Benedict teach us cathedratically, get a word wrong and the world goes up in flames, or feu.Phew.

24/9/06 11:19  

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