Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Quick takes

Gilbert Sorrentino, The Moon in its Flight: "I have attempted to tell this story many times over the past years, the past decades, for that matter. I've not been able to bring it off. I've never been able to invent—inhabit, perhaps—the proper narrational attitude. I begin to invent plausible situations that soon falsify everything, or unlikely situations that, just as soon, parody everything." So begins "In Loveland", but it applies to much of this short story collection: See Derik Badman & Dan Green for elaboration, with which (or whom, whatevar) I largely but not fully concur, in part because it's interesting to see how (if not why) the particular storyline fails to gel (if it had, perhaps into a novel? anyway, of these, the last is best), but on the whole this book feels the least of what I've read of his (which is a lot, but not all, and not his poetry at all). For the rest, "A Beehive Arranged on Humane Principles" and a couple of shorter pieces feel Barthelmean rather than Sorrentinose.

RSB has a couple RCF pieces on him, by Andrews and Creeley (cf Creeley's afterword to Splendide-Hôtel); also, a '94 interview with Laurence.

Alejo Carpentier, The Kingdom of This World (trans Harriet de Onis): "Magical realism" begins here (as lo real maravilloso in Carpentier's original preface to this novella), and here is much sparer and so more powerful than it later became (in Boom works such as The Explosion in the Cathedral—b'dum-pssh—). The life of the protagonist, Ti Noël, spans the Haitian slave rebellion against whites, then blacks, ending with mulattoes in the synthascendent, while religion shades from Catholic to Vodou — written while the former waged holy war on the latter. This is less to the point than the animism bracketing the story.

Graham Greene, The Comedians: I'd put off reading this until had a better sense of Haitian history, for which the preceding sufficed. Planned as an "entertainment", it became much more, a book that had an effect, and yet the cycle continues. More timely if less timeless than Carpentier. I suppose who the comedians are depends upon the stage set for them.

Danilo Kiš, The Encyclopedia of the Dead (trans Michael Henry Heim): I usually don't come back so quickly to an author, but Kiš is exceptional. The stand-out stories are those influenced by Borges: The title cut combines Aleph and Library, while "The Book of Kings and Fools", whose subject may have inspired Tlön, suppresses some details while others are imaginatively conjectured. Most of the stories derive from prior art or incident, but others (e.g., "The Story of the Master and the Disciple") seem to converge upon it. Kiš provides a postscript commenting on each story in turn (he notes the LDS genealogy project wrt "Encyclopedia", after the fact; I seem to recall Borges noting it in a similar context, don't know where). So rather than excerpting any of the stories, I'll include the last words of this testament:

"The reference to the 'arch-materialist Diderot' derives doubtless from the following letter, which I discovered thanks to Madame Elisabeth de Fontenay: 'People who have loved each other in life and ask to be buried side by side are not perhaps so mad as is generally supposed. Perhaps their ashes press together, commingle, and unite . . . What do I know? Perhaps they have not lost all feeling, all memory of their original state; perhaps a remnant of warmth and life continues to smolder in them. O Sophie, if I might still hope to touch you, feel you, unite with you, merge with you when we are no more, if there is a law of affinity between our elements, if we were destined to form a single being, if in the train of centuries I were meant to become one with you, if the molecules of your moldering lover had the power to stir and move about and go in search of your molecules dispersed in nature! Leave me this wild fancy; it is so dear to me, it would ensure me an eternity in you and with you . . .'"


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