Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence

2.12.07

British subjects

Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, struck me as a bit thin in places, or its author a bit thick. There are interesting but seldom argufying bits in the essays (most often book reviews) bracketed by sections on Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses. Introducing the collection, Rushdie concedes that after the fact, "I find 'Outside the Whale' a little unfair to George Orwell and to Henry Miller, too." Which is to say, a completely wrong-headed attack on any quietist impulse, proposing instead making "the very devil of a racket" and denying any whale, prior to being swallowed by one of his own devising, the book he asks to be considered in context as "not a piece of blubber, but the whole wretched whale." (Not that this dilutes support for him against fatwa: such principles do not require saints or heroes as object.) Similarly, his complaints with V.S.Naipaul serve to bring certain parallels to mind, including the unequallible early success. Suffice it to say that the short form does not play to Rushdie's strengths.

J.G.Farrell, Troubles: Everything starts out amusingly enough, but ends badly. Said of the twins, this applies to everything in this story save the story-telling, which centers on Major Brendan Archer's return to a decaying English inn in County Wexford, Ireland, after the war marking the British Empire's zenith, not yet acknowledged as such, as the Irish assert independence. Nearly everyone is half-mad, and becoming moreso, the formidable troupe of elderly ladies hanging on perhaps most comprehensively representing Britain, though other facets are not lacking for representation. It is a lack that is the Major's comitragic flaw, a humorlessness despite natural empathy, and an inability to take leave of what is better left behind; and he is the best of what Britain has to offer here. Even the inn, the Majestic, has something character-like about it, its own heart of darkness an overgrowing Palm Court contributing to its entropical degradation. The narration itself blends British understatement with Irish absurdist irony into inseparability for all the mutual incomprehension (though seen only one-sidedly -- a technique perfected in Krishnapur [cf]). Now The Singapore Grip awaits.

Update 3.12: Kudos^2! In comments M. Snghark brings to my wandering attention a nearby exhibition (just north of Saint 'Patacathedral) of De Chirico's late works, mostly late 60s/early 70s, including a baker's half dozen bronzes (archaeologists included), revisiting earlier themes by popular demand; there are also a half dozen paintings from the 50's, in particular an earlier and stronger revisitation: Arrival at Another Place ('51) relies more heavily on Enigma of a Day than on the curator's identification with Mystery and Melancholy of a Street (only the van has moved from the latter, the surround, sans statuary, is from the former, and the figures in the background have moved forward; but I quibble). Giorgio De Chirico is not just my favorite surrealist artist (as are Duchamp and Magritte) but also my favorite surrealist writer, not for his memoirs (cf ¶4) but for Hebdomeros, also title of a self-sketch there, which is a nom de chirico paying homage to Apollonaire ('hebdomad' being a division of 7 days important to the cult of Apollo), though now joined by Aragon -- Exact Change link leads to both, and to Roussel as well. Exactly one week ago I was gazing upon MoMA's selection, one of which serves as monitory background. To think I would have passed this by if not for the commentatory intervention ... thx^3!

3 Comments:

Blogger mahendra singh said...

Rushdie's short stuff is oddly detached & reeks a bit of pre-digested cocktail party chitchat. But I do think he (and Anita Desai) are the only living Indian authors really worth a hoot (VSN has gone bonkers) and I recommend as a stochastic treat, that you find a DVD called "Lost in La Mancha" which has a juicy & very funny interview between SR & Terry Gilliam as an extra.

Also, if you're in the NYC area, there's an exhibition of de Chirico's later work: http://www.onassisusa.org/occ.art.htm

The Greece angle is critical! Perhaps a Stochastic Bookmarking of his novel "Hebdomeros" and his brother, Alberto Savinio's "Childhood of Nivasio Dolcemare" is in order to celebrate this exhibition?

Really digging the stochastic bookmarkery here at Chez Snark!

3/12/07 11:15  
Blogger nnyhav said...

I saw Lost in La Mancha in VHS format, and so missed the add-ons.

Hebdomeros is one of the very very few books I repurchased after passing along a copy. Not that I regret either -- the recipient's signifother had done De Chiricoan stage sets ... am I to anticipate that your project will be drawing upon this in future? (which protosurrealistically is already past?)

3/12/07 16:47  
Blogger mahendra singh said...

You're quite generous, loaning out any book, much less "hebdomeros" … and yes, in future I had drawn upon de Chirico's masterpiece. This protosurrealism racket sure plays havoc with verb tenses!

3/12/07 17:00  

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