Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence

3.2.09

Odds & ends

Scott confirms that I tuned in to the right wavelength in the previous post.

Speaking of ephemeral archives, it appears that the NYTimes BookForum has permanently rendered its service temporarily unavailable, even read-only, even barring linkfixes per alumni chatroom. Having been on Usenet's rec.arts.books pre-Sempitember and still being able to follow threads from wayback then, I just don't get it, or should I say they don't. (But with BookWorld being folded into the WashPost, the NYT Book Review is just about the only one left stand-alone.) Meanwhile, NYTBF alumnae, those I know of who have moved on to actively blogging, in traditional reverse chronological order:
Fragmentary Evidence: Oakland ramblings
Snarke: Pugetopulent poetics
Spinozablue: Art & Lit from all over
Jabel: stratified LAer atop the cape and upstate
Diario del hablante lirico: Chilean imagings
Rodney Welch: critical view (books, music, film) from Columbia SC

Moving on, my local used bookmonger is closing his doors for good (and for ill); I've relieved him of 40+ titles at half off this past month (including those asterisked below). So, on to January reader's report, shamelessly lifted from my WLF posts:
Cao Xueqin, The Story of the Stone linked to longish commentary at WLF in post before last.
Kenneth Rexroth, Love and the Turning Year: One Hundred More Poems from the Chinese, personal interpretations, split evenly between the Six Dynasties and T'ang and Sung, with brief biographical notes on the 60 poets represented. But beyond the usual problems of translation, typography can never adequately reflect calligraphy.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night* was just as good as expected, the intricate psychological observations pared down to the most elegant expression, even though the supporting structure fell apart as the main character did.
Joseph Roth, The Emperor's Tomb (John Hoare) disappointed, despite a similar acuteness, perhaps because it was confined to one character's viewpoint.
Claude Simon, The Georgics (Beryl & John Fletcher) A high degree of difficulty, interleaving or should I say interweaving stories, the didactic point being that history teaches us that we can learn nothing from history (the point being made nonchronologically). The minor cavil is that the homage to Orwell (yes that's as ironic as the title's allusion to Virgil) is not really integral to the tapestry (but it's not superfluous, nor tacked on). I haven't yet been disappointed by Simon, having first stumbled on The Trolley (aka The Tramway) a copula years ago and The Flanders Road last year; now I'm on the look-out for Acacia. cf Reading Claude Simon.
Cristina Peri Rossi, The Ship of Fools (Psiche Hughes) re-engendering the world, strong in concept and excellent in parts but uneven; YMMV.
Tim Krabbé, The Rider (Sam Garrett) should be read in one sitting; see complete's-review.
Victor Pelevin, The Helmet of Horror (Andrew Bromfield) a chatroom should not mean, but be. (complete's-review)
Kurt Tucholsky, Castle Gripsholm (Michael Hofmann) too Thin-Mannish
Nikolai Leskov, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk* (Robert Chandler) just too thin (Hesperus annoys at full price, even half off and half again is still a bit much for a short story)
Carlos Fuentes, The Old Gringo (Margaret Sayers Peden) flawed execution, overdone.
Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey* not heavy going, but first class fare
Graham Greene, Travels with My Aunt* ibid
Shiva Naipaul, An Unfinished Journey* more transporting (now I really must move on to Heinrich Heine's Travel Pictures)
Shusaku Endo, Deep River* (Van C. Gessel), syncretic sermonizing, overlitanized, partially redeemed by plot and character sketch but demonstrating Endo's worst tendencies.
Knut Hamsun, Hunger* (Robert Bly), manic depression's a frustrating mess; I.B. Singer's intro too high in register, it's not Dostoevsky but Gogol who's relevant, very interesting but short of timelessness.
A.S. Byatt, The Matisse Stories*, three shorts, the middle half overtelegraphed though well-executed, the bracketing ones excellent.

7 Comments:

Blogger Colburn said...

I've been thinking about possible uses for Twitter since I (reluctantly) added it to the side of my blog. Your microreviews make me wonder if there's a Twitter account devoted entirely to book reviews in 140 characters or less. You could excel in that niche. Were Christgau's capsule album reviews in the Voice (now elsewhere) a model, by any chance? The dense, allusive style is similar.

Anyway, thanks for the link (and, as usual, the vicarious reading).

3/2/09 18:09  
Blogger nnyhav said...

No, aside from Lester Bangs I was never one for Rock Krit (& I think he prefers Xgau). I do like to pack the most into the least space while leaving ample dimension for complementary readings; Twitter seems an arbitrary cut-off (even in Oulipoan terms), and I don't think it well-suited beyond chat-mode.

Coincidentally, an econoblog I follow had something to say about this at length today. Maybe it is the powerpoint of text, but the medium is OK if you're not stuffing extra-large into it.

3/2/09 21:58  
Blogger JAbel said...

I have never read any of Stevenson's travel essays and I hear nothing but good things about them.I will say the best travel I have read in many years are the books"A Time of Gifts" and"Between the Woods and Water" by Patrick Leigh Fermor.The third book has yet to appear and the author can't be long for the world.They are an account of a young Englishmans walk from Holland to Constantinople during the years right before WW2.A great read of a mostly vanished world.Also I just finished rereading Fitzgeralds collection of short stories for the first time in 34 plus years and they were much better than the first time around.

4/2/09 02:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stevenson's "Silverado" book has some very funny moments. (From Robert Mueller)

9/2/09 03:45  
Blogger JAbel said...

You know I've gotten to the point where I look back on the NYTimes forums like college.It was a golden age and one we shall never see again.The great posts at all hours,the flame wars,the memorable trolls,the love,the hate the shrugs and G.Jones, Wilsonsnookmawr,Galactababe,Mostbigger,Poet,Dooxy and many others posting somewhere out there on the net starting new flame wars wherever they go.

13/2/09 01:57  
Blogger mahendra singh said...

Thanks, dave for the paysan paris supplementals, much obliged … sometimes I feel like I'm wandering from Paris into the further banlieus of Hebdomeros (my retirement home!)

Ditto on your Fuente verdict, ditto on Naipaul the Younger … you earlier mentioned La Morte D'Arthur, it's a very odd & beautiful book, a favorite of my distant youth. A bit long, such things usually are!

13/2/09 19:18  
Blogger nnyhav said...

So far as the odd, and I hope beautiful, go, I've recently stumbled upon UbuWeb's Helen R. Lane translation of Claude Simon's Properties of Several Geometric and Non-Geometric Figures, so Acacia can wait. But then I'm also absorbing other stochastic maths. Counterbalancing is a weighting process ...

13/2/09 20:46  

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