Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


January reads

Short takes on what I've read this month, augmenting chatboard reports, to initiate a regular feature (or bug) (as the short essay seems elusive):

Alasdair Gray, Lanark: Opening and closing the month with urban dystopiae. I got started on him last year with Poor Things (rollicksome monstrosity) ... what can one say that hasn't been said already (or better, as by Burgess)? Gray rises to the challenge, too bad the Booker didn't (though they did with Kelman's debut, which I also caught up with last year).
Francis Spufford, Red Plenty: see Crooked Timber seminar.
M.John Harrison, Empty Space: A Haunting: end of the Kefahuchi Tract (better than Nova Swing but not Light).
Hugo Claus, Even Now: Poems (David Colmer): I got to attend Archipelago Book's launch party in November at Flanders House to meet the translator (his first NYC visit); he's been on a roll lately, with Verhulst, Bakker; his Oz provenance well suited to Englishing Flemish. (cf MAO)
Thomas Bernhard, My Prizes: An Accounting (Carol Brown Janeway) or, Travels with My Aunt; lighter fare. (cf MAO)
Alejo Carpentier, Reasons of State (Frances Partridge): overegged even for satire.
Wieslaw Mysliwski, A Treatise on Shelling Beans (Bill Johnston): and on preferring sax to violins (tho no less excellent in voice, I preferred Stone Upon Stone).
William H. Gass, Cartesian Sonata: uneven on many levels, kinda minor but latitudinous.
Cloud Gate Song: The Verse of Tang Poet Zhang Ji (Jonathan Chaves): [aka Chang Chi] an attempt to carry over rhyme and structure of Music Bureau (folk), Regulated Verse and quatrains, an iamb per character, that works best for 5-char RV and occasionally for 7-char quatrains (and perhaps the folk component helps; but too taut for 5-char quatrains, too slack for 7-char RV).
D.H.Lawrence, The Rainbow: lost traction in the bridge ("Anna Victrix"), ungrounded unlike the rest, but I have other probs w/ DHL's delivery ...
then thither on a dysturban jaunt:
China Miéville, Embassytown: first half amazing, second half routine, felt like lost op in dropoff from brilliant to clever.
Orly Castel-Bloom, Dolly City (Dalya Bilu): a whiff of Queneau in the demotic and Barthelme in the demonic (who's yer mommy?) (cf MAO)
César Aira, Shantytown (Chris Andrews): still more good stuff, nicely involuted, though too tightly tied, as is so often the case.

backfilling: December:
Julian Rios, LARVA: Midsummer Night's Babel (Richard Alan Francis, w/ Suzanne Jill Levine & the author) as previously noted, sheer punnography.
Evan Dara, The Lost Scrapbook: how could I resist a blurb from my chatboard? ("a towering piece of American literature and one of the best 3 novels of the nineties!") and for 2/3 of the way I was on the same page, but the last third is a different novel, not that it's not good, though I'd say not as good, but unlike the fused fragments preceding it, the coherence of narrative location and POV shifts as if a phase change had suddenly occurred, and ties between the two parts are tenuous (w/ exceptions), it feels as if the potentialities of the first 2/3s are foreclosed upon rather than realized (and yeah I considered whether that's the point) ... even so, still among the best the 90s had to offer in the US (damn faint praise, in my book) (and no not sorry to have taken it up, no not at all) ... my plaint here may be similar to that of those who didn't get the Bhutan stuff in Lindsay Hill's Sea of Hooks so hey ymmv.
Gherasim Luca, The Passive Vampire (Krzysztof Fijalkowski): too capital-S Surreal, but ... the objects! (OOO nowadays connoting object-oriented ontology rather than the objectively offered object, but to me it'll always be castling long).
Frigyes Karinthy, A Journey Round My Skull (Vernon Duckworth Barker): old New Journalism.
Breyten Breytenbach, Mouroir: prison writings, variable and sundry.
Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha: more Booker catch-up.
Clive James, Nefertiti in the Flak Tower: following up on Opal Sunset and confirming his standing as poet to be taken seriously (but not too, at least not always).
Georges Perec and the Oulipo, Winter Journeys (various, mostly Ian Monk): itself an Oulipian microcosm sparked by a short story Perec penned for a publisher's catalogue, which then underwent a delayed rapid expansion, first by Roubaud, and continuing to this day ... Queneau's characterization of Oulipo as "rats who construct the labyrinth from which they plan to escape" (tho I'd prefer 'contrive') nowhere rings truer. The first half, culminating with Mathews' contribution, is best, afterwards falling off but not without its moments. But it isn't completist stuff, even with some of the inside games, as what's on the outside still sparkles.
Seamus Heaney, District and Circle: his poetry worth being completist about, I minded the gap; this and Electric Light had mixed reviews, I think more bound up with conceptions of ought than is.
Yves Bonnefoy, The Arrière-Pays (Stephen Romer): interesting to consider in relation to Murnane (not by intent nor aesthetic but ontology).
Gerbrand Bakker, Ten White Geese (David Colmer): IFFP winner (cf above, and MAO).
César Aira, The Hare (Nick Caistor): twice as long as what else has been englished, which makes for greater proliferation of loose ends (all tightly tied in the denouement of course).