Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


End of September reads

Robert Walser, Microscripts (Susan Bernofsky) [New Directions]: The more I read the better he gets (maybe because I started with The Assistant). With him you don't know where you'll be three sentences from now.
Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Running Away (Matthew B. Smith) [dalkey]: I'm still on the fence with him, he reminds me a bit of Aira, except nothing happens. [MAO]
Georges Perec, I Remember (Philip Terry, David Bellos) [Godine]: I gave up being a completist of the englished works with How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise, but this seems essential to getting at where Perec is coming from. [MAO]
Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington [NDP]: I've seen this described as less astringent than her other work, which is saying something. Prior to this I'd only read Loitering with Intent, long ago (and with enjoyment but without follow-up); now I've got Memento Mori queued up, and an eye out for a coupla others, prompted in part by a fellow denizen of The Woods.
Tadeusz Konwicki, A Minor Apocalypse (Richard Lourie) [dalkey]: Immolation is the sincerest form of satire. Overly broad, though not without its moments (though some of them dated); I preferred The Polish Complex.
Milena Michiko Flašar, I Called Him Necktie (Sheila Dickie) [New Vessel]: A catalogue of the margins: hikikomori meets discarded salaryman, tautly told from former's perspective. [MAO]
Miljenko Jergović, Sarajevo Marlboro (Stela Tomassević) [archipelago]: Bosnian conflicts. Among the first published by Archipelago, and now in its fourth printing, and deservedly so. Don't know why it took me so long.
Christian Bök, Crystallography [Coach House]: Poetics refracted therethrough: “a pataphysical encyclopaedia that misreads the language of poetics through the conceits of geology.” Some gems, and works overall, but I'm an easy mark for this sort of thing.


August into September reads

I circumstantially spent the end of August offline, and otherwise with limited reading time, so when better to tackle another tome long reposing on the Bookshelf of Good Intentions? this time, the Penguin Classics edition of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur (Janet Cowen ed). I expected it to be interesting as a sourcebook for the Arthur legends and such, but hadn't sussed it was a compendium of prior sources, and a flattening of their styles. After a promising start it became a slog, cartoonish, bringing to mind Edna St. Vincent Millay's riposte (whether about History or Life): "It's not one damned thing after another. It's the same damned thing over and over." I took a break Labor Day weekend after Book X to pursue other readings, and was glad of the change in tenor, as Malory got to the Grail legend, even if afterwards that uptick faded in the recounting of the dissolution of the Round Table; I suppose that reflects the underlying source material.

Fortunately the rest of my reading has more than made up for any disappointment (Michael A. Orthofer's reviews linked as available):
Ramón del Valle-Inclán, Tyrant Banderas (Peter Bush) [nyrb]: the bridge from Europe to Latin America for developing its own tyrant-lit (of which Roa Bastos' I, The Supreme reigns supreme). [MAO]
Richard Flanagan, Gould's Book of Fish [Grove]: the first three-quarters as good as or better than they say, but overwrought (and overmeta) at the finish. [MAO]
António Lobo Antunes, The Return of the Caravels (Gregory Rabassa) [Grove]: over a year ago I'd been disappointed by The Land at the End of the World (Margaret Jull Costa), which I found misanthropomorphic at its best, acid-etched jade, but uneven ... I can see where it's hard to keep it up over the full course of the story (the opener brilliant and another peak midway thru) but I don't see how the variation correlates. But I have Miguel to thank for prompting my return to him so soon, and to be rewarded as his was. Profoundly disorienting, and that's before considering my sketchy schematic sense of Portuguese history (and the literature, no more than Lusiad summary): despite or because of the mixed chronology, the first-third person shifting, the tortuous syntax, it works. Knowledge of Hell now at hand, and Fado Alexandrino in prospect ...
Péter Esterházy, The Book of Hrabal (Judith Sollosy) [Northwestern U]: well, it's Hrabal's centennary; but also of interest in Hungarian-Czech relations. [MAO]
Ernesto Sábato, The Tunnel (Margaret Sayers Peden) [Penguin]: I see its reputation as "existential" as something of a red herring, yes it makes gestures in that direction but it is at heart a schizophrenic love affair, both subject and object (that is, Maria as well, or as unwell, or nearly). It makes more gestures in Borges' direction (particularly with a precis approximation of "Death and the Compass"), and I also find it curious that it was apparently originally published in the same 1948 issue of Sur as "Emma Zunz" (Miguel mentions that Sábato may have had Bioy Casares have a prior look). (And then too, gestures towards illness as metaphor in the arts, and its symptomatic over-analysis ...) [MAO]
Éric Chevillard, The Author and Me (Jordan Stump) [Dalkey]: going over the top of even his own over-the-topitude; borne with a cauliflower. Early release, but not for good behavior [review board hasn't met].
Roberto Bolaño, A Little Lumpen Novelita (Natasha Wimmer) [New Directions]: the first new englished Bolaño prose I've been eager for since 2010 (I waited for The Third Reich & Between Parentheses to be remaindered; lower expectations fulfilled); slender but strong portrait, flirting with criminality (tho a tad peeved that of 109pp only 70 or so writ upon). [MAO]