Not my favorite Calvino, but worth reading nonetheless. I think my lukewarm response has something to do with how familiar I've become with the ideas...moreNot my favorite Calvino, but worth reading nonetheless. I think my lukewarm response has something to do with how familiar I've become with the ideas central to the book - what is and is not part of the book, part of the process of reading, the authority of the (pun intended) author eroded and replaced with the ascendant reader. Ideas that I can't trace to an origin with Calvino, but that certainly set a lot of lesser (and sometimes equal) authors in motion. And ran parallel to others. And fed off others. Think Borges' "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote" or George Perec's meta-detective novel, "A Void." Or Umberto Eco. Cortazar's Hopscotch. Or innumerable others. How you feel about the book can be determined by the litmus test of how you feel about passages such as this:
"But how to establish the exact moment in which a story begins? Everything has already begun before, the first line of the first page of every novel refers to something that has already happened outside the book. Or else the real story is the one that begins ten or a hundred pages further on, and everything that precedes it is only a prologue. The lives of individuals of the human race form a constant plot, in which every attempt to isolate one piece of living that has a meaning separate from the rest - for example, the meeting of two people, which will become decisive for both - must bear in mind that each of the two brings with himself a texture of events, environments, other people, and that from the meeting, in turn, other stories will be derived which will break off from their common story."
Reading is sometimes living, sometimes a displacement of living. And the same could be said of writing. And all who engage in any of these intertwined activities engages in all, as they're more or less coterminous. Or infinite. So says Calvino. Or Haroun al-Rashid, Caliph of Baghdad. Or ...(less)
Not a review, just a note on part of my favorite passage ... the beginning of Book 7, "A Stroll by the Shore", where Mann most directly addresses time...moreNot a review, just a note on part of my favorite passage ... the beginning of Book 7, "A Stroll by the Shore", where Mann most directly addresses time, but in a cleverly roundabout way:
"Can one narrate time - time as such, in and of itself? Most certainly not, what a foolish undertaking that would be. The story would go "Time passed, ran on, flowed in a might stream," and on and on in the same vein. No one with any common sense could call that a narrative. It would be the same as if someone took the harebrained notion of holding a single note or chord for hours on end - and called it music."
This continues on in an sustained run of brilliance. Looking back on this masterpiece, I have to laugh because most of my favorite literature IS a narration of "time as such", flowing on and on in "the same vein." Furthermore, much of my favorite music - from the "1-2-3-4" on a single chord of pop-punk to the "nodal excitation" / long strings / drones of folks like Arnold Dreyblatt and Phil Niblock, the sonic Rothko's produced by Morton Feldman (which a friend of mine described as something like "the soundtrack to infinity"), or the doo(ooooooo)m metal power-chord plate-tectonics of Earth 2's Extra Low Frequency Version - is a single note or chord held for hours. Hell, I used to eat lunch at La Monte Young's Mela Foundation for the "Dream House" installation ... aka "The Base 9:7:4 Symmetry in Prime Time When Centered above and below The Lowest Term Primes in The Range 288 to 224 with The Addition of 279 and 261 in Which The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped above and Including 288 Consists of The Powers of 2 Multiplied by The Primes within The Ranges of 144 to 128, 72 to 64 and 36 to 32 Which Are Symmetrical to Those Primes in Lowest Terms in The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped below and Including 224 within The Ranges 126 to 112, 63 to 56 and 31.5 to 28 with The Addition of 119." In other words, a big ass drone.
A few pages later, Mann goes into the perception of time as affected by the repetitions of life:
"What got mixed up so higgledy-piggledy in this grand confusion were those emotional concepts and states of consciousness that define "still" and "again" - which is one of the most bewildering, perplexing, and bewitching experiences there is. [...] he was suddenly overcome with the old dizziness that was mixed with a scary sense of curious delight, an ambiguous dizziness that made him feel not only unsteady, but also beguiled by his whirling inability to differentiate between "still" and "again," out of whose blurred jumble emerge the timeless "always" and "ever.""
Perhaps my recurring struggle with deja vu is less a remembrance, even a false one, and more a vertigo that inhibits my ability to divide still from again, now from always and then from ever?(less)
Hammett leaps up the list of my favorite crime writers ... the rare example of a writer that transcends the genre, like Ellroy, Cain, Richard Price an...moreHammett leaps up the list of my favorite crime writers ... the rare example of a writer that transcends the genre, like Ellroy, Cain, Richard Price and a handful of others. (less)
500 dense pages and only book 1 of 7 I think. I don't think I can bring myself to read the entire thing. As much as I *think* I get the style and what...more500 dense pages and only book 1 of 7 I think. I don't think I can bring myself to read the entire thing. As much as I *think* I get the style and what Proust is trying to accomplish, this is a case where translation is felt - where something inimitable must inhere within the French. Nonetheless, there are some beautiful passages and it has a unique affect - plotless, almost a fractal diving into memory and motive, solidity of things explored through layered accumulation of all that is subjective or related. Less a story than a mood. Whenever I wish to feel Proustian, I can go on to In a Budding Grove.
Setting aside the fact that it didn't draw me in, make me feel the need to live longer within it, I am left holding on to some stunning passages. Like the closing of "Place-Names: The Name"
"The places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years."
I could transcribe many more such snippets; perhaps a sign that, appropriately, in remembrance, the book will assume greater meaning for me, that my fondness for it, and desire for the subsequent volumes, will grow.
The entire book, the thousands of pages after, the very method of composition by endless insertion and accretion, is an attempt to compress those aforementioned thin slices, to recall a lifetime of images and regrets. It's the north star of nostalgia in a way ... (less)
Less the "great novel" than I expected; more a page turner, a thriller replete with plot twists (falls from grace, though often a questionable grace,...moreLess the "great novel" than I expected; more a page turner, a thriller replete with plot twists (falls from grace, though often a questionable grace, and redemption, though often by a questionable redeemer), compelling character study, revealing the smallness of everyman's resistance. (less)
With Too Loud a Solitude, Hrabal is now 2 for 2 with me. Not only great books, but books that connect with me personally. I find something of myself i...moreWith Too Loud a Solitude, Hrabal is now 2 for 2 with me. Not only great books, but books that connect with me personally. I find something of myself in the protagonists ... neither heroic nor anti-heroic, caught up in and embracing routine but without the absurd entrapment and paranoia found in Kafka, seeking (or maybe inherently predisposed to) isolation and solitude amidst not only other people but amidst things that impose connections with the outer world. On that last point, you've got the books obsession in Too Loud a Solitude and the waiter / hotelier of I Served the King of England, but the books, the patrons only exist as part of the protagonists inner life - he's a black hole (or maybe an alternate dimension) that absorbs these things. (The choice of a waiter is really appropriate because that existence / non-existence is on both sides of the servant / served divide - neither is really supposed to intrude on the other, but supposed to be some kind of functional cypher.) At the end of Served, Ditie comes to love / understand / empathize with the world, long to be a part of it (literally, to decompose into it), but he does this in isolation from other people, from people that attempt to draw him in or find a way into his world but cannot ... alone with his animals, his wilderness, his road that absorbs all his labor not to extend or improve but so as not to disintegrate. I'm always drawn to these man out of place or out of time stories / artists - anachronisms or anatopisms (I made that word up - is there a word for out of place) of times and places that never really existed outside of your internal chronology / topology.
Last thought, flashing back to my reference of Kafka. There are obvious similarities but the difference, if I had to boil it down to a few points is that where Kafka is grotesque, Hrabal is tragicomic; where Kafka is external, Hrabal is internal. (less)
Between this and The Sweet Science, I can say that my favorite books of late have been gritty journalistic works that portray the city and the persona...moreBetween this and The Sweet Science, I can say that my favorite books of late have been gritty journalistic works that portray the city and the personalities of its underbelly with a lot of humor, empathy, and an eye for the minor but telling detail. Killer stuff. If you've only read 1984 you don't really know Orwell. (less)