Around 200 pages mark: Sooooooooooooooooooooooooo long - and unbearably boring. I only have about 200 pages left so I'll soldier through and finish it...moreAround 200 pages mark: Sooooooooooooooooooooooooo long - and unbearably boring. I only have about 200 pages left so I'll soldier through and finish it although I'm unimpressed and will probably not pick up another Gray for some time.
Later: Rarely do I give up on a book if I've already already managed to read its first 490 pages and have only around 60 pages left because after trudging through so many pages it feels pointless not to make a final effort and spend half an hour actually finishing the thing.
But rarely does a book offer me such a good excuse to stop reading it with just 60 pages left to go.
The city of the Glasgow is the best and only real character beside Gray himself in this book - and in all honesty it is the only reason why I kept reading. I don't think that Gray (and it is Gray speaking clearly through Thaw / Lanark, his self identification / self insertion is one of the reasons why the book is painful to read) is right when he says that a city needs to be used by an artist in order for the inhabitants to live in it imaginatively - or to imagine themselves living in it. I've lived most of my life in an unimagined / unused small town which in which I imagined myself living all my life without feeling the need for other people or artists' stories to inhabit it. And then two years ago I moved away from that small town to Glasgow. I don't even feel like Gray / Lanark / Thaw inhabit Glasgow imaginatively, they're so self-obsessed and so obsessed with how much better they are than everybody else and how ~unique~ their artistic vision / fate is, they try to make Glasgow inhabit them rather than the other way around. This means you only get occasional glimpses of the real city which is disappointing.
But not really the reason why I'm giving up on this book now.
That reason is the pompous in which Gray compares himself and his book with everybody from Homer to the Bible to Dante to Herman Melville right after he (the author) tells Lanark (which is a thinly disguised version of the author) that,
'Everything you have experienced and are experiencing, from your first glimpse of the Elite cafe to the metal of that spoon in your fingers, the taste of the soup in your mouth, is made of one thing. [...] Print. Some worlds are made of atoms but yours is made of tiny marks marching in neat lines, like armies of insects across pages and pages and pages of white paper. Isay these lines are marching, but that is a metaphor. They are perfectly still. They are lifeless. How can they reproduce the movement and the noises of the battle of Borodino, the white whale ramming the ship, the fallen angels on the flaming lake?'
'By being read,' said Lanark impatiently. 'Exactly. Your survival as a character and mine as an author depend on us seducing a living soul into our printed world and trapping it here long enough for us to steal the imaginative energy which gives us life. To cast a spell over this stranger I am doing abominable things. I am prostituting my most sacred memories into the commonest possible words and sentence.' etc etc etc more pretentious drivel etc etc
Wellllll, since writing this book is so much bother, I think I'll just snap it shut, dispel you into non-existence and spare myself the annoyance of having to read another 60 pages of what you affectionately call ~arse-wipe~. (less)
This is a deceivingly easy book to read, in more than one way. I started reading because I thought it would be a good companion novel for The Driver's...moreThis is a deceivingly easy book to read, in more than one way. I started reading because I thought it would be a good companion novel for The Driver's Seat, and it has been great and reflecting back some interesting elements of Spark's other text. But at the same time it felt very immaterial, at little over 200 pages, like most of Spark's books, it has the length of a play rather than a novel and you read it very quickly it feels like it just melts in your hands and it's over before you've had the time to figure out what's going on. Plus there's all this dreadfully boring stuff about Catholicism and constantly derails from the significantly more interesting meta/literary plot.
Edit: Oh yes, I forgot to mention the enormous piles of racial stereotyping which were more bizarre than anything else in the book - including the improbable diamonds smuggling plot and the satanism. (less)