This is surposta be some kinda minor classic about growing up and memory and shit, but it's written with such a gaping absence of any kind of style thThis is surposta be some kinda minor classic about growing up and memory and shit, but it's written with such a gaping absence of any kind of style that it barely registers as a novel at all. Plain, bland, boring... I think I'm getting to that point where life is too short to read unstylish fiction. (Style needn't be super-complex or mind-blowingly beautiful or anything, just, you know, something more artful than a court transcript.)...more
DeLillo, so closely identified with the novel, one of the artists whose insistence upon the novel as the preeminent form of human eFUUUUUCK YEAAAAAAAH
DeLillo, so closely identified with the novel, one of the artists whose insistence upon the novel as the preeminent form of human expression, or at least American expression, has allowed the novel to endure as such... this same DeLillo, this mad genius with the ever-loaded and inimitable style evident in each of his fifteen-ish novels, has written just enough short stories over his four-decade career for this slim collection to be publishable. Short stories?? Don, you taught us that the future belongs to crowds, not to short stories. And yet DeLillo has made this form his own, albeit infrequently, using its concision as a means to distill and/or zoom in on typically DeLillean ideas. Not all of these stories are masterpieces, but at least two of 'em are, and the collection as a whole is enormously satisfying. DeLillo fans: don't sleep on this.
Brief rundowns of each story, w/ letter grades for some reason:
Creation (B) A couple tries to fly home from a remote island, but at least one of them seems to be stuck there for the foreseeable future. An interesting piece, but not very representative of DeLillo; it's all minimalistic, enigmatic, leaving everything unsaid. Although this is an early story (1979), the DD work it reminded me of most was the second half of last year's Point Omega, when it got all creepily spare.
Human Moments in World War III (A) Two astronauts orbit the Earth as part of some alternate future's defense program during a major war, hearing some odd transmissions. Permit me this expulsion again: FUUUUUUCK YEAAAAAAH. DeLillo does SF! I feel this story is one of the greatest works DeLillo has ever produced. It was written between The Names and White Noise, certainly a fecund period for the man, and its power is impossible for me to describe, so just read it.
The Runner (B) A jogger in a park witnesses a kidnapping, tries to piece together what happened. This story has an interesting structure in that the reader doesn't really understand what is happening until about halfway through, and even then we only know as much as the characters do, which is not very much. This one is too brief to make a huge impression, but it shows DeLillo playing with what the short story can do as opposed to the novel.
The Ivory Acrobat (A-) A woman living abroad in Greece freaks out after a deadly earthquake hits her town. This story shows how much DeLillo can do with the barest of material. The one sentence of plot summary I just gave is really all that happens here. But the sentences DD spins out of this scenario are absolutely stunning, perfectly capturing feelings of unease, helplessness, paranoia and fear magnified when you're a long way from home and scary things are happening.
The Angel Esmeralda (B+) Nuns help out in a dangerous inner-city neighborhood, then consider a dubious local miracle. This rating would probably be higher if I hadn't already read this story in slightly altered form: after its initial publication in Esquire, DeLillo incorporated it into his mammoth index of latter 20th-century tension, Underworld. I think it worked a bit better in the context of the novel, but maybe only because that was my first exposure to it. Amazing writing in any case.
Baader-Meinhof (B+) Two linked scenes -- a visit to a museum exhibit of paintings of terrorists, and an attempted rape -- bounce off each other in confusing and fascinating ways. Not a story about terrorism, but perhaps about our perception of it.
Midnight in Dostoevsky (A-) Two students at a remote college create a mythology surrounding a strange professor and a stranger townie. A brilliant piece that asks whether it's better to know or to invent.
Hammer and Sickle (A) White-collar criminals at a minimum-security facility watch a strange TV program of children reading financial news. This is the collection's other masterpiece, and I treasure it because DeLillo's writings on the modern world are very rare. Even Falling Man, his 9/11 novel, feels weirdly like it could have been written in some previous decade. But this is unmistakably a story about the present moment, the world economic crisis, the smartphone era. The ending, in which the protagonist temporarily escapes from the facility to behold the mystery of highway traffic, is worthy of of White Noise's sunset.
The Starveling (B+) A solitary cinephile in New York, who attends film screenings all day every day in lieu of a job, obsessively follows/stalks a fellow (female) moviegoer. On paper this should've been my favorite, what with my own cinemania, but it doesn't quite reach greatness. It's a lovely piece, though, with an extra layer of fascinated stalking: just as the protag stalks the woman, so does DeLillo stalk this (dying?) breed of New York cineaste, the monkish film fanatics blitzing from one arthouse to another.
Dammit, I want more of these. Is it possible that America's greatest living novelist is also secretly one of its greatest short story writers?...more
Hey Goodreads, I hate to unmask myself and be the villainous revealer of my own secret identity, but I'm now a contributing writer over at an arts webHey Goodreads, I hate to unmask myself and be the villainous revealer of my own secret identity, but I'm now a contributing writer over at an arts website called Spectrum Culture, and my latest piece there is a full review of The Flame Alphabet, here: http://spectrumculture.com/2012/03/th...
I can't promise that you'll be able to detect my usual Krok Zero style, if I even have such a thing, but I'd like to think it's in there. Check it out!...more
You know how dumb-asses will describe something as being "like ___ on acid." This book is like if Philip K. Dick wasn't on acid. Like, if Dick had beeYou know how dumb-asses will describe something as being "like ___ on acid." This book is like if Philip K. Dick wasn't on acid. Like, if Dick had been a studious young man into engineering and physics instead of a drugged-out freakazoid. The content of Priest's novel is wacked-out and mind-bending in a sort of Dickian way, but the tone is dry and the prose is stilted (well, in that one respect it's not so far from Dick) and the details are scientific. Somehow it manages to be highly engaging and basically boring at the same time. Frankly I have no idea why NYRB reissued it, as it's really more of a curio than anything else and probably could have stayed out of print without the general reading public suffering too much. But kinda cool that it's out there, and if the description or Lethem's blurb intrigues you, you could do worse and you'll finish it within a couple days probably....more
Impossible to "review" Barry Hannah, so please enjoy this glorious passage:
We tried to define bore, and found out how relative and personal the term wImpossible to "review" Barry Hannah, so please enjoy this glorious passage:
We tried to define bore, and found out how relative and personal the term was. For instance Magee, our African boarder, thinks the Gulf of Mexico out there is boring, and said he went across the highway to the beach in the dark of night just to piss in it. He thinks of the sea as a boring efficient sewage system. Bob Hill came in with a point that the sky was boring, often. Bryant made a bid that, among the arts, only literature was boring. Know what I did then? I had my pistol and I discharged it twice at the ceiling of the TV room, where we were. “But nobody that knows Didi can say she is boring!” I shouted. A dust of plaster was raining down on us. Everybody agreed that you weren’t boring. Trove, our young landlord, came in looking at the two craters in the ceiling. They looked like a brassiere seen from the angle of a woman about to put it on. Trove as much as told me I was boring, getting drunk and having a pistol and so on, and I’d have to quit these habits or room elsewhere. After the commotion was over, Weymouth, our British friend, asked us, “Do you know what is really boring, but I’ll kiss its soil and miss it so much I can’t sleep at night unless I’ve had a six-pack of what you call beer?” Nobody could guess. “England,” he said. “Merry old bloody boring England.” It brought tears to my eyes....And Didi, you bring tears to my eyes....more