My intentions of spending a year of Proust was utterly foiled by one of my toughest academic semesters ever. However, the several hundred pages I did...moreMy intentions of spending a year of Proust was utterly foiled by one of my toughest academic semesters ever. However, the several hundred pages I did manage to read whet my appetite for much, much more; we will assuredly meet again soon.(less)
A story of tortured and self-sacrificing love that somehow seems quintessentially European: it’s all delicate, muted shades of feeling. For me this is...moreA story of tortured and self-sacrificing love that somehow seems quintessentially European: it’s all delicate, muted shades of feeling. For me this is Chekhov territory, and this just doesn’t compare, though there are a number of beautifully realized moments and the occasional, unexpected burst of painful emotional truth.(less)
This is the kind of intimate and evocative book that one imagines oneself reading during a long, languorous afternoon in a cafe or while curled up in...moreThis is the kind of intimate and evocative book that one imagines oneself reading during a long, languorous afternoon in a cafe or while curled up in big comfortable chair besides a sunny window, allowing oneself to be caught up in the delicate strands of thought, memory and whimsy Guibert uses to pattern this brief collection of essays, vignettes and assorted musings.
Unfortunately, I didn't read any of Ghost Image in such conditions. Rather, I read almost all of it while being jostled during my daily work commute on San Francisco public transportation, vying for all-too scarce seating, trying to maintain balance through unnecessarily abrupt braking, sandwiched between fellow commuters just as desperate for a cup of morning coffee or anxious to just get home as I was, etc. As such, I wish to apologize to this book—I don't feel like my reading experience did it justice.
But perhaps that pays Guibert a great compliment—because I did want to keep reading in such unideal reading situations, to see where Guibert was going to lead me next. The best sections, for me, were the anecdotes, often serving as a portrait of a person, that often functioned as short stories—the opening memory of "discovering" his mother while taking her portrait, an encounter with a curmudgeonly neighboring pharmacist, the lessons learned from a professional photographic retoucher. There are also a particularly wonderful meditations on the nature of old home movies and polaroid photographs.
From moment to moment this was enthralling reading, but in the end I couldn't help but feel I bit underwhelmed, as if it ultimately hadn't added up to a whole lot. But upon further consideration, I realize that my less-than-optimal reading experience might have caused me to miss the subtle rhythms and wispy, cobweb-like connections and associations I suspect Guibert used to string all of these disparate fragments together. As such, I will simply say that I fully look forward to reading this collection again, and next time around hopefully catch what I might very well have missed. (less)
An experiment, and one ultimately doomed to failure; its failure, however, is also its greatest strength. It's essentially an extended list of details...moreAn experiment, and one ultimately doomed to failure; its failure, however, is also its greatest strength. It's essentially an extended list of details ("some cars dive into the parking lot./ an 86 [bus] passes by. A 70 passes by," etc, etc), something that would seem to make for a rather dull read.
But I found it one of the most invigorating reading experiences I've had in a long while. Not particularly, I admit, because of the text itself, but in the way that it suddenly made me breathlessly attuned to my surroundings, conscious of the tiny details of a particular time and a particular space that are easily (usually?) overlooked, ignored. I read this slenderest of texts as I sat at the small table in the front bay windows of a cafe I discovered last week and have returned to several times since, looking out on a side street that heretofore had seemed tranquil and practically empty (at least by San Francisco standards), but as I read it suddenly seemed bristling with activity, and I became hyper-aware of the pedestrians criss-crossing my direct field of vision, casually walking dogs, pushing strollers or talking on phones, of the wind occasionally causing the overhanging expanses of tree leaves to shudder uncontrollably, of the slightest glimpse of figures appearing in windows of the facing row of elegant Victorian-style houses…
And for that all-too-brief hour or so, the "infraordinary"—Perec's term for "the markings and manifestations of the everyday that consistently escape our attention as they compose the essence of lives"—suddenly seemed quite extraordinary.
[I didn’t think of taking a photo myself, but I’m glad someone else did! I was at the table on the opposite window, however, and when I’ve been there there hasn’t been so much activity outside… I have no idea what the white stuff is on the window though. Photo by sparkle glowplug, found on flickr.]