I was willing this book to be good. No commentary I've ever read on Hunter has EVER been good.
It is not wonderful. Ersatz Gonzo stylings from the illuI was willing this book to be good. No commentary I've ever read on Hunter has EVER been good.
It is not wonderful. Ersatz Gonzo stylings from the illustrator who admits that Hunter HATED when he tried to write anything on the pictures so essential to his own success. There was much territorial pissing.
Of course, HST is a complete MONSTER. He maces Steadman in the face at their first meeting. I have to say I believe Ralph totally on that one. The wound of his eventual inevitable rejection by Hunter clearly still suppurates. Particularly when Steadman keeps picking at it...
Impressions of Steadman himself at present are not stellar. Raving, paranoiac Welshman prone to fits of sabotage and assassination by ink.
Best chapter so far has been on the HST piece that never saw the light of day - what they got up to in Kinshasa covering the Rumble in the Jungle.
In the end, Hunter comes off as the freak you'd expect (I'm wondering if I should go back to read what I once so admired, or if it might freeze the blood like recent re-watchings of Withnail and I) but Ralph even more so. Resentment, pettiness, open jealousy, bottled anger until explosion...all told in a thick argot of bluffness that makes the dialogue from McGoohan's The Prisoner seem positively straight forward.
There isn't much insight here. Only a short reference to the suicide, in Aspen, while Ralph was visiting. He seems bewildered by his friend, and blindsided. ...more
There's the phssst of VW releasing the harried domestic texture of life. And then, the breathtaking interpolations of all her eye, her ear, her seeingThere's the phssst of VW releasing the harried domestic texture of life. And then, the breathtaking interpolations of all her eye, her ear, her seeing into things into the dull day. It gives me a shiver. It makes me ache for talent.
Reading Peter Carey is always a gamble. The bower-bird nature of his source material, where his current obsessions - often an aspect of the creative lReading Peter Carey is always a gamble. The bower-bird nature of his source material, where his current obsessions - often an aspect of the creative life - is unpicked to the point of immersion, sometimes comes off and sometimes doesn't. His books are quilts - glass and gambling, painting and forgery, ern malley and the botany of Malaysia. Does that last one jar a little?
You bet it did. My Life as a Fake was the worst Carey book I've suffered, a hopeless melange of Frankenstein, Carey's nostalgia for a good nonya curry, and the fascinating tale of the Malley hoax. With child stealing and post-colonial jungle riffing on the side. It just did not work as a whole book. TOO MUCH. Even Carey can fail to convince us with his incredible ear for jerked dialogue, gumbo politics and grotesque mise en scene.
But this one - Tristan Smith is a pearler. I'd heard absolutely naught about it, and now I know why. It's tough, in the same way Sterne's book, one of its obvious echoes, is tough. 150 page diversions on the narrator's birth aren't for everybody. As usual, Carey bites off way too much and chews like crazy.
Obsessions, catalogued within: The theatre, the real experience of acting on stage, and receiving that action - right up close, in the footlights. Raw theatre, Pram Factory Theatre. Sometimes terrible, because it's risky, alchemical, apt to blow up. Congenital deformity. How would it work if the protagonist was saddled with serious handicaps to his speech, movement, digestion? Unable to walk? Unable to be looked at? Politics. Imagine Australia and the US and the deep contradictions of their relationship. BUT - they are not Australia and the US - in this world Australia was a colony of France, the US a colony of Holland. OK. Linguistics. The above shift means that the cultural referents, the slang, the religion, everything - has evolved differently. And you'd better keep up 'cause he ain't explaining it. Circus. The history of danger and mimetics, Hermes-trickery and human sacrifice - it's Cirque de Soleil without nets, with the possibility of death. Circus as actual religion, as addiction.
It's mad and magnificent. I read it in total silence and concentration away from everything, and was convinced and transported to those places without question. It's hard work. I bet it wasn't popular. But read it; The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith is shit hot. ...more
The bagel-chewiness of these essays kept me at them for a while, one or two a day was plenty - but unsurprisingly it increased the already throbbing cThe bagel-chewiness of these essays kept me at them for a while, one or two a day was plenty - but unsurprisingly it increased the already throbbing cerebral horn I have for Schjeldahl's prose.
He isn't afraid of the purple, if something has really inspired him he's off in a tizz of jangling sensational claims. The writing isn't cool, it's opinionated and at times, piss-funny.
An ideal combination of high and low registers, his essays sometimes felt like a satire on all that worthy, snoring art-writing that academia specialises in producing. It's zestiness points towards a Mennipean spirit.
It also pointed me towards the work of modern American artists, painters in particular, whose work I barely knew. Country libraries don't oblige me with monographs on them, but I have a good shopping list for the f800s next time I'm at a Uni library, or fall into a vat of money and can buy books.
He can be an utter bitch too, while nicely justifying why he's sharpening his critical knives.
I want to quote extensively my favorite bits in this review, but instead, just get out and read it. Go on. ...more
A sketch, written as a series of letters (how quaint) and Isherwood's last book.
It would be tempting to undervalue the skill of the author here - theA sketch, written as a series of letters (how quaint) and Isherwood's last book.
It would be tempting to undervalue the skill of the author here - the tone seems casual, with subtle changes in pitch depending on who will receive the letter that is written. Character and action are set both by reportage and conspicuous absences.
The counterpoint between the two brothers can easily be read as the complex split in each person's desires; to be ascetic and mindful, at the same time as wilful, selfish and egocentric. It reminded me of Plato's Symposium a little, the debates on love, on sex and the nature of being. And they are arguments on ideas, more than character.
But I enjoyed Oliver and Patrick more than cut-outs. Patrick takes the part of Milton's Satan - he's the more attractive character but the conclusion sees him learn nothing, perpetuate his duplicities and self-denial. He flirts with passionate love for another man, but it's a game, an amulet to ward off old age.
I've always enjoyed Isherwood's post-Vedanta writings, they are so curious, frail and unholy. I too want to embrace the willpower and giddy freedom of the mystic, but also to fuck everybody and eat cake with both hands. ...more
Accomplished, subtle, very far from an "immigrant" book - yes, all the families are second gen Bengali-US, but the themes will chime for anyone who grAccomplished, subtle, very far from an "immigrant" book - yes, all the families are second gen Bengali-US, but the themes will chime for anyone who grew up outside a petri dish.
They f*ck you up, your mum and dad.
Well, that's a little unfair. Plenty of the characters here do a pretty good number on themselves, while their puzzled parents look on and wonder how it happened, blaming themselves.
Long stories like a good soak in the tub (with a similar wrinkly feeling afterwards - perhaps because of her unflinching eye for the true awful lack of resolution that accompanies our blood ties - out, out damned spot!).
The final trio of linked stories shift from her more usual use of third person into the intimacy of first and second person, but it's never mawkish. It makes the final movement of the relationship between Hema and Kaushik very hard to bear.
I particularly appreciated the presence of so many adults who struggle to move through grieving for the death of a parent. The world seems to make little time for this particular loss - it's so inevitable it lacks the obvious tragedy of the loss of a child, or the sharp shock of accident. And yet, I know just what a bastard such grief can be. It fairly shakes you by the throat.
Lovely writing. Vunerable. Quiet as breath. Human....more
Palimpsest, for all Vidal's narcissism, was an achievement in autobiography, a genre generally to be avoided. For a man I'm inclined to think of as exPalimpsest, for all Vidal's narcissism, was an achievement in autobiography, a genre generally to be avoided. For a man I'm inclined to think of as exceptionally cold it was lyrical and warm, surprisingly frank on the heart, and well structured. He didn't feel compelled to tell us all - self aware enough to edit even life for the good bits.
But this. If you rate Vidal, best not read it.
The voice is still there, the wonderfully shaded irony, his acidic cutting through spin in commentary on events. But it's mostly the final telegrams of an old man missing his dead partner and lamenting the death and decline of his America, his friends, his glittering life. Even the chapter length tells of his waning powers - a page or two at most, before he must rest.
The queerest thing of all was the three or so chapters where he rated academic and biographical writings on his own life and significance. One chapter is a complete quote from the book of an academic - like he was reading you his book review over the breakfast table.
Or perhaps he was worried that his words, his important words, were impermanent after all. Not etched on tablets for eternal reference. I'll be reading his collected essays for the rest of my life, as he himself never put down his Montaigne.
I am hoping for some unreleased essays and his correspondence to be published. But this second autograph of his life made me feel like I was feeding on carrion. ...more
Vivid memories of the effect this book had on me when my teacher Mrs Leish read this to us in grade four - and finding the edition I had then, a photoVivid memories of the effect this book had on me when my teacher Mrs Leish read this to us in grade four - and finding the edition I had then, a photo-realist painting of Ellen wearing the silver crown itself, her blue eyes unblinking as she enters into a trance - made me dare to read it again.
Let's face it, going back to your taste in grade four often is a big no-no.
I choreographed a dance to "angel in the centrefold" around that time. I studied ballet in the sense it was compulsory at my genteel school and I hated and sucked at it, the fat myopic girl in the back row.
I loved Mighty Isis. Need I go on?
So expected this book to pall but couldn't resist the seduction of the excitement I felt as each installment was read, standing behind Mrs Leish and massaging her shoulders (a favored task we all vied for, despite her dandruff).
It's still pacy and brutal, with kind adults that turn up at the right time to balance the horrible assassins and hunters that are trying to capture the children and the crown. I can now clearly finger Robert C. O'Brien and Russell Hoban as the architects of my love of arcana, a gnostic sense of the universe as likely to fuck you at any time (thanks, Demi-urge), and the seductive power of the quest, particularly with lots of detail about survival skills and self-sufficient children. OK, My Side of the Mountain might have to take the blame as well.
Still, the invocation of secret, evil knowledge, crazy self-aware machines made by monks invoking 'Hieronymus', mind-controlling stones etc is gibberish, pure and simple. Appealingly simple for ten-year-olds, who even then if I remember rightly, let the lameness slide a bit. Learning how to "deadfall" trap squirrels, throw knives and beat the bad guys will compensate for almost any McGuffin....more