When a novelist waits to the fading end of his career to write his memoir, there is a risk that he may assume that everything about his life is intereWhen a novelist waits to the fading end of his career to write his memoir, there is a risk that he may assume that everything about his life is interesting to his fans—that his greatness in the world can propel a reader through any mundane episodes or trivia pertaining to his life (or worse, his intellectual development). I think it’s best to get this kind of thing out of the way with a first novel (“Stephen Hero” style), since the egoism of youth may excuse the tendency to write about the play you saw, the book you read, the performance of something in Paris, etc.; whereas grown, humble men frequently become aware that some of their reflections and aesthetic experiences do not translate well to public prose. Brink’s incautious, include-it-all approach to this dry, decades-spanning narrative is poor tactics.
After an outstanding belly flop of a forward, Brink manages sixty odd pages of action-packed, suitably colorful, somewhat standard narrative of youth discovering hierarchy, sex, doubt and art. And he does this with an even-handedness about racial matters that is exceptional for a white South African author of his generation. It’s refreshing to see the readiness with which Brink will reveal the cruelties of his own race/community and refreshing, also, that he doesn’t do this only to absolve himself of following it up with an even more savage account of cruelty orchestrated by black South Africans.
But then, pretty much from the moment that he starts rambling about tennis and the rugby in his bones (around page 70)—and sadly, at about the time I’d hoped his narrative would get raw and fascinating, shedding light on the South African counter-culture and apartheid opposition—his narrative focus unravels. Perhaps because at this point, chronologically, he becomes a notable agent, he sacrifices the art of writing to the practice of situating himself on the world historical scale by iterating minute and insignificant conversations, letters, non-events.
I tried to reconnect with this book for the next two hundred pages; but after a few paragraphs, I’d feel like Brink was rambling on, peppering re-narrated history with the odd personal anecdote that authorizes him to do so. He seemed to think I ought to be interested in this story and stopped using language craftily in order to earn that attention, stopped organizing his narrative into something capable of creating, holding and manipulating tension and interest. It starts to feel like he’s interviewing himself; it’s hasty and informal. Getting walked through each novel, the reception of every public pronouncement . . . not interesting. Not unless you are Wole Soyinka.
Compare “A Fork in the Road” to Wole Soyinka’s “You Must Set Forth at Dawn” and you will see what Brink’s book fails to be. Of course, Soyinka was more deeply involved, more personally and dangerously involved in the struggles of his country than Brink was in the affairs of South Africa—where he faced the odd hostile review or bout of censorship vs. Soyinka’s life and death hunter/hunted stance vis a vis a bag of dictators—and this makes Soyinka’s life (the raw material of his narrative) more interesting. But there is much in common with the literary project that the two African writers undertook and they both include stories and reflections of a non-suspenseful/political nature. It’s just that Brink writes lazily and with less humor and fire.
If I seem too uncharitable towards Brink it is simply because I am not cutting him any slack because of fellow feeling or solidarity with his good politics. Only a burning interest in this particular man, a devotion to South African matters (or a compulsion to finish what you start) could propel you through this memoir. ...more
This is the fourth book of Nabokov's that I have refused to finish. I give up. He's so frickin' precious, overwrought and smug. The self-satisfactionThis is the fourth book of Nabokov's that I have refused to finish. I give up. He's so frickin' precious, overwrought and smug. The self-satisfaction that radiates disingenuously through everything he writes makes him incapable of genuine, non-theoretical nuance. Put differently, when I look at what Nabokov is trying to show me, I feel like he has placed gaudy tinted sunglasses on my face that prevent me from seeing the actual truth or beauty of things and I want to rip them off. There's something sterile or clinical about him that I find repellent. Many of my friends disciple around in his courtyard; and I recognize the depth of his vocabulary, his command of English, his consistency of voice, his edginess, his cleverness, his attention to structure, etc. etc. etc. I just HATE his style.
Not unless I'm forced will I read another word by this absolute head-up-ass dreck-merchant. I was prepared to be a very sympathetic reader; I was primNot unless I'm forced will I read another word by this absolute head-up-ass dreck-merchant. I was prepared to be a very sympathetic reader; I was primed and ready for some snappy and devastating criticisms of America; but Baudrillard is too concerned with manufacturing what he must think are theoretical pronouncements to actually observe his surroundings. He certainly didn't need to travel to write this shmarmy and useless rubbish pit of a book; he probably had the whole thing outlined before he started smirking his way off whatever airplane dropped him in the country. He is also wrong about everything and racist.
I couldn't get too far past his chapter on "New York" in which the following trash nuggets can be found:
"Why do people live in New York? There is no relationship between them. Except for an inner electricity which results from the simple fact of their being crowded together. A magical sensation of contiguity and attraction for an artificial certainty . . . There is no human reason to be here, except for the sheer ecstasy of being crowded together."
of breakdancing: "You might say that in curling up and spiralling around on the ground like this, they seem to be digging a hole for themselves within their own bodies, from which to stare out in the ironic, indolent pose of the dead."
"For me there is no truth in America. I ask of the Americans only that they be Americans. I do not ask them to be intelligent, sensible, original. I ask them only to populate a space incommensurate with my own, to be for me the highest astral point, the finest orbital space."
He can ask me to kick his ass into the finest orbital space any time he wants. If you'd like my copy of this book, come and get it....more
I didn't think I'd end up dropping this book onto the ignominious shelf; but I can't bring myself to pick it up again. More than anything, I object toI didn't think I'd end up dropping this book onto the ignominious shelf; but I can't bring myself to pick it up again. More than anything, I object to the stupid, badly written female character who reads like a doe-eyed, imbecile impossibility.
Even against the backdrop of heady, post-war brothel-bestrewn Paris, Cendrars does not entice. There is some weird, acquisitive, distant and uncomprehending lolita thing going on in this book; but without any psychological depth.
"What glorious days, so hot, so long! When Mamma comes to see me, they stuff me with chocolates so that I won't cry. I forget so much, so many things. I remember that Papa loved to have me with him. Always. As often as possible. And I too loved going out with him."
I don't care what happens and I only have forty pages left....more
This was an accidental purchase, made hastily in a used bookstore because the price seemed right and because the spine only said "Murakami." After aboThis was an accidental purchase, made hastily in a used bookstore because the price seemed right and because the spine only said "Murakami." After about two paragraphs, it began to seem very unlikely that Harukai Murakami was responsible for the flavorless, graceless and awkward prose. I checked the publishing date and thought, well, okay, it was an early effort . . . I'll give it a chance. After ten pages or so, I gave the book the sort of thorough exploration that would have prevented me from buying it and discovered that I wasn't reading something by an author who I respect and enjoy. But that's not Ryu's fault, so I read another 60 pages and I want my time back.
His characters are flat and predictable. He lacks the confidence to let his story-telling communicate subtleties and has a penchant for lame summary sentences that are designed to drive home his blatant and tedious moments of character definition.
The dialogue is deplorable. I might have given the title characters some time; but as soon as the "Anemone" section started I began to consider not finishing this book. When the description of "Toxitown" was over, I was pretty sure I wouldn't make page 100 and when the murderous cab driver with his unrealistic monologue held forth, I put the book back into my bag and started reading something else that had seemed really slow to me before, which really triumphed in the contrast.
Avoid this unless you have never read experimental fiction before or unless you feel like "edginess" or shock value are acceptable substitutes for talent....more
It is not because of “City of Glass” that I am continuing into the second book of this trilogy; it is because the second installments are contained beIt is not because of “City of Glass” that I am continuing into the second book of this trilogy; it is because the second installments are contained between the same covers and I neglected to bring an alternate book to the office. It takes hard work to make detective stories dull and to suck the intrigue out of mystery; but Auster seems to know how it’s done. It seems like he had just finished grad school and was filled with the conviction that contriving a book around concepts masquerading as characters who stumble around in symbolic relationship to each other would give readers a wonderful chance to engage with his totally unoriginal thinking on millennia old matters such as chance and free will. His digressions into the age of exploration and the origins of language are entirely forgettable. I hate books that hinge on cleverness; but I pity books that aspire (how ambitious) towards cleverness and fail, ever, to arrive there....more