Authors who commit suicide find their Lovelybones-eye view from the afterlife brings them no comfort:
David Foster Wallace : Oh my God - look at that d...moreAuthors who commit suicide find their Lovelybones-eye view from the afterlife brings them no comfort:
David Foster Wallace : Oh my God - look at that dreadful biography of me... and it's selling too... it's like they're murdering me all over again ... oh if I could only commit suicide all over again - but up here, you can't!
John Kennedy Toole : Oh shut up you preening self-regarding self-annotating depressing pedant, what about ME?? My God, if I'd only persevered for another year or so, I'd have been rich! Famous! Women would have wanted to sleep with me... maybe! Look at those sales figures! I'm so miserable! If there was only a way to commit suicide again up here again... but there isn't....
B S Johnson : Put a sock in it - your situation is, admittedly, redolent of a sublime irony, but the afterlife of a real artist - me - not you, me - a real avant-gardist, a true believer - is wretched - look - hardly any of my God damned books are in print any more. No one loves them, just the odd post-grad creep scribbling a note in the margins of something unreadable. If there was only a way to commit suicide again up here again... but there isn't....
Sylvia Plath : Bloody men! Up here! Again! No escape! And look! They're giving Ted Hughes a plaque in Westminster Abbey! Fuck!
Excellent account but my God the French Revolution was total merde and completely exhausting. Frankly, it's one damned thing after another - each thin...moreExcellent account but my God the French Revolution was total merde and completely exhausting. Frankly, it's one damned thing after another - each thing usually being more hacked about and with more bleeding orifices than the last one. Hard to figure out who was left alive in Paris after 1795, fully functioning necks being a rare luxury. There is the usual can't-see-the-wood-for-the-trees problem in this book as with most historiography - I would moan that the participants in this dizzy dance of death should be grasped more meaningfully than jargonny epithets like enrages, Septembrists, Dantonists, Montagnards, or Thermidoreans allow - but I can't deny that the whole thing rattles along faster than a tumbril en route to the Place de la Chop Your Head Off, and those tumbrils were fast.
Invite to dinner : Danton. He was a laugh.
Not to invite to dinner: Robespierre. Unless you like lectures over the buttered trout. (less)
This slim and very very controversial novel written by a philosopher and not a novelist imagines that Hitler survived the bunker, was smuggled to Sout...moreThis slim and very very controversial novel written by a philosopher and not a novelist imagines that Hitler survived the bunker, was smuggled to South America, and then captured by a crack Israeli commando team, and hauled through the jungle to face trial in Israel. The novel is mostly the ancient Hitler ranting at his Jewish captors. As has been said elsewhere, the whole book is a platform for Hitler's amazing speech of self-justification at the end of the book. When it was first published - anonymously - people could not believe what they were reading. I summarise the speech as follows :
Hitler explains that
a) the Jews invented the idea of the absolute God (Old Testament) and infected humanity with a belief which wrecked all chance of ordinary human happiness;
b) then they invented impossible ethical standards (New Testament) which increased the misery;
c) then they invented communism which is the demand for a perfect society now, and has thus caused total chaos throughout the 20th century;
d)regarding the Third Reich - really if you look at the thing objectively my crimes (this is Hitler speaking) pale beside everyone else's which seem now to be swept under the carpet of history - Stalin's crimes, the 20 million dead in the Belgian Congo, Vietnam, the list goes on; I was one amongst many;
e)anyway (and here's the bit which pissed everyone off and which led to Steiner publishing the book anonymously) the Jews ought to be grateful to me because without me there'd be no Israel.
The last point is like Steiner throwing in a very cruel joke. Does anyone have a black enough sense of humour to appreciate it?
You don't need another Coca Cola Or the latest Francis Ford Coppola You don't need a holiday in Angola You need this novel by Emile Zola It's raw like a b...moreYou don't need another Coca Cola Or the latest Francis Ford Coppola You don't need a holiday in Angola You need this novel by Emile Zola It's raw like a bad case of ebola It's atomic like gay enola Not pretty like a gladiola Or sweet like a tune from a old victrola He told the truth like the Ayatollah He was revolutionary like Hizbollah He never needed no payola He didn't have a Motorola He wrote the truth, he was Emile Zola Like a panel he was solar Nineteenth century rock and roller He put Balzac back in his baby stroller And this ain't no litcrit hyperbola (less)
Gaun tae have tae gi this yin the auld heave ho an I didnae even get tae page 100 neither. Ye wantae know whut this shitpile is like? Et's like tae dr...moreGaun tae have tae gi this yin the auld heave ho an I didnae even get tae page 100 neither. Ye wantae know whut this shitpile is like? Et's like tae drive us fuckin cracked, is whut it's like. Et's jest the common nor garden shite that gaes on in this radge bastard's brain whit's a fuckin loser bus conductor in fuckin Glasgae back in the eighties, an the microscopic detail ae all the fuckin shite that happens in his miserable life like we's all gaggin tae read sich shite, an there's nae story, naebody does nae one slightly interestin fuckin thing, nae fights, okay a wee bit shaggin but ah tells ye ah've got mair erotic charge from yon average underwear advert, these bastards jest smoke endless ae them rollups an moan on about they desperate lives, enough tae make ye want to jump oot a fuckin windae so tis. Jest so youse don't think I'm spinnin some yarn here, I did this wee scan for yis tae prove ma point, see if ah'm tellin the absolute God's bollock honest truth :
A long queue had formed at the stop. The new driver was gazing into the display window of a nearby jeweller's shop. Their bus was late. When it finally arrived a great many folk got off but all of the queue climbed aboard. Hines waited until the other driver and conductor had stepped down, opening his case and preparing his ticket-machine. The driver was muttering. Fucking murder out there so it is ... His forehead glistened with sweat. While Hines adjusted the strap of his cashbag the new driver settled onto his seat in the cabin, and arranged his rearview mirror. The doors were still open. A few latecomers came rushing up and jumped on. Hines looked at them. Eh can you fix that mirror for me . . .? What? The new driver was pointing to the wing mirror just outside the doors. Hines leaned to fix it for him. A wee bit more to the left. Hines adjusted it and returned inside immediately, and stood with his back to the cabin. At least 10 people were standing along the aisle. He gazed at them; then climbed to the top deck and found some seats to be empty. Back down the stairs he said: 5 only inside now and the rest of yous up the stair.
Ah mean, fair play an all, could you be readin 240 pages ae that shite in the few measly hours a free time ye get in yer workin week? Ah'm no genius here, an all, but ah'm guessin that the answer might well be an uncompromisin negative on that score.
Mary Gaitskill is a bad writer. This is from page 176:
'Have I upset you?' asked Deana. 'No, no.' Connie looked up. 'I understand what you're saying, but...moreMary Gaitskill is a bad writer. This is from page 176:
'Have I upset you?' asked Deana. 'No, no.' Connie looked up. 'I understand what you're saying, but that wasn't the case with Alice. I never acted vulnerable around her. And actually I don't really agree with you. I may have done that to you because I responded to you sexually, but in general, I don't.' Deana shrugged. 'Well, I only know what I've seen. I'm just trying to come up with an answer for you because you seem so distressed.' She stood and collected the dishes. Her fingers and hands, Constance thought, had an exposed, strangely cold and receptive quality, like the nose of a puppy. As she was watching her clear the table and take the dishes to the kitchen, she could see the many aspects of her lover come forward and shyly recede with each movement; her rigid, stubborn arms, her strong shoulders positioned in a soft, demure curve, her stern chin, her luminous forehead, her odd way of stiffly holding back and gently, curiously moving forward - all spoke of her radial gradations of tenderness, sorrow and radiant, fanlike intelligence.
It's awful. How do fingers and hands have an exposed, strangely cold and receptive quality? Or should that be plural? Is a puppy's nose receptive? Why are the arms stubborn? How can they be rigid if they're gathering dishes? "her strong shoulders positioned in a soft, demure curve" - it's so cack-handed and awkward. How do you hold back and move forward at the same time? Wouldn't you topple over forwards? Not so demure then, I think. And "radial gradations of tenderness" - could be talking about the fine qualities of a steak just purchased from the butcher. Or anything else. Enough. I thought MG's stories were going to be clever salacious fun but they're so blah - er, what's the posh word - affectless. If this book was a record it would be one of those Lou Reed albums he made in the 1980s which no one, not even his fans, listen to any more.(less)
The problem is that one third of this novel is spoken by Oliver, who talks like the cheese shop customer in the Monty Python sketch :
I was sitting in...moreThe problem is that one third of this novel is spoken by Oliver, who talks like the cheese shop customer in the Monty Python sketch :
I was sitting in the public library on Thurmon Street just now, skimming through "Rogue Herries" by Hugh Walpole, and I suddenly came over all peckish. And I thought to myself, "a little fermented curd will do the trick," so, I curtailed my Walpoling activites, sallied forth, and infiltrated your place of purveyance to negotiate the vending of some cheesy comestibles!
And this is Julian Barnes' Oliver :
Things were just a touch grim at the Shakespeare School before it occluded its portals for the vacation. A certain crepuscularity of spirit had sauntered in, courtesy of a mis- understanding which I hadn't bothered to trouble the prancing Squire and his Milady with.
Oliver is so extraordinarily grating that it's hard to imagine anyone volunteering to be in the same room with him, never mind being his friend, never mind wanting to shag him. He talks like a caricature of a highly strung gay man from the 1960s. Incessantly. I couldn't believe in the central friendship between him and dull banker Stuart and I couldn't believe that the charming but also fairly dull Gillian would want to bother with either and when we get to her so very metaphorical day job of picture restoration with its essential "reversability" I think that this book is actually a cartoon which is trying to grow up to become a novel, but can't...quite...make it.(less)
Oh the brows that furrowed like broiling cauliflowers – name the names… who first were they?
Garima, M J Nicholls and bashful Ian Graye too, who kept his heart enclosed in heelskin normally, also from Nick Craske- which were a match for the beads…chatoyant…like Christ’s eyes…and from Hadrian and his lovely daughters April Meows Often With Scratching and Jennifer while later on as the night wore on and the watchmen wearied and ginger cookies served and the mumbo jumbo didn’t stir them unless it was the stain of beets and three more long paragraphs with a beautiful line somewhere in the middle
O William Gass Such a pain in the ass His difficult prose Gets right up my nose
Indifferent as Jesus’ dad’s backside. Palmyra. Ninevah. Corinth. Devonshire Road. He jerked his head he arched his back he scratched his ventricles he shrieked aloud when he saw he had another 125 pages left
O O Omensetter Will you ever get much better?
O O Reverend P When the oysters all leave the sea
And anyway, here's a nice riddle I thought thy brow was high but it turns out to be middle
Yay, thou miserable gainsayer. Gnaw your own innards. Thou’rnt good enough to be the seat on mine own privy shouldst not thou payest thy five star homage. Three is it? Three? Ugh. Ugh. Not a single pig’s bladder. The penis in repose – shall we not say it is much like a badger in a snowdrift? No, not at all! Grr! Hmm! Now I intend to put my finger up my nose! Or your nose! Or somebody's nose!
O mistress Mary May I fumble your wambles? Nay, you are so hairy I’d rather use a candle
If you ever want to find out what it's like being the only sober person in a room full of professors telling each other jokes in Latin and heffing and...moreIf you ever want to find out what it's like being the only sober person in a room full of professors telling each other jokes in Latin and heffing and hawing and pulling each others' beards, here's a good place to start.
Big disappointment. This is all about an Ethiopian refugee who's now been in Washington DC for 17 years and runs a grocery store in a poor neighbourho...moreBig disappointment. This is all about an Ethiopian refugee who's now been in Washington DC for 17 years and runs a grocery store in a poor neighbourhood. Now the author must know whereof he speaks, but I could hardly believe the picture he painted. In 17 years, we are to understand that Sepha, our immigrant, has made precisely two friends. And these two friends have only made two friends - each other. And none of these three immigrant friends have got married or had any long term relationships. Really? Their lives have been lived in a state of suspended animation otherwise known as mild coma, life as it is lived when you can't find the remote control. I may be as far as it is possible from being an Ethiopian immigrant, but I could not believe this stuff. The other thing is that this novel is relentlessly downbeat. You scour the pages for an echo of an upbeat - oh, was that one? Nah. Everything goes from bad to worse. If a little sprig of hope grows up (as in the lovely friendship between Sepha and his neighbour's daughter) you can be sure it will be squashed without mercy a few pages down the line. Eventually - well, actually quite quickly - this novel wears out its welcome. Sepha is such a refined, Dostoievsky-munching languid deadbeat. He can't be arsed to open up his shop most of the time. He lets everything fall into graceless decay, and that's okay by him because - well, because of the ghastly trauma suffered back in Addis Ababa when his father was shot as an imperialist lackey. That's bad all right, and it might be enough to paralyse the son's life. So okay, make this guy a minor character in some other Ethiopian immigrant's story, instead of making us wade through 228 pages of moping about.(less)
This novel - there's no other word, I suppose it's a novel - must have been written on a bet of some kind, like, I bet I can write something weirder...moreThis novel - there's no other word, I suppose it's a novel - must have been written on a bet of some kind, like, I bet I can write something weirder and grosser than YOU can or something, nothing else would explain it.
It made me laugh, but I do not expect it would have the same effect on anyone else.
Especially Elvis fans.
Sp please, if you're an Elvis fan, look away now.
But it's not anti-Elvis. It's...er...mmm....it's....
Words fail me. A quotation will have to suffice.
"When he was a foetus, Elvis used to wait till his Mom was asleep, carefully remove his umbilical cord, sneak out of her insides and head off into town. He usually wore the little tartan coat which Alfredo, their disgusting toy poodle, wore for his walks with Momsy on cold winter mornings. Elvis looked like a complete tosser in this outfit, what with the blood and the dog hairs, but what the fuck did he care? He was the unborn King of Rock 'n' Roll and if he wanted to go out naked except for a ridiculous tartan dog coat, he bastard well would. He'd steal cans of Delmonte pineapple chunks from the Magic Market on Centenary Road, Goole, England. 'Now's the time to rip stuff off,' he figured. 'Before I get any goddamn fingerprints.' One time when he got home he tried to crawl back inside Alfredo by mistake, but as any fool knows, you can't get to heaven in a biscuit tin (coz a biscuit tin's got biscuits in) and you can't fit an embryo up a dog's arse."
To be read in one afternoon while drinking heavily. (less)
THE PILGRIM 'S HEART IS LIGHT AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF HIS JOURNEY
So I will strap on my backpack and don sturdy walking boots, an oxygen tank might be u...moreTHE PILGRIM 'S HEART IS LIGHT AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF HIS JOURNEY
So I will strap on my backpack and don sturdy walking boots, an oxygen tank might be useful, and a supply of plasters and animal pelts - and then I will begin to scale the North Face of Modern American Literature. Let's see how far I get before I fall off one of its jagged cliffs or collapse choking with one of Mr DeLillo's sentences wrapped around my neck.
BUT DISCOURAGEMENTS ARISE UNBIDDEN
Update - Not even on page 100 and I have a sinking feeling. It's DeLillo's style. It's so very...er...ornate. No noun escapes without an adjective pinned to it, some of which are very odd - consider these from pages 63 to 65:
"... the little splat of human speech" [huh?:] "A bled-white sky with ticky breezes" [ticky? like a clock?:] "...a horseman with scabbarded rifle or a lone cameleer hunched in muslin on his dumb-headed beast" "...the studded vegetation" [with what?:] "...a clear night with swirled stars" [swirled?:]
Also this -
"There is something about old times that's satisfied by spontaneity. The quicker you decide, the more fully you discharge the debt to memory." Okay, what debt would that be? What's the logic here? Is this something our Don believes or is this something he wants us to believe this particular character believes? If so, why? Who has the time to figure out what it means anyway? Especially when there's another 762 ticky swirled studded scabbarded pages to go....
This isn't going so well.
DESPAIR INGULFS HIS HEART AND HE HEARS VOICES
And finally :
Once more despondent and unenthused, I zipped around the goodread reviews and found remarks such as
"... oh, god... this, this... painful verbal bukakefest is literally 800 pages of DeLillo jacking off at his computer over how deep and verbose he is. i wanted to punch him in the face and shake him, shouting, "JUST GET TO THE FUCKING PLOT, YOU SELF-LOVING PIECE OF SHIT." (from Ethan)
"I'll be honest and say that I don't remember much about this book other than an awful lot of baseball. This is partially because there is a lot of baseball in it" (from Chelsea)
"Ultimately, I don't think DeLillo knew what his story was about and tried to compenstate by adding more and more pages. Critics, never wanting to be the one who doesn't "get it", fawned and fellated the book, doing no favors to either the author or readers who mistakenly wade into this dank swamp and wonder why they're so dumb for not seeing the brilliance. And then they run back to James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks or some shit like that and we're all a little poorer in the end. ." (from Joseph)
and finally this from an online lit journal:
"Potentially intriguing plots which feature strongly in the earlier parts of the book - an intriguing serial killer subplot, the stories of each person who possesses the winning baseball - are abandoned halfway through the book in favour of overlong childhood memories or the inane ponderings of a performance artist; other stories are neglected for over 400 pages before reappearing at the end of the novel, causing an unwelcome jolt as the reader tries to remember the pertinent details."
THE PILGRIM CASTS THE DEVIL FROM HIM
I groaned and decided to place this great tome gently onto my "Abandoned Halfway And Will Never Finish Unless Some Very Unlikely DeLillo Fans Take My Family Hostage" shelf.(less)
Some people really like this big old thing. But it was yet another in the tedious catalogue of huge masculine overbearing egomaniacal penis novels abo...moreSome people really like this big old thing. But it was yet another in the tedious catalogue of huge masculine overbearing egomaniacal penis novels about a Big Man like, say, I the Supreme or Illywacker or Gould's Book of Fish or The Book of Evidence or Mein Kampf - boy, there's a lot of em. And it's the egomaniac's voice who narrates it. So you volunteer to have the guy bending your inner ear for page after page and no break. Maybe some readers channel their inner masochist and lie back and wallow in the hurling of the testosterone. Not me. I chucked it at the wall quite quickly. I could hear its fans screeching and clawing each other in genuine horror. But really, wordsmithery and large braininess will not save a book from the wall-hurl. The tone of voice was like the clench of rat-claws on a biscuit tin lid and I chose not to have that particular voice jabbering and gibbering and mewling in my ear for 600 pages. (less)