Oblivion - consigned to, by some class act who deleted the pdf and the accompanying seven reviews and 103 rati)(^*&^%$*^#$$)*($*(%*(_Q_^*#%&^!
Oblivion - consigned to, by some class act who deleted the pdf and the accompanying seven reviews and 103 ratings of Good Old Neon without the simple foresight to MERGE said pdf listing with the final collection (and for those of you who don't think it was sufficient as a standalone check out the Mighty Jumbuck's review of this listing) of join-the-dots-as-stories by DFW.
Read no further if you've read already (with apologies to the appreciated commenters who rest in the dustbin of moronic efficiency):
First, the reality that you haven’t amounted to anything, and that you won’t amount to anything. The simple logic based on analysing the world and your place in it, what you lack that is required to make an impact upon it, that leads to this realisation that you are a vessel not of unfulfilled dreams, but unattainable aspirations arising from a misinformed sense of your own self, your own capabilities. What you want to be, what you would like to imagine yourself to be, what you in millisecond fits of reverie lie to yourself about being, and what you are, equal all that which never moves beyond the mundane, no matter the craving for credit, the addiction to acceptance, the relishing of recognition.
Second, the knowledge that you are a coward, and worse, a hypocrite. That you know of the iniquities that pervade the planet, of the injustices that plague the poor, and you bleat banalities like weed your own lawn before mowing the neighbour’s and poverty is relative and reduce, re-use, and re-cycle and only bite off what can be chewed and caring is sharing to excuse yourself from any action that might alter the privileged status quo of your own existence or re-dress the global imbalance between the haves and the have-nots—much less effort to be an almost-have than a deliberate have-not.
Third, the realisation that neither philosophy nor fear, love nor logic, reason nor reaction provides sufficient impetus to continue the farce of the quotidian, that the search for definitive meaning bears no fruit, that existence is nothing more than the animated collision and collusion of attracted atoms in a particular, momentary array, irrespective of whether by external design or internal happenstance. That the overwhelming sense of staleness, of weariness, of having exhausted the rationale not to break the bonds of those atoms and scatter these in the cosmic wind, is the natural result of that reality, that knowledge, that realisation. What remains is less a choice, more an implacable fact, the freedom to act.
With this, you consider, having seen the suffering created by those who depart and experienced by those who remain, how you can ameliorate grief and even exculpate guilt. You prepare documents, make transfers, ensure a semblance of stability, you create an unfolding fabrication to explain your disappearance which you hope will protect your beloved child, just entering high-school, from the imagined effects the actuality of your death might have. You consider whether to leave a letter for your spouse, or perhaps a video, a momento, an attempt to detail how you always believed that you could thwart the death drive by loving and being in love, by finding, according to that hoary old romantic folly, the one person with whom to spend the rest of your life. That the rest of your life was shorter than the length suggested by the emotional contract you signed was as much a surprise to you as it will be to that person, discovering first via credit card statement the hospital bill for a procedure undertaken in The Netherlands, when you were to have visited a friend in Rome, and the subsequent timed email with a link to a website about reviews of books....more
Contrary to the effulgent review here, less a brightfellow than something of a banalfrère.
The language is almost entirely devoid of Ducornet's usual vContrary to the effulgent review here, less a brightfellow than something of a banalfrère.
The language is almost entirely devoid of Ducornet's usual vivaciousness. She continues the arc of themes present in much of her earlier work, in particular parallelling The Fountains of Neptune, and includes the by-now ubiquitous figure of duty-derelict damaged mother and remote father as the protagonist's raison de faire, along with a supporting cast offering something of redemption. Ducornet's preoccupation with these archetypes suggests a Fraudian interpretation.
Worthy of reading, but not the crowning achievement of Ducornet's brilliant career....more
Return of the prodigal offspring? Legitimising in literature what is elsewhere acceptable...(now if we could only have someone do this for non-US lit.Return of the prodigal offspring? Legitimising in literature what is elsewhere acceptable...(now if we could only have someone do this for non-US lit...)...more
Eco makes abundant use of his prolific academic training to animate 19th Century history while applying delightful postmodern chicanery to blur fact aEco makes abundant use of his prolific academic training to animate 19th Century history while applying delightful postmodern chicanery to blur fact and fiction as well as finesse the whole with a protagonist suffering an identity crisis which can only be resolved through recourse to the theory and application of one of the 20th Century's greatest freudsters.
This is a return to the vivacity of language and ideas paraded in The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum while simultaneously demonstrating the degree of social manipulation of which individuals and institutions are capable through the exploration of postmodern and metafictional themes.
It is every bit as engrossing as these previous novels, but with a subtler and stealthier assault on the reader's intellect and emotions, leaving a nicely open-ended denouement as the reward, coupled with curiosity as to the origins of one of the most widespread and lengthiest perpetrations of ethnic and religious persecution that currently exists.
While realist writers have trodden the wearying path of portrayal of 20th Century atrocity, Eco has instead created, in the same vein as Ducornet deals with the topic in Entering Fire, a thoughtful and coherent (despite the seeming discontinuity of narrative) investigation of, and deeply noir satirical response to, enduring genocide.
As much a masterpiece as any of the lauded Latin Americans....more
Fortuitous circumstance, such as a relatively complete (since to what extent are friends not also?) stranger commenting on the thread of the review ofFortuitous circumstance, such as a relatively complete (since to what extent are friends not also?) stranger commenting on the thread of the review of The Avignon Quintet, encouraged an initially cursory but developing to in-depth perusal of establishment reviews (read New Yorker, Times, Guardian etc).
"The maximalist novel has a strong symbolic and morphological identity, with ten elements that define and structure it as a highly complex literary form: length, encyclopedic mode, dissonant chorality, diegetic exuberance, completeness, narratorial omniscience, paranoid imagination, inter-semiocity, ethical commitment, and hybrid realism... Although these ten features are not all present in the same form or intensity in each of these texts, they are decisive in defining them as maximalist novels, insofar as they are systematically co-present. These elements can individually be found in modernist and postmodern novels that are not maximalist; however, it is their co-presence and their reciprocal articulation that make them fundamental in demarcating the maximalist novel as a genre."
That short abstract colours this appraisal (interaction? consumption?) of 2666.
It's written about Mary Caponegro (a Ducornet protege and afficionado) that in All Fall Down she achieves for the parenthesis what X (read forgotten author name) achieves for footnotes (suggesting David Foster Wallace, since Susanna Clarke writes a completely different genre, and charges of ethnic discrimination aside, comparisons are most often made in the realm of shared nationality ( if not language) when the language common to the comparees is English).
The Part About The Critics:
Bolano has a thing or two (or three) about parentheses. And about discursion (heads up Shandyites), and seemingly, about the tones of threat, the shades of violence (despite one graphically cruel depiction, all other references to it are subtle and suggestive), saturating this first book, and the language (translator's prerogative notwithstanding) employed to create this sense of menace is where Bolano chiefly displays lyricism. Elsewhere, his prose is pedestrian, no curlicues or embellishments adorn either dialogue or the movement of his characters, or the free indirect discourse and narration (omniscient (view spoiler)[It's good ol' Arturo (hide spoiler)]) except when used to draw the reader's attention to character motivation.
In the context of content, Bolano has taken the trope of quest (four protagonists in search of their holy grail) and liberally sprinkled it with asides, a love story (of sorts), and moral contemplation, that cycle (circle?) the central themes of exploitation and chaos. Various characters (somewhere or other) comment on religion, politics, economics (as in the system used to allocate resource and value in society), art (visual and literary), the nature of time, the nature of reality, and philosophy (determinism vs chance). It's an absorbing, curious, and somewhat enigmatic blend, and although the story has a start, and a denouement for one aspect of the quest, it has no end, the quest itself is not fulfilled, and a sense of finality suggests that the story is already in transfer to the next bearer (pall? of the grail?) when the four protagonists admit their pursuit fruitless. It's not the goal, it's the journey, perhaps.
From the perspective of form, the first book hardly qualifies as exploratory. Re-reading pages from The Name of the Rose (502 pp) and The Avignon Quintet (1367pp) suggests that accolades heaped on 2666, while ambivalently deserved of the whole (being other than the sum of its parts) work, are almost idly extravagant, or at least, the lack of the same breathless adoration bestowed elsewhere implies a bias, evident in the definition of maximilist supplied above. Indeed, it seems macabrely ludicrous that one exuberant reviewer insists "Readers who have snacked on Haruki Murakami will feast on Roberto Bolano", as if the corpus embodies the corpse and the act of reading a displaced (misplaced?) form of necrophagy. Bolano is either laughing or crying in his grave.
Discovered in the shelves of the NLB (Singapore) after delving for ways and means to obtain Mosley's other works (consequence of connections: MJ NichoDiscovered in the shelves of the NLB (Singapore) after delving for ways and means to obtain Mosley's other works (consequence of connections: MJ Nicholls --> Verbivoracious Press --> The Sillybus --> contributor Shiva Rahbaran on Mosley's work via the Dalkey Archive Press website --> must-read-soon --> must go to library even sooner....more
Nicholls and Forester have succeeded in not only selecting a stellar collection of neglected writers to fete, but in nabbing, not only some rather welNicholls and Forester have succeeded in not only selecting a stellar collection of neglected writers to fete, but in nabbing, not only some rather well-known artistic or literary figures, but a broad swathe of contributors from around the globe, all of whom bring her or his own unique perspective, whether critical or in mimicry, to the text(s) forming The Syllabus. Not a slight achievement for an unfunded nano-press only slightly over a year old.
The texts are, without doubt, and testament to the generosity of the contributors, the stars of the show, covering a remarkable multilingual range of innovation (in both form and content) from the 18th Century to the present (conspicuous by its absence is any work from the 19th - an unintended oversight or a comment on the quality of writing from that period?) and featuring the works of writers from the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
Several common themes emerge from the collection, vivid in the works presented as well as the respective commentaries thereon: -how capitalism has rendered art a commodity -how art is deemed of less importance to individual and community (spiritial health-wealth) than material satisfaction (dramatised in every day life by the budget cuts of governments to fund unconventional literature) -how the unconventional most aptly criticises that which is corrupt in society -how "realism" has leant itself to supporting the entrenched power structures against which art seeks, by breaking established boundaries, to harry and denounce -how language has been reduced to a medium capable of expressing only the most mundane and un-nuanced of concepts/experiences
A reminder that Finnegans Wake is still in progess (of being read) is the delightfully scallywagish piece by Irish lass Fionnuala, artist and critic Nate provides a singularly thoughtful piece on Erowina, which he also introduced for Verbivoracious in its reprint of Tom Mallin's neglected work, The Penk writes an essay on being the essayist of the first good novel (The Museum of Eterna's Novel) that sends the reader scurrying to find out more about this first good novel (no mean feat!), La Vache qui rit waxes lyrical about Amis' The Information, and God's peace doesn't wilt at the task of describing just as innovatively as the subject material the pleasures of 99 stylistic positions (of a text, of course).
Does The Syllabus succeed in encouraging readership of the works listed? Incontrovertibly - it's a neat reference (albeit not along the lines of Steven Moore's double-barrelled block-buster The Novel: An Alternative History: Beginnings to 1600The Novel: An Alternative History, 1600-1800, which incidentally, is given an exemplary airing by none other than Nathan, who rightly notes its deserved place in a syllabus of writers of the unconventional - Moore himself rocked established literary and academic circles with his alternative view on the history of the novel, and any self-respecting literary afficionado should make Moore's work essential reading) to works that are sadly ignored or have barely been discovered - one contributor laments that his championed novel has been mentioned to him twice in his life, and both times by editors asking him to write about that same novel.
Watch the to-be-consideread shelf for all the newly discovered treasures in The Syllabus waiting to be plundered . . . ...more
Typically not listed in Scott's oeuvre, this novel was published after The Narrow House as Narcissus in the US (the latter title far more apt for thTypically not listed in Scott's oeuvre, this novel was published after The Narrow House as Narcissus in the US (the latter title far more apt for the subject matter).
In an excellent interview here, Will Self pontificates on the nature of suspension of disbelief in the modern society, that we are, for want of a better word, too sophisticated to blindly accept narrative at face value, thus selectively choosing to suspend or sustain disbelief when confronted with a narrative, most examples of which, in latter years, are sufficiently self-aware of the relationship between reader and writer to, at the very least, give a passing nod of acknowledgement to that aspect. In short, the reader knows that the writer knows that both are thinking of the other during the creation and consumption of the text, if not contemporaneously (unless dealing with a live chat marketing bot either selling products or trying to figure out the winning calculus that results in that). Or to paraphrase Umberto Eco, when swapping declarations of love, a couple will say "As [romance writer] would write, I love you madly." The arm's length is the new up-close-and-personal.
It's that warped (jaded) or (other)worldliness that leaps in the fray here and languidly (the negligent flick of the proverbial wrist) labels this work a conflicted caricature of what most likely surrounded Evelyn Scott during her formative years. Were it a satire, it would probably less likely irk for its mismatched dialogue with authorial comment and lapses in free indirect style. Instead, it is a sincerely related tragedy of manners, finely depicting class and gender distinctions prevalent during the period of writing (pre 1922), with all the contradictions of convoluted emotions that arise between what is said, what is done, and what is conveyed as neither, to the observer privy to a character's thoughts less-than-wholly disguised as the author's own preoccupations.
The contents must have been largely regarded as inflammatory at the time: adultery, a teenage date-rape, descriptions of paedophiliac lust (and vice versa), written in a crisp style of exceedingly well-executed diction (which contributes to this reader's sense of unease, that the whole is so distinctly incongruent in its parts).
Scott's writing evinces the strangulation on the will to act and choice of behaviour by which the social mores and expectations of the day equally constricted individuals. It makes an excellent historical study of the styles accepted (and assumed) as part of narrative composition during the period, and when contrasted with how literary styles have (d)evolved during the last hundred years, while simultaneously highlighting the extreme discrepancy between actions, speech, and imputed thoughts, it makes worthwhile reading, if for these reasons alone....more
"The Utopian" as a title might be interpreted to signify an individual (ostensibly the co-starring lead character in the book) or it might also indica"The Utopian" as a title might be interpreted to signify an individual (ostensibly the co-starring lead character in the book) or it might also indicate that which is of the nature of being "utopian", and much like Huxley's Brave New World, the definition of what constitutes utopian is determined by the I of the Be Whole, dear.
Westlake juxtaposes the current state of world socio-politico-economic play (aka capitalism, free market etc), with its imagined antithesis (a society based on recreational pursuits with drudge tasks performed by technology, resources (including people and information) being freely able to move around the globe, self-organised at local, regional, and global levels, inter-personal relationships conducted without recourse to religious beliefs) through the interaction between the two antagonists, Mesmer and Gulliver, superficially that of patient (occupying the "utopian") and psychoanalyst (occupying "reality"), and creates an intertwined form of ab initio (Mesmer's third person past tense narrative) and in medias res (Gulliver's first person present tense). While Gulliver's commentary appears to prevail, the depiction of Mesmer's world is no less voluble in its rebuttal of Gulliver's (and obviously, neither name is an accident of writerly whimsy).
Within this structure, Westlake uses the note-taking or fact-presentation of the "case" to insert unalloyed details of human history and a litany of exploitation in the form of a series of lists (probably the longest literary list of the ills of modern civilisation extant) which form the impetus for Mesmer to choose self-delusion. Is not user-defined madness an agreeable escape from the imposed madness of the quotidian?
In keeping with the rejection of capitalism as a means for organising the productive use of resources, the text is spiced with alliterative neologisms, some of which approach a Brooke-Rose standard of invention and irony, eg moister-oyster, clitoral-littoral, sexed-text, sifting-shifting etc (complete with a dictionarised translation, as though, in the guise of Gulliver, Westlake is concerned his readers (such as they are) may not, from the context, discern the meaning, a concession CB-R would have generally eschewed (sorry Nathan)), and England's towns and counties are given a word-lift, of sorts.
Westlake correctly parodies (ie without becoming the thing parodied) the genres of epic quests and self-confessionals, and perhaps somewhat precipitately, alludes to the final denouement, reminiscent of Adair's Death of the Author and A Closed Book. Naturally, an imagined utopia abounds in that which pervades all epic fantasy quests, magic, but it is of the technologically advanced kind, and considerably more sophisticated in its real-world scientific foundations than a Mieville steampunk universe.
If the work has shortcomings, two seem apt: the first is that current understanding of cell behaviour implies that exploitation of resources is a blueprint at the cellular level (a tactic for gene survival, which may not dovetail with the strategy for species survival), and the text avoids any discussion of the impetus as to how capitalism is subverted other than the standard rhetoric of violent overthrow (itself a pattern of behaviour mirrored at the cellular level), in other words, Westlake presents a nicely integrated fait accompli based upon some other blueprint for social cohesion, the fundamentals of which at once hark back to the same violent underpinnings of current society (an equivalently valid and accurate accusation leveled at Marx for ignoring relativity theory (interaction of observer and observed) and time in his treatise on political economy) and the second being the sexuality expressed from the perspective of only one gender (and in particular, variations on a theme which predominantly reflect the commonly shared fantasies of that gender), despite the implied equivalent validity of the sexes and sexual relations inherent in a non-capitalist, non-religious based model of human interaction. Westlake's recourse to the Male Volence of Fraud Friend Freud may explain this lop-sided tendence.
The book, given its cross-genre dressing, should appeal to a broader spectrum of readers than it currently enjoys. Alas, unless it's made available as a reprint, that's probably not likely to change....more
Onions, apart from flatulatory and halitository affects, are layered vegetables causing a variety of reactions, depending upon the consumer.
Westlake's book falls in the same category.
Superficially the story unfolds (non-linearly - almost resembling a moebius strip, but closer to being an arrow looping across its own shaft multiple times) through the perspectives of the four protagonists, two sisters born in Russia, and the two men (born in Africa) they meet, against the backdrop of an alternative 20th century history, allowing a satirical edge to the work (fact vs fiction demonstrates the Swiftian-type commentary, which is, however, no commentary conveyed by an authorial author - the narrator is entirely absent) while simultaneously combining the themes of the last century in the spheres of ethics, music, sport, conflict (chess as the analogy), science, technology, health, economics, politics, psychology, religion, and philosophy.
The narrative structure alternates the view point of each of the protagonists, and each is generally unique (perhaps towards the end of the book, the "voices" of the two sisters collapse towards a similarity), with one character telling his story entirely in the future tense. A nod towards relativity theory, in that the same event is told more than once from a different perspective, emphasises the porous, fluid nature of the relationship between observed, observer, and recounting memory or what might have been, an oblique reference to the complicit knowledge shared by author and reader that the text is artifice, even if related with an almost ueber-realism (what saves it from regarding itself too seriously are some outrageously over-the-top events which transpire, even while being related as truth, as also quite likely purely imaginary).
The method of the telling also varies by character, for one it is the form of a diary/manuscript, the other a commentary on that, the third notes from the couch (significantly, the various selves retreat to oblivion with the removal of the couch, and hence the narrative of that character), and the fourth as pure conversation.
What of the content deriving from form? The perambulatory nature of the text is reflected similarly in the movements of the characters between countries and continents, and naturally, the ostensible occupations of all four match these requirements as well, giving rise to what could loosely (or lamely) be called an espionage thriller, without however, the standard "good guys win, bad guys lose" culmination. Indeed, the final denouement is anything but.
Of particular appeal is the aspect of puzzles, both within the book's narrative and as a means to read and glean meaning. Were the novel to be linear and a single perspective, it would be no more than another eye-through-the-lens sweeping the geopolitical history of a possible version of the twentieth century - perhaps entertaining, hardly attention-capturing. But neither does the narrative clobber the reader with insistent "Look at me, I'm being obviously abstruse!" - it mixes a judicious amount of the ridiculous and the sublime to approach the reader with subtlety and sidelong intent, a vague sense of "catch me if you can" mirroring the overt content of metaphorical rebus and exquisitely apt given the last line of the book.
One quibble - despite the in-keeping-with-character use of language, word choice at times appeared clumsy or perhaps carelessly chosen - a Russian speaker at pains to concoct Nabokovian sentences lapses a tad too often in very ordinary-sounding 21st century short-cut English. Perhaps because the edition read was the e-book version, more errors appeared in the text than might be found in the print version (just as likely a result of scanner technology as oversight).
Westlake deserves more readers. Find on Lulu.com - a steal at less than five bucks....more
The fourth and most appealing of the early "conventional" (a misnomer, nonetheless it is not the exploratory genre developed later by Brooke-Rose) novThe fourth and most appealing of the early "conventional" (a misnomer, nonetheless it is not the exploratory genre developed later by Brooke-Rose) novels, The Middlemen is humorous, witty, replete with clever commentary disguised as asides demonstrating CB-R's sharp intellectual ability to foretell the shape of things arriving.
Of interest also, according to letters in the Harry Ransome archive of her works and personal effects, is the history surrounding the making of this novel: after a particularly acrimonious period with her sibling, CB-R sought to create a character based on her sister and more sympathetic to a reader than the role she gave herself in the book. Whether she succeeded is best determined by delving between its covers.