I've vowed to spend 2015 filling in some gaps in my reading history by picking a single author each month and reading as many of their works I can asI've vowed to spend 2015 filling in some gaps in my reading history by picking a single author each month and reading as many of their works I can as well as a reputable biography of them. I've limited to my choices to authors who aren't one-hit wonders (eg. Heller) and whom are dead (I've a hunch that being alive prevents the greatest possible biography from being published).
Harry Crews is my first author and someone criminally under-read and unknown. I don't understand why we revere someone like Bukowski, yet Crews is out-of-print in the country. start by reading his short piece Fathers, Sons, Blood in this collection and tell me he's not an incredible writer.
In thinking about this reading project I began to establish a shortlist that is now rather long. It includes:
F.Scott Capote Patricia Highsmith Tolstoy Joyce Jack London Hesse P.G.Wodehouse Evelyn Waugh Amis (Snr) Vonnegut Graham Greene David Foster Wallace GG Marquez Carson McCullers Twain Borges Patrick White Steinbeck Norman Mailer Gore Vidal Iris Murdoch Whitman Saul Bellow Joseph Conrad Katherine Mansfield Bruno Travern Henry James EM Forster Faulkner Bolaño Fante J.G. Ballard Richard Yates Orwell Proust Nabakov
A good solid adventure story. Infinitely readable, one might say, but why do modern American writers so often feel they need to write characters who aA good solid adventure story. Infinitely readable, one might say, but why do modern American writers so often feel they need to write characters who are too 'smartsy'. It grates. Another example of this phenomenon is Karen Joy Fowler's 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves'....more
Goat Mountain closes out Vann's autobiographical tetralogy and it's obvious the material has now run its course.
Whilst the author absolutely masters tGoat Mountain closes out Vann's autobiographical tetralogy and it's obvious the material has now run its course.
Whilst the author absolutely masters the eerie monolithic silence between fathers and sons he has proved yet again that actual dialogue is his Achilles heel.
Not only that, the plot of Goat Mountain could have been condensed into an eighty page novella. The rest is edifice, beautiful tone and verse to be true, but dressing something that you feel is never really there. It's style over substance and may be Vann's least sucessful, and at the same time, most starkly artistic work. I'd never quite got the comparisons to Cormac McCarthy but in Goat Island's Old Testament-isms the author's forebear is well present and that's saying nothing of the veiled use of the central conceit of 2005's The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (the best film plot never written by McCarthy).
While it's obviously time for Vann to move on if every author gets their first for free, Vann has had a charitable start.
I itch to get my hands on any new Cormac work as soon as it it's released and this was no exception. I'm not sure though how to rate The Counsellor. II itch to get my hands on any new Cormac work as soon as it it's released and this was no exception. I'm not sure though how to rate The Counsellor. I don't read that many screenplays and found myself at times reading it as a novel which is unfair to both author and work. That aside I did find that at times I felt I was reading earlier works by C.Mac, mostly No Country for Old Men. There are the welcome and familiar tricks and punctuation-frugal bleakness but on the most part I felt I was reading something harvested and hen-pecked from prior triumphs. There is also a deep resonance with John Sayles' 2013 film Go For Sisters.
Perhaps the author has earnt his reduced duties. He's eighty now and he hasn't released a novel since 2006. Perhaps we won't be blessed with another. That there is a very sad thing. It may be all plays and screenplays from here on in. Perhaps it's time to re-read his works. Still, he could release a dried turd and I'd be putting in my advance order....more
Proper review coming. For now, some small thoughts...
Firstly, I feel so conflicted by this book. I wish I could post about it without having to give iProper review coming. For now, some small thoughts...
Firstly, I feel so conflicted by this book. I wish I could post about it without having to give it a star rating. Is it important? Ultimately, I don't think so, other than for literature professors and historians and for people who think reading choice is about demonstrating how intelligent you are. Is it a masterpiece? It certainly is. Is it a big wank? Undeniably. Should you bother? In the time it takes to read IJ you could read many, many works of greater importance. Life is short.
Bageant's strong suit is the charting of the historical origins of the current plight of many Americans. There is however a distastefully pessimisticBageant's strong suit is the charting of the historical origins of the current plight of many Americans. There is however a distastefully pessimistic and woe-is-us-ness strain to this book. At no point does Bageant suggest that individual agency could hold a key for many of the less fortunate characters he profiles.
Sure, many of the US's social problems lie in the illusion that it is a meritocracy, that anyone can be president you just gotta try etc. but by the end of this book I had developed quite a disdain for his people. I grew up in the country myself, in a red-necked, impoverished part of Australia to lower middle class parents, went to public schools. I know what it feels like to be out of all the loops, however I found Bageant's attitude overly defeatist.
Additionally, I found the chapter on gun control utterly infuriating on so many levels. Added to all of this Bageant argues at one point that the northern liberals dismiss every idea and point of view emanating from The South as some hick clap-trap, that by caricaturing them, their opinions are rendered worthless. Yet throughout Deer Hunting with Jesus Bageant applies the converse approach to northern Democrats, typifying them variously as lily-livered, not knowing one end of a gun from the other, emotionally undone by any and every celebrity-lead campaign for animal or human rights, and on...
Three stars in this instance are for the insight into the American psyche and the social and military history of his people. None for the solutions offered or the stubborn redneck pride.