His first, and not a bad debut. A little pangs-of-first-love here, a little erudite irritations there, always the masterly control of phrasing and ton...more His first, and not a bad debut. A little pangs-of-first-love here, a little erudite irritations there, always the masterly control of phrasing and tone. It's kind of book that takes you a day to read but that's actually a good thing.
The last few pages really made it all come together- the very last page made me all verkempt.
Pleasantly light, slim and vivid. I was rushing to get somewhere and trying to beat the clock while I read about the main character doing the same and...more
Pleasantly light, slim and vivid. I was rushing to get somewhere and trying to beat the clock while I read about the main character doing the same and it was eerie how accurate N's sense of the experience was.(less)
Rocky in parts, scintillating in others. This was used as an example of how Nabokov is an heir to Dostoevsky and the juxtaposition makes a lot of sens...more Rocky in parts, scintillating in others. This was used as an example of how Nabokov is an heir to Dostoevsky and the juxtaposition makes a lot of sense. Not everybody can pull off Dusty's febrile insights and trademark moral intensity and questioning, and so most don't need to.
Nab's usual style is more about lucidity and taste and lyricism and suave asides...it's not his metier, in other words, and it's not his fault that ol' rusty Dusty got there first(less)
Brutally well-written. Haunting and disturbing. N's bitter farewell to his uncomfortable decade-plus in Berlin and with a few subtle hints of the madn...more Brutally well-written. Haunting and disturbing. N's bitter farewell to his uncomfortable decade-plus in Berlin and with a few subtle hints of the madness and decadence to come.
Disturbing, which is a word that I don't use very often and am consistently annoyed with the causal employment of but in this case, yeah. Made my flesh creep even as I couldn't tear my eyes away from it.(less)
Some feminist critic once criticized John Updike for being "a penis with a thesaurus".
This is a pretty devastating critique, I think. Not because i...more Some feminist critic once criticized John Updike for being "a penis with a thesaurus".
This is a pretty devastating critique, I think. Not because it's so dead-on as much as its catchy, funny, easy to remember and makes its point with elegant precision. It's most likely totally wrong and unfair and such (I haven't read much Updike) but that also makes it kind of awesome in a sniping, political-cartoon kind of way.
Taking a page from this person (I think it was Kate Millet?) I'm going to say right here and now that Bret Easton Ellis is an AmEx with a thesaurus.
Thing is, this is the story that gets so widely anthologized that it becomes people's first- and only-exposure to the world of Faulkner; the runonsen...more Thing is, this is the story that gets so widely anthologized that it becomes people's first- and only-exposure to the world of Faulkner; the runonsentences; the stream-of-consciousness; the family drama (or what Freud called 'the family romance'); the pervading fatalism and doom and shame and endurance on the part of the characters, no All-American hero or come from behind, Horatio Alger here, no sir...
What happens, as I see it at least, is that unsuspecting kids who have to take a higher-level English class in high school sort of peruse it and turn the pages and write notes for the test or the 5 page paper that's due by the end of the month or something and therefore don't get the chance to adjust the mental scenery enough to absorb Old Bill's gravitas and pensiveness and rare and sparkling immediacy...
The thing is, style is destiny. Always has been and always will be. What I mean by that, at least in part, is that style is the very thing that sets a writer apart from the thousands of other scribblers. It's the unified field theory of a particular writer. The writer in question here, remember, went broke and saw all his books go out of circulation and was pretty much living on Hollywood money (David Thomson called it a form of grant) and it took Malcolm Cowley and several years' reflection to appreciate the moral sweep and tragic oomph of Yoknapatawpha County.
Water runs slow through flat land, friends and neighbors. It just do.
So anyway the writer's style is his substance in large part because it's the individual stamp they put on their texts. I mean, Shakespeare is Shakespeare and Coltrane is Coltrane and Godard is Godard, y'know?...the minute they step into the room the whole atmosphere changes. The air crackles in a different way. And that also counts for the space between the ears of the audience that sits down to read or listen or watch what these guys come up with.
Style is a huge part of things because I can't shake the thought (I believe, voiced by Sartre) that a writer's style is his metaphysics. It's the relation between the individual consciousness of the human making art and the more nebulous and ephemeral insights into Being and Time and Faith and Action and Agency and Desire and Fate and Society and all that business...
It anchors the words or music or images or colors or clay or whatever within the space of the work itself; emphasizing one aesthetic attribute or another, one image or insight that the artist is trying to put together. Style's the whole ball game in a sense, because you know it when you see it and what you're seeing and reacting to (positively or negatively) is what's pretty much at stake with the whole experience itself.
So what happens is, of course, since Old Bill has ambled his way into the canon- you can't really talk about truly Great Writers in America in the 20th Century without mentioning him, let alone giving him a plumb position as chronicler, bard and seer- that means that a fairly respectable High School English class has got to offer him, a la carte if you will, as an example of foreshadowing or symbolism or what-you-will...
And so of course the real meaning or statement or ambiance or ascertainable quality of the work gets passed over completely. Cat's got a style that doesn't harmonize with your own predilections as a reader (and, let's face it, what kinds of predilections as a reader does a Sophmore English student have, when they don't have a passion or a particular interest in mind) and so it all seems like a bunch of boring, droning, over-written stuff and gets shoved in a distant mental drawer forever.
I only say this because it happened to me.
Thank god I took a class on Faulkner in undergrad and I had the calm and the quiet and the peace of mind to focus my attention on the scene that was being set for me as I read As I Lay Dying for the first time ever.
Something about the hushed, portentous opening chapters with the drinking water from a wooden bucket ("water should never be drunk from metal"- why? Because then you lose the churning of the autumn wind moving through the thin, prickly leaves of the pine trees, and the warmth of the sun radiating off the ripples- that's why, city boy!)
Not to mention the "Chuck. Chuck. Chuck" of the adze. Mama's in the coffin, boay, and we gotta cut it down ourselves. Woosh. Chill runs through me, still. And then there's Darl's soliloquies, Dewy Dell's desperate helplessness in puberty, Addie's furious and unsparing monologue from the Great Beyond..
See Kurosawa's Rashomon (if you haven't already) for a similar multiple-perspective narrative, which also gains momentum and power from being explained and narrated from both outside and inside the story proper almost simultaneously- Reality as explained and lived through, a distinction without a difference in these hermetic worlds- by both immediate participants and observers and re-tellers alike. Kurosawa knows how to do justice to a pissed-off, disembodied, avenging soul come back from the grave to tell you all, like Eliot's Tiresias. So does Faulkner. The effect is sublime.
I mention all this not just to digress (though that's sort of an ancillary benefit) but to make the familiar point that, after all, one doesn't always necessarily remember the PLOT of these kinds of stories as much as one remembers all the little detours and ephemeral moments of recognition while they're on the way up the Freytag Pyramid.
When you travel, getting there should be half the fun. Style is the transportation device that puts you into that other world, the diagesis, the mise en scene. Style is what they can't teach you in English class but its what is retained and kept and what one is nourished by after the initial shock of the text wears off and you numb up and adjust to the various shallows and depths.
I think this is what passionate readers talk about when they call a text 'rewarding' or 'enlightening' or 'enchanting' or whatever. I think it's not only the meat and potatoes, it's the wine and the dessert, too.
As in romance, as in literature: it's not the climax that you remember, not quite, it's the infinite amount of details that one holds onto in the steady onrush of oblivion. The way you wear your hat, the way you sip your tea...
So anyway poor Barn Burning gets to be the sort of introductory Faulkner and thus becomes that which can only lose its enticement through it being suggested by your teacher before you really know anything for certain and are on the road to find out.