This book has been so informative and thought-provoking that I went on and purchased the other two (Paul Williams died before completing his fourth) aThis book has been so informative and thought-provoking that I went on and purchased the other two (Paul Williams died before completing his fourth) and I will read those in 2015. But to say this master-work is anything but amazing would be a travesty because of all the hard work, thought, and feeling that obviously went into the labor it took to produce these books on the greatest performer of all-time. Not to mention Bob Dylan being a pretty good singer/songwriter as well....more
This is the sort of writing that demands more of me than I am. It is obvious to me that Elfriede Jelinek is one of the most gifted and intelligent wriThis is the sort of writing that demands more of me than I am. It is obvious to me that Elfriede Jelinek is one of the most gifted and intelligent writers working today. She is a treasure and should be read if not listened to. Stop all the feminist connections as she is much more than that. There is not a suitable box to fit her in. So there. And Robert Walser fans, pseudo or otherwise, might want to prepare themselves some time for a reading of this fine little book....more
Of course, I do not at all agree with the above statement. My own writing instruction impressed upon me by a teacher infamously tyrannical in his editing, as well as with his friends, taught me to instead be hard. No matter what, you must be hard and stay hard. He said there would be no other chance in which to be heard unless the sentence was a strong one and unexampled in its feeling. But certainly Tomas Espedal has every right to speak his mind and relate his experience as a writer and as a friend. Except Espedal, and his friends, for the most part, remain hidden inside his head and between the pages of the books he has read and written. And he is not at all unlike myself except in matters of my own virtual online relationships nurtured within a select group of like-minded readers. And there is nothing wrong with this scenario either.
Against Art is a book I will most likely read again. There was much I lost in the opening pages and it took me most of the book to catch up and get the gist of what he was perhaps getting to. Because I have not been properly introduced to this Norwegian writer prior to my reading of this particular title, I have no frame of reference in which to judge this book beyond the words in it and the dust jacket cover. It seems he passes the Sarki audition. And I want to believe that Espedal is an important writer and one I will hear and read much more from in the near future. Until then I will have to wait to draw a more educated and informed conclusion. I do know he once agreed to dress up in a white wedding gown and pose for a young woman’s art project. Me thinks he must be comfortable in his skin or at least willing to manifest a fellow Hemingway proclivity. His mother supposedly read many books written by progressive women writers and Tomas gobbled them up as soon as she was finished reading them. He purportedly read so many of these so-called feminist writers that he at one time wanted to be a woman himself. If memory serves his fantasy lasted all of two months.
So how much of Espedal’s writing is fiction or some myth he might be perpetrating? And does it even matter in the long run what is and what isn’t? The sentences are either good or they are found lacking. The text either follows us after the end or it hides inside the countless other books that have already been written. Espedal claims in his journal here to want to write novels that are poetic. That is an admirable and lofty idea, and one that is harder to do I think than simply putting down a good story. But that is coming from a poet like myself who has his own lofty goals and has yet to achieve a final satisfaction on his page. Though a translation from the original Norwegian, Against Art came across to me as something quite outstanding on its own in a language well-written that surprisingly left me feeling satisfied. ...more
As I was reading these stories, these ficciones, I was wondering where I might have heard this Borges voice before. And as I read it seemed to me that each story was important in its own rank as if derived from a serious study of an ancient text or the pouring over of history books detailing in no small measure the accounts that made up the results of whatever was being set forth. Of course, because the original Ficciones were written in Spanish and then translated to English, the stories additionally allowed me to consider that some of the numerous facts and details presented were possibly “made-up” and mingled together with others which obviously were not. The entire practice of a Borges composition was basically lost to a reader like me who is not “up” on his ancient history and could no more in these given instances discern a truth from a bald-faced lie. Nonetheless, the stories were written and translated with such abundant grace and were so well-crafted their meaning mattered little to me as I was obviously in the presence of genius, which is such a joy to behold when it actually occurs to me. Still, it bothered me incessantly as each story ended with the same result of my not understanding what I had just read but enjoying it nonetheless. I am apt to want to quit on something I do not understand, but the words were too powerful and crafted for me to end our affair.
Throughout my reading there wasn’t one story that made more of an impact on me than another, but taken as whole it reminded me by the end that another writer, a contemporary, whose voice I realized sounds just like Borges, or at least sounds like the translation of Ficciones that I am reviewing here. It felt a bit uncanny for me to think of my writer-friend Jason in light of reading a book written so long ago. I know Borges died blind in 1986 and was born in 1899. I know he originally published the first edition of this book in 1944 or thereabouts. Besides this unique voice I heard on every page, what made me think of my contemporary as I read Borges was that confident, loving tone of a very good teacher, a scholar relating something he found so interesting that he wants to excite us with his discovery too. The tone comes from a very nice man, a gentle soul who is humble and totally unpretentious even though his gifted presentation flies way over my head and is so far out of my league of understanding. Perhaps, for some readers of this text, understanding is not so hard to come by. But for me it was nearly impossible. In order to not frustrate myself I began to read these stories much as I read Gilles Deleuze say, and of course Jason Schwartz, and attempt to glean what I might from their words and simply enjoy the rest. I doubt there will ever come a time when I know enough history to connect more to these short stories, but I do know I expect I will not derive more pleasure in my newfound understanding than was my first exposure and initiation into this world.
But lo and behold miracles do occur and the last story filled my void. The understanding that had been missing over the last days spent with all these Borges pages came headlong to me, and not delivered as I was present in my trance as I had been in while reading the stories prior to this last one titled The South. No, for this one, the last one, I was fully alive and awake for his scrumptious ending of the way life goes sometimes. But instead of topping my already generous day I was directed by a Borges order to press on, that silly, my time had not come, as neither the hero’s had nor his aggressor’s, and that a knife fight must and will ensue, and the results are not a given though perhaps it could be perceived as somewhat predictable. ...more
Adalbert Stifter suffered from anxiety and depression his entire life. Like so many writers, he depended on the approval of others and despaired over the public indifference to his novels. Obviously, his own character was one that could not overcome this perception regarding his own inadequacies. He took this public refusal of his life’s work so personally that his last act on earth was to unfortunately cut his own throat.
This is a fiction, but all of us bring something of ourselves to the reading of any text, that is, unless we are dumb to the ways of the heart and our own human impulses. What matters to many of us at specific and certain times, for others matters to none. Within the law, I myself am naturally a hardened, cold-blooded murderer. Like a farmer tending to his flock and crops I do what must be done to extricate and eradicate in order to protect the better interest of all I am charged with safekeeping. It helps a human to be hard when it entails a violence unbecoming of a man so closely attuned to nature. Death is simply a matter-of-fact and nothing one needs to dwell on. But when children are involved this sometimes frozen heart of mine thaws to a degree baffling to the ears of those who know me and who hear me babbling in my pleading cries for mercy. And I, who have never been a lover of young children, even my own, rise to their defense and protection like no other. It puzzles even myself this manner in which my overwhelming and compassionate emotions seem to exflunct my long-hardened stance. My posture severely bends in the doubling over of my agony, and I wish the present experience had never occurred or would quickly end.
Much has been praised about this fine little book Rock Crystal. In addition, there have been others who cannot bear the seeming pretense of this labeled prim and human-caring spectacle. I understand this latter position better than my own. But what is important I think to note is how, through our many years, we all do change. Everything looks different from an altered or, it is hoped, an evolved point of view. Our tastes in food, music, and literature are good examples of this, not to mention our specific needs for sex and meaningful relationships. If one lives long enough the important lesson learned is that all of life changes all of the time. It is true that everything is in flux in this world ruled by utter chaos.
What seemed to me at first to be a very brief encounter when taking a peek at the total ninety-six page count actually resulted in more than seven days of reading time. My sessions were only good for a very few pages at each seating. So descriptive were the geographies and social sciences that I struggled at times to absorb them all. It was almost too much. Early on I was asking the author for the point of his story. But it did not take me long to realize in fact that Adalbert Stifter was very good at this craft of writing. I committed to continue in my struggle, and to march on through his text to see what I might see. Unlike a few critical others, the name Adalbert Stifter interests me to no small degree. I have wanted for some time now to read his work just because of that remarkable and mysterious name. I believe in the threat of danger involved in just viewing the face of the name’s own landscape on this page that claims the name of Adalbert Stifter.
Crazy as it sounds, I suspect in some ways this novella may be misconstrued again as a type of Christian tale because it more than once invoked its name. I think it instead makes a statement relatively more inclusive to all humanity and the brilliantly glorious and fantastical wonders of our world. For me, a literary vehicle coursing through the streaming blood that comes from the violent death of one Adalbert Stifter, a gruesome murder bloodied by his own hand, this tale bravely mounts itself in its own way indifferently onto his fiction. And is as well proof of his own denial of a god’s commandment stating thou shan’t kill. Literally, this book was an amazing effort he made in making me see, and for that world of his I entered and that person I am who in this case allowed himself to be written upon, I am quite grateful. ...more
Gabriel Josipovici wrote an exquisite introduction to this slim volume. In his introduction Josipovici states that upon first reading Kristof’s most famous work titled The Notebook he understood immediately he was in the presence of greatness. I could not agree more with that statement as I can attest to it happening to me as well. It isn’t often enough that this phenomenon happens. Though I am amazed at how many talented writers there are, and have been, among us. Seems each week I am introduced to a writer I had not been aware of previously. But the label of greatness is kept for only the very few. Ágota Kristof is most definitely one of these specific icons we certainly must treasure and be so grateful for their willingness to write in the first place and work so diligently to perfect their craft.
I think it is also remarkable to discover later in this memoir that Kristof considers Thomas Bernhard the greatest of all examples for what it means to be a writer, especially for those persons claiming to be one. She also affirms that Bernhard never seized to criticize and denounce his country with both hate and love, but his humor in doing so remains to this day unequaled by any other, though I have to believe most of us who read Kristof are aware she can be quite funny at times herself. But it isn’t the humor that draws me so much to the writing of Ágota Kristof. Rather it is this adorableness, if you will excuse the pert term, that she maintains in the face of her story’s extremes. Though I cannot actually see her, she just feels so damn cute to me. And her personality is so to-the-point, piercingly direct in a manner that is very hard to explain. The violence in some of her scenes is so exact as to cause a shocking affect, and as I have mentioned in previous remarks I made due to Kristof, she writes a damn titillating sex scene, no less extreme in its provocation on the page.
Reading this slim, but still voluminous work was a treat just to get an inside look at the life of Ágota Kristof, in her own words, and to learn firsthand how she became a writer. Obviously, it is not enough to wish to be something or other. One must persevere, at times, and often, against great odds. But the important object to note here is that Kristof would have written no matter her success at finding, or not finding, a commercial publisher for her work. Writing was something she just had to do, of course, after she became literate enough to be coherent composing within a foreign language in a country so unlike her one of origin.
Ágota Kristof is a treasure just as Thomas Bernhard is a treasure, and it is with great gratitude and satisfaction that we have both their work to share among us and to have exampled a good bit of writing from. There are still a few books written by Ágota Kristof left to be translated from French into English. It is my hope that this occurs sooner rather than later as I am unfortunately running out of time. And I am confident in my solemn sadness that I am not alone, but rather inclusively stirring, in my sinking ship....more
First it is a fantasy, brutal but fun, about a couple of lies and a boy named Tobias Horvath who changes his name to Sandor Lestor because of something terrible he thinks he has done back in his country of origin. A couple noteworthy events for me early on were that Sandor does not much like babies period, and he is tired of sex for fun. He wants only the woman he loves named Line, who just so happens to also be his half sister. But unsurprisingly she is not available and hasn't anyway any idea of their familial relationship. Line simply remembers their time together as young students in the same class. Sandor also almost desperately wants to be a famous writer and upon his certain success return to his original name of Tobias Horvath. But, no doubt, this is a sad story about resorting to an un-resortful life. It is a fantasy about love and failure, of whether being rich or poor is remarkable enough, or even if acquiring an education really matters. So almost anything I might have to say about this book would spoil the already too-short read which I have to say I really loved. But allow me a different tack.
It is hard to know how near to death, or what scrapes the common lad has had with the grim reaper, but what I do know is the awful dread and sick feeling that comes with being in the face of it. Of course, my brush with darkness can easily be discounted by those having had a real consequence. But let me tell you, it was the very first time in sixty plus years of living that in a fitful dream I died, and I didn't like it. Not one bit. All the countless times I have come near to dying in my dreams I have awakened with a start, relieved that I escaped that finality, an ending for me that felt so real and certain one day to come. For years I have held to my theory that when that moment came in the dream, when I saw or experienced my own dying, the actual end would come for me as well. But here I am, still kicking, and none the worse perhaps for the wear. But all day this frightful dream has stuck with me, gnawing at me, needling me in dreadful ways. Not one moment has passed today that I am feeling both grateful to still be alive and somehow aghast at how quickly my end might actually arrive. But because my dream-death was due to an accident, a mistake on my part, of me not following my gut when I knew damn-well better, something that has become a sort of trend for me it seems these days, it is that I also feel guilty and ashamed. It has been the strangest experience for me living every minute today with the feeling of my own death as if it really happened. And it weighs heavily on me as well for all the many times throughout my life as a carpenter, traveler, drug and alcohol abuser, promiscuous adventurer, outdoorsman, and general sinner that I have escaped serious injury because of my carelessness or ignorance in my denying a dangerous situation. I imagine it must be that immature feeling for thinking one is immortal.
The dream began as a simple hike through the woods accompanied by my youngest adult son. If others were with us I do not recall. I remember hiking on what might resemble a wooded ski trail, sort of like the trails cut out of the woods for cross-country skiing, but it wasn't winter, and there was no snow this time of year, but I could see the approaching hill being such that we would be attempting a climb of stunning proportions. I also knew we were hiking backwards on the trail, as nobody would ever climb this particular hill on snow skis. It was definitely meant to ski down on and not climb. I even found it a bit unbelievable that anyone could actually successfully ski down it and not be killed. But here I was climbing this enormously steep hill with my almost thirty year-old son. The entire trail was loose, grainy sand and it was very difficult to get a proper footing and make any headway considered plausible. In this dream I was physically crippled a bit just as I am in real life due to a fall from my cabin roof three years ago. My knee was not surgically repaired for such athletic activity as this particular hike and climb, and it has not the strength other knees have, and in addition, no lateral movement at all. It is insane to think I would even have attempted a climb like this outside of a dream. And I remember thinking these thoughts in the course of events throughout my dream. Ultimately it became impossible for me to continue trudging uphill and I remember thinking, and perhaps saying aloud, that there would absolutely be no way to climb this hill in winter when ice or snow was covering it. We returned home, wherever that was, and consulted an acquaintance or friend there who suggested we take what amounted to a sled ride down the same steep hill for the reason I suppose to familiarize ourselves over what we may have missed from not conquering it from climbing up from the bottom.
Now it was winter, or the surface at least had been prepared to slide belly first along the track of ice. At first the downhill ride was enjoyable, slowly gaining speed and feeling the snow scraping against my clothes just as I did in the old days as a small child. But then the speed increased to such degrees that I began to get nervous and feel I was losing control of my sled. My son was also belly-first sliding ahead of me and seemed to be holding his own. I panicked a bit and for a moment froze in my thinking over what I might do to get myself back on track. Rounding another curve hell-bent for speed and preparing to head down what I thought to be the worst part, my body, almost spontaneously, left the track and flew off the side of a steep cliff. Next thing I knew I was preparing for another ride, realizing my previous mistake, more than confounded by how I did not die from the previous great fall, knowing this time that to successfully maneuver my way down I would have to wrap my arms around what now appeared in my dream as a track raised slightly above the surface of the snow. I held on for dear life as it reminded me of a roller coaster ride, which I hate, and successfully, almost naturally, I made my way to the bottom of the hill without incident. It was then, at the bottom of the hill, that I knew something was not right. All of our gathered crowd was looking at each other in a very strange way and my stomach knew something critical was missing and it felt like it might be me. Intuitively I was impelled to ask them if it were I who was really dead? They all nodded solemnly in agreement. My wife was present, standing there and looking at me lovingly. It was obvious my son could still see me clearly, but soon I noticed that for him my form was beginning to fade. My wife could still see me clearly but we both knew I would never be physically in our lives again. I had become a mere spectator of life. I remember having this dire sense of extreme responsibility to watch over and protect both my wife and son but I did not know how I would be able to do so without a body, with no hands, and a now-fading voice.
It seemed we all were gathered together in a room for some time. The group was conversing pretty much as nothing had happened, at least it was obvious to me that life had gone on without me. What struck me the most in my feeling of shock at being a dead man surrounded by the living was how much my wife actually did seem to love me. She wasn't sobbing or sad I was gone, but still she was treating me as if I was much a part of her life as I always had been, but with the knowledge that though she could still see me she would never know me again physically. Of course I began to wonder about the other men in the world who would find her attractive and begin flirting or courting her and offering her attentions that I no longer could provide. Almost immediately in my dream a certain man I cannot recall the name or what he looked like did indeed hit on her and she promptly refused his advances. But I knew in my heart while considering my dilemma as a harmless spirit that one day she would be vulnerable to an advance. At some point in her life she would need someone, and the right man might speak to her in the proper setting and win her heart that I knew would be lonely and aching for something besides her constant aloneness. I reasoned that at that point my spirit life would most likely end.
Within minutes of my realization that I was dead, and the acknowledgment of all present that indeed I was, I felt my son, unlike his mother, quickly losing his connection to me. He could not see me as clearly as I knew my wife still did. At the instant the stranger was hitting on my wife my son was beginning to leave with another group of men that I remember as having a very strong personality for a leader. The new gang leader reminded me of the actor Gary Oldman still playing the scary and dangerous character he has portrayed often in films such as True Romance. I wanted to warn my son that he was beginning to go down a very dangerous and slippery path by following this sick man and whatever scheme he had talked my son into participating in. This group was heading away on this mission when I left my wife and her persistent suitor to follow behind my son and somehow devise a way in which to protect him. Every step for me seemed to portend a bad ending for the adult child I had loved so much and cared so deeply for.
The attitude prevailed within this group of criminals that they were on a job that was supposedly a sure thing. A piece of cake. I watched them as they approached a very nice home and were preparing to enter it illegally. A break-in to steal valuables was all I could think of. I just knew this was a murderous setup, that something terrible was about to happen concerning guns and other violent weapons. Here my son, in his own way, was going to make a mistake similar to what his father had done and his life could very well end or certainly be altered in ways unimaginable to me. The dread of this portending danger was killing me again. It was then I awoke from the nightmare of my life.
There was much for me to consider in my dream. I cannot say I enjoyed myself. I am certain I would rather read about it happening to someone other than myself. ...more
First, this title came highly recommended. And the novel for me began with a bang but then quickly fizzled into something unexpected, like a personal fact-filled and chronological childhood memoir of sorts. Because of this unthinkable development my doubts rose and my spirits waned. I engaged again my reading friends and expressed to them my troubled mind. They assured me to continue on, that soon enough this author Jens would woo me in again with his hateful vitriol. The fact the author was Scandinavian did much to already insure my allegiance as I myself am perfectly a half-Finn. In addition, I knew already that Jens himself had committed suicide by hanging so for that event alone he most certainly had hops with me. All my favorite authors commit suicide, or will eventually, that is if an auto accident or some disease fails to get them first. But the novel seemed to have morphed into something more conventional and it just didn't feel right to me. The strong and vicious opening pages were comparable to the graphically violent work of one Josef Winkler whom I had been reading prolifically for the last few months and who was quickly, and violently, doing me in.
But almost as soon as I expressed to my friends the morbid concerns I had over the novel it turned course, and in its way, anecdotally investigated a neighbor's suicide which again got me consulting my own research texts that I am wont to do in such cases in which the writing moves me in ways that are hard otherwise to explain. It was his words a la fenestra that got my attention. The phrase means going to the seventh or eighth floor window for a resolute leap. And from the eighth floor a leap to one's death results in …remains gathered up with a putty knife and a sponge… People splash dreadfully.
From the subject of suicide the text then moved swiftly into all matter of concerns regarding the futility of life on earth. Bjørneboe hastened to demonstrate on the page how chaos abounds and our crust is certainly unstable, as is our fiery universe.
…at bottom all matter is explosive. We eat our sandwiches, pursue our love lives, are born and die on the lid of a powder keg journeying in the cosmos…Furthermore the cosmos itself is located in the middle of a gigantic explosion, with the galaxies fleeing from each other at a speed considerably greater than that of light… Without laughter you sit fast in the pool of excrement, and you will slowly go into decomposition, into autolysis, you will fall apart, and yourself turn into living excrement.
But in the meantime I suppose it to be Bjørneboe who also goes on to show how the great art works in the history of the world are certainly remarkable, and well worth preserving for as many generations as possible. And we all should know that great art is unexampled in its feeling.
The deeper the feeling, said Leonardo, the greater the pain.
The connection Jens Bjørneboe made to public executions and art is notable as well. The subject of public hangings directed me to another study of sorts in the course through the centuries that public hangings evolved to. The length of rope being the most important development due to mathematical calculations based on performing the most humane of executions possible. A shortened rope being the preferred method for the most extreme torture possible through suffocation and slow death of fifteen to twenty minutes. Whereas a rope too long, combined with a sudden drop, made for likely decapitation and a public outcry. Precise math was used to calculate the safe distance to fall based on the victim's weight and height, and an execution which would assure a quick death with little to no mess.
All the great great masters from Tuscany's ateliers took their sketchbooks along when they went to watch the public executions.
It is likely the period covered in this novel coincides to the author's own lifetime. World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. Over 60 million people were killed, which was over 2.5% of the world population. 26.6 million Soviets alone died during the period of 1939 through 1945. For me, both World War II and the holocaust weigh heavy on me, myself being born in 1953, the son of a U.S. Navy sailor who just happened to go to shore with his commanding officer in order to procure trophy memorabilia it seems for the commander after the atomic bomb named "Fat-Man" destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki. I know of nothing my father gained in his walking tour of the destruction except for a story to tell and the kudos he garnered for accompanying his boss on shore.
…The truth is also that we were tired, tired as people get after wars — we were so tired of it that we quite simply performed the necessary on what happened in Japan.
I've noticed the narrator performs the necessary on quite a few events throughout this book. It sounds a bit harsh, or extremely indifferent, but history had been hard on many who suffered through the periods covering both world wars. It has been reported that the author himself in 1943 escaped the Nazi Germans occupying Norway for neutral Sweden in order to not be sent to a forced labor camp. The narrator speaks of the time he spent in Stockholm often in this text. He is a hard drinker and composes much of his writing while under the influence just as the author did. Bjørneboe has been reported to have begun drinking at the age of twelve, suffering extreme bouts of depression and sickness. At thirteen he attempted suicide by hanging himself. Finally, in 1976, after finding no relief from his continued alcoholism and depression, Bjørneboe committed suicide at the end of a rope.
Many years ago, back in a time when I was an adolescent, there was a program on sixties television about the life and death of Abraham Lincoln. I remember being completely enamored with the man and upon viewing on TV his assassination in the Ford Theater I was devastated. My grief was unequaled at that time and rarely has it surfaced to that same degree as the subsequent years have gone by. After the program was over I remember going to my bedroom and sobbing in my bed for the longest time. The emotional pain involved in the dread of my own impending death was remarkable enough to me to have never forgotten that night in the course, at this writing, of over sixty years of them. There have been moments in the reading of this book similar to those same feelings that occurred for me so many years ago.
I was dying because I lived in unfreedom without knowing it, and because unfreedom is naturally more comfortable than freedom: it disperses, or even frees one from, the responsibility of having an existence. Only through the courage of despair can you grasp a handful of freedom. Freedom is not a thing you receive, it's something you take for yourself without asking anybody whether what you're doing is right or moral or harmful or good.
I am still not exactly sure why the narrator mentions the word lemurs so often. It is quite possible he was creatively labeling Teutons due to the cataclysmic shift in the world after WWII. Mythical accounts of the supposed ancient continent of Lemuria differ. It is also believed that man himself evolved somewhere in southern Asia, or possibly, still further south than the present boundary of Asia, in lands now drowned by the Indian Ocean due to some geological change. This supposed land was called Lemuria. He also uses the phrase little bears as well for a handle for all peoples of the world. The author Jens Bjørneboe himself was a center of unrest. He always ruthlessly followed his innermost intentions and knew no other guide than his personal conviction and his own impulses. His passion and concerns ultimately did him in.
For me, Jens Bjørneboe's personality certainly comes through while reading this novel, which now that I am over it I might deem a masterpiece, but not first without admitting to shedding some blood and sweat of my own before arriving at this assessment. The last six pages of the book are completely startling and upsetting given recent mass murders and shooting rampages in my own country today. I certainly subscribe now to the theory that it just might be best to beware the hard cider drinker or a seemingly rare foehn wind....more
Any of my friends here on goodreads who wish to have a copy of this book to read in pdf form please message me with your email address and I will be hAny of my friends here on goodreads who wish to have a copy of this book to read in pdf form please message me with your email address and I will be happy to send you a pdf file. The book is also available in both softcover and hardcover additions now at the url address in the listing. And sometimes the book is available on amazon.com
Stamped Against the Night was first conceived in northern Michigan one early morning in June of 2013. My wife and I have a cabin in which we spend the entire summer communing with nature and recharging our cells. Our cabin is what I call "glorified camping" as it is only six hundred square feet and has a toilet most women would certainly abhor. There is nothing fancy or convenient about our summer digs. We have no television and the internet is suspect at best in that part of the country. Wireless phone service is purported to be updated to the highest quality but I have yet to have enjoyed or made solid proof of that same experience. Each of our days are reserved for morning walks in the Huron National Forest, and on the very warmest afternoons we drive into the beaches of Lake Huron where my wife can swim in friendly fresh water that resembles an ocean to anyone who has ever visited this Great Lakes region. But every morning before taking off on one of our daily outdoor activities I sit in a chair I have had for the last eight years and read to my heart's content. I have to myself at least two hours each morning, quite early, and before anyone but the dog might bother me. It is after this morning's reading is complete that I prepare to compose whatever it is that I am inspired as a writer to produce that day on the page. I decided on this particular morning in June to attempt consecutively everyday to write one legal page of whatever impelled me to put my pen to paper. The text would be poetry, but narrative in scope if I could actually accomplish composing an entire page lyrically. I had no plan for subject, but would let whatever should come to me freely as something I felt no part in only as conduit. This method reminded me of the recently resurrected poet Jack Spicer who claimed the gods instructed him what to write. He even confessed he let the words on the page be exactly as they were received, and he never revised. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Jack Spicer was delusional as well as a mediocre poet.
In the process I was previously describing there were times I rejected a word or two that entered my consciousness as I felt I was projecting a bit of myself and getting in my own way. It was rather amazing how well the words came to me when I removed myself from the creative activity and just became its secretary. I operated like this for as many days as we were at the cabin which amounted to sixty-eight total due to two trips away involving about a week of not writing anything at all. But I never really knew what I was doing, only that it was a daily routine I trusted and never wavered from. The only changes in my day were in the books I was reading, completing, and newly beginning throughout the entire process. I am sure what I did read influenced what I wrote, but I was nonetheless open to whatever might come of it.
Upon my return to our home base in Louisville in September of 2013 I began the long and somewhat arduous task of transcribing the legal pages onto my computer while revising each poem in the process of my entering them. The most I could ever hope to file in a day would be three or four pieces, and most times I only got one or two poems entered into my machine. It was painfully boring work and something I did not want to do. I still had no idea what the body meant or what I was accomplishing except for the vow I had made to myself that I would complete the burdensome affair only when it became clear to me just what it was. I trusted in my process. I had complete faith and remained, in fact, this totally ignorant for months. On three consecutive occasions during the fall of 2013 as I was editing and revising I would report to my wife that I had made another complete pass through the entire work and surprisingly still had no idea what it was. I felt it might be a novel more than a book of poems, but I remained disconnected to anything that could clarify my uncanny position of willful servant to the work.
In the process of my first beginning the book and on to the present point, I now found myself having read already twice the brilliant new novel John the Posthumous by Jason Schwartz as well as another disturbing affair by Josef Winkler titled When the Time Comes. Among all the books I had recently been reading these two made the greatest impact on me. Subsequently it was again Josef Winkler in his Flowers for Jean Genet in which I finally had my breakthrough regarding my own laborious activity. Josef Winkler seems to always incorporate outsider's quotes he deems necessary to his text, and I found these quotes added much to my understanding of his work. These quotes also got me interested in more writers I had previously been unaware of and compelled me to purchase additional books by these unfamiliar authors. I decided then to go back through all of my own notes I had made since 1995 when I first began studying under Gordon Lish. Because of Lish I learned of specific philosophers and their work and was feverishly devouring everything I could of these great thinkers and taking notes throughout my fevered reading. My now independent study naturally progressed to countless others in the arts and I began to grow both as a reader and a writer. Throughout these many years I filled four spiral notebooks with heart-felt mind-exploding quotes I had lifted from their work.
But it had always troubled me over what I was to eventually do with all these notebooks and the knowledge and secrets they held. I thus began going through them all and painstakingly transcribing certain quotes applicable to the feeling involved within the body of narrative poems I had composed throughout the entire summer in Michigan. After compiling a good number of them I decided to begin choosing which quotes might go with which poems, and then realized early in the process that this was where these quotes truly belonged. It was at this point in the composition of Stamped Against the Night that I learned I had amassed a total of sixty-eight chapters that summer and needed that same number of quotes to complete my new-found mission. They were not at all hard to find as each quote chosen by feel fit in exactly as if I had planned the entire exhibition. It is my hope that you enjoy the book as much as I did in writing it.
Would you consider please for a moment at least that by the time Sombrero Fallout was composed Richard Brautigan was up to his neck in his own shit and desperate for relief? Alcohol only fueled his confusion over a life he was swiftly losing control over. The epoch of his fame provided a false security and nothing he attempted in his order to personally derail it could prove his life was finally off the tracks. Appearances aside, life for Dick was not that good. It is not surprising to me that life on the ranch in Montana was ghostly similar to this book and the mob's response downtown and the destruction being wrought on its citizens. It has been widely reported that Brautigan had a crazy love for guns and the shooting of them, disregarding the safety of even children in his drunken wild west escapades in blowing to smithereens all manner of objects, even those within the confines hanging on the walls of his house. It is obvious by this time that the man had almost lost his mind. But he could still write and this book certainly proved it.
It has been said that Sombrero Fallout was written in response to his breakup with his Chinese girlfriend Siew-Hwa Beh. The pain of separation from her and the now unrequited fantasy of having an Asian woman in his bed and at his side was something Brautigan was not equipped to cope with. Given his emotional instability due to his own escape after years living within the environment of a dysfunctional family of origin as well as dealing with it medicinally by the heavy use of alcohol and careless living Brautigan would be soon living on his own borrowed time. Though the pleasant memories described in this book regarding the narrator's so-called Japanese lover were warm and tender, anger and jealousy roared in the background through his use of humor and language so deft that my smiles broke out constantly throughout the first half of this book. Brautigan's one-liners were certainly a gift he mined well and often. He wrote out his similes and metaphors in long sentences instead of using one descriptive word or two. Even the parallel story regarding the ice-cold sombrero and the gathering mob of townsfolk was ridiculously funny until it morphed into insanity and chaos.
I have often read other reviewers descriptions of Brautigan's writing as being whimsical. There is certainly something very childish about Brautigan's text which makes him endearing even in light of his pathetic and expanding neurosis. Recently I completed my reading of the long and drawn out biography Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan by William Hjortsberg and one cannot walk away from this book and still deny the disease that was ravaging for years the mind and body of this poor man. Thank goodness Brautigan had his writing in which to save himself for the time being. And when his writing eventually ran out on him during the decade following this first major breakup there was nothing left of the man but a shadow of himself and the notoriety surrounding him because of his delinquent behaviors he had regularly and publicly displayed.
Sombrero Fallout is a sad tale, but an important one I think for anyone dealing, or having dealt with, a broken relationship. Often the writing made me look back at the important details regarding my own love lost and the still-obsessive object of my long accomplishment of over thirty years. It is easy to take those we love for granted and in this book Brautigan gives us numerous reasons for not doing so. The narrator, on his hands and knees searching for a lost black hair of his Japanese love, conjured for me the great love the recently deceased poet Jack Gilbert had for his only wife Michiko Nogami and the poem he wrote in her memory after she died of cancer in 1982.
I came back from the funeral and crawled around the apartment, crying hard, searching for my wife’s hair. For two months got them from the drain, from the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator, and off the clothes in the closet. But after other Japanese women came, there was no way to be sure which were hers, and I stopped. A year later, repotting Michiko’s avocado, I find a long black hair tangled in the dirt.
For the last year I have been revisiting the work of Richard Brautigan. For some ill-equipped and perhaps unconscionable reason this was my first reading of this book. It may now very well be my favorite, and this surprised me as I had previously thought he had already been used up by the time he wrote this book. But I was wrong back then and foolish in my thinking. I obviously did not know Dick. Brautigan was a special talent who achieved much in his writing. Richard Brautigan was of a class and upbringing society often disrespects and fails to credit appropriately. But he was definitely an original in life and especially in his writing. There are five words regarding the writing of RB that I wish for you to consider. The following words express my evolving idea of his style, those being:
Just last week I was first introduced to the work of Josef Winkler in his brilliant title When the Time Comes. Until finishing this title today I had not ever had any exposure to Jean Genet. Flowers For Jean Genet provided a vehicle for my introduction to him and a further study of the work of Josef Winkler. What I was not aware of when first diving into this book was the construction behind it being a bit of a travelogue in the spirit of W.G. Sebald as well as a biographical piece on Jean Genet made up of consulted texts written by Genet himself and other of his biographers and critics. Interspersed throughout all this was Winkler's anecdotes of similar personal experiences or parallel lives having a proximity of sorts with Genet. There were times Winkler retold an anecdote regarding Genet who Winkler never met in the flesh but certainly has some spiritual connection to him. If this sounds confusing, it was, but only in the beginning as I left these pages from time to time to do some research on my own regarding both of these characters.
The basic premise behind Flowers For Jean Genet was Winkler's quest to find his grave in a Spanish cemetery in Larache about an hour-and-a-half from Tangiers. He took a trip from Austria in which to do this, and had a special notebook he kept and referred to from time to time in his travels. There was never any text within this book actually footnoted for its source, and it is highly doubtful the publishing editor "fact-checked" this information. As biographical and autobiographical as this entire book was in regards to both Jean Genet and Josef Winkler this reader must assume this work would be designated a fiction, much as Sebald and that Australian rapscallion Gerald Murnane enjoy marking their own quite personal work with the same brand as well. It is a classification I am noticing of late as getting more and more legs, and it encourages me to do more of the same in my own published pieces. All of the source books used in Flowers For Jean Genet were noted in the back of the book, but it is up to the reader to do her own footnoting and fact-checking if she deems it necessary and useful. I do not. But this fine piece of literature has gotten my interest curled for reading all of Winkler's work now and even delving a bit more into the already dead Jean Genet.
Each of the fifteen chapters in this book has a roman numeral and a significant title. I love great titles to poems and take exhaustive cumbrance in providing them in my own work. This great fiction is riddled with long and fascinating titles to each chapter and I am not particularly sure they actually have anything to do with the text that follows them. But my titles don't generally either, and I consider these types of titles separate artworks of their own and an added benefit to reading these books. It is again quite possible that Winkler did not "make up" his own titles but instead lifted each title from a text of Genet's, but I would be hard-pressed to prove it and really not willing to go the distance to do so. But then, what sort of lout would even care? Some sort of book police or Nazi-type I guess. Or somebody who might consider Winkler a bit to "rebarbative" as I have seen him described as such. But I see no such thing, but wouldn't mind at all if he was. If the titles actually are valued loot lifted from the bountiful Genet then take it as reverence for the man and the artist made. As for me, I cannot wait to receive the next paginated issuance of Winkler's in the mail and I look forward to reading it and learning more about this interesting man my age from Austria. ...more
It has been widely enough reported that Josef Winkler is scornful to a degree I think I can be enamored with. He despises the Catholic church, and I would think most religions because of it. He feels contempt toward the Germans, specifically Nazis, and any authority meant to restrain and contain its populace. He is definitely not a lover of hard labor, and farming he despises. He did not like his dad, and in one article written by translator Adrian West it was reported Winkler was only hugged once by him and that was for helping to exterminate all the rats in the cellar of their farmhouse. I have yet to discover if Winkler has had any children of his own in which to alter the family history into something a bit more palatable for those yet to come. Josef Winkler is well-versed in tragedy and his family and acquaintances are riddled with it. What he believes and remembers he feels important enough to keep repeating. And history, he shows, is his great reminder.
It is true that in this book When the Time Comes there is no clean plot and no readily identifiable characters in which to relate to. But I took notes. Three legal pages full of my scribbling. I began to construct a pattern and soon was amazed at the number of names Josef Winkler used to produce his gargantuan ossuary. Pleasantries within these lives escaped my reading of this vast collection of family, friends, and acquaintances who all would find their place among the other many dead with none no longer left near dying. In approaching the end of my reading it supposed on me the awful truth that none of us escape this final act, and the categorical reporting here was supersaturated to the extent that the reader should come to accept the same fate would happen, and specifically in my case, to me. And it did, and does for my time being on the page and for the remaining moments left for me to ponder this fate before getting back to the object for my living on this earth and developing in my own mind its meaning.
Josef Winkler regularly employs in his writing the use of repetition. He is not the first to do so and it is an effective way to make ones point clear even in the face of ambiguity of which there is none too little of in this book. Instead of naming names outright Winkler instead writes the person out by signifying them with phrases such as, "Lazarus with the fat earlobes" or "my fat and toothless grandmother". So these became my notes, and at some point along the text a name would occur to him and be applied mysteriously to one or another of his secret characters. There would be no possible result of my remembering or keeping these people straight without my taking thorough notes. And in the process of my taking them I wondered why and the reason for this seeming nonsensical behavior. It felt early on I had come too far to stop, and it wasn't until I neared the end of the book that I knew I no longer needed to take them. Which was my hope in the first place, and now the proof of my lost time and possibly useless labor.
The title When the Time Comes reveals the essence of the book as it applies to all of us the same. There will come a time and we, or others in our stead, should come prepared for it. I shan't bore you with all of the details, but I do believe the following information will be of use to you, the next reader, of this tale. In no way does what follow ruin anything for you, the reader, or act as a spoiler of sorts as there really is no rhyme nor reason for any plot or accounting except an almost complete listing of the dead and how they got that way. I am still not even sure of what I read.
The bone collector, Maxmilian Kirchheimer, is the main character. His youngest brother is Reinhard Kirchheimer. These boys are both still living, getting on in age, and almost everybody else isn't except for their dad whose name the best I can figure, given the abundant labyrinth of information, is Oswald Kirchheimer. The most seriously important details you need to know about Maxmilian is that he was an acolyte who took iron pills and read Karl May books. He also spit in his cousin Egon's face but also enjoyed playing football with him. There is nothing of note about his little brother Reinhard other than he is one of five children born to father Oswald and a mother who for some reason remained nameless and for the most part unmentioned throughout the text. Her parents were Paula and August Rosenfelder. August was an alcoholic and mean enough that his daughter-in-law bleached his throat. At some point old August discovered his wife Paula strangled by a calf halter up in the attic. Some time after this grave event August hung himself as well.
It wasn't clear to me in which order the children born to Florian and Elisabeth Kirchheimer came other than the first being a son Lazarus and the last also a son named Friedham. There were only two girls, those being Hildegard and Helene. Somewhere stuck in the middle of the lot were Maxmilian's father Oswald and another brother Eduard. Aunt Waltrid owned a pastry shop and was married to Eduard. She died two days before Christmas and Eduard was too drunk to attend her funeral. Friedham grew up to be a war correspondent and also at some point threatened to cut off Maximilian's genitals with a knife. Oswald's hunchback sister Hildegard was childless and married to Willibald Zitterer who smoked a pipe and died of lung cancer. Hildegard had arthritis and in her old age urine would constantly stream down her legs. Sister Helene was married to a carpenter who revered Hitler. The couple had a daughter named Karin who would run to her Aunt Hildegard and Uncle Willibald to escape her violent and fascist father. As a child, Oswald had a finger cut off while working in the hay fields and he also almost died in a nasty fall from high up in a hayloft. Oswald's uncle Ingo took a bullet in WWII and ended up in an insane asylum. Oswald's father Florian, brother to Ingo, commissioned the first power plant in Pulsnitz. He had cancer of the gallbladder and enjoyed dressing Maxmilian before school until the young boy complained of improprieties enough that his mother told her father-in-law to stop.
Maxmilian's father Oswald had many relationships that were southerly at best especially when he was chosen to take over the farm ahead of his older brother Lazarus who was described as having fat earlobes and who also drove a Mercedes. George Fuhrman pissed in some sausage meat and pushed Oswald's face in it. Otmar Hafner was Oswald's best friend who didn't walk until he was six years old. Otmar had a brother named Klaus who had a son Roman who hung himself in a hayloft with a calf halter which set off the rash of suicides in the first place. Klaus went on to try killing his own self twice before finally succeeding by being poisoned, trapped within his car's exhaust.
I am not sure what it was about the Hasslacher family but after young Leopold hung himself along with his friend Jonathan Stinehart by using the same rope, two of his other brothers decided to do likewise albeit separately it is assumed. Adam the Third Philippitsch was unlucky and found Leopold and Jonathan hanging from the rafters and was good enough to cut them down and notify their families. The mother of Jonathan, Katharina Stinehart, had her breasts removed as did Anita Felfernig who was the village's first television owner despite having seven hungry children and who also died of breast cancer despite her own actions taken to control the disease. It just dawned on me that Anita was most likely the mother of Ludmilla Felfernig who at fifteen years old started her first menstrual period and not knowing what it was began to run when the other schoolchildren teased her. She smeared the blood that was drifting down her legs on Calvary which was erected in the center of town by the pastor and painter Balthasar Kranabeter. Ludmilla then proceeded in her frantic despair to hurl herself off the Drava Bridge. She drowned caught in the grating far below. In addition, a friend of Katharina Stinehart's was struck by a truck while riding her bicycle to the Stineharts. Her name was Ms. Lakonig who was married to Mr. Lakonig who went by the name of Wilfried.
And there are just so many others to list and profile such as Miss Dorflinger who was a sorceress who refused to die, standing outside, being pelted by hail, and I would be remiss if I did not mention at least Leopoldine Felsberger, daughter of Paula and August Rosenfelder, married to Matthias Felsberger and mother to Maximilian's mother as well as brothers Kajetan and Michael who died in WWII as did so many others also worth mentioning but out of time to do so now.
One thing all of these fine people had in common was that religion did not save them. In fact, much was done in the name of religion to harm them. And keeping the family farms profitable and working was not always the best of ideas given the number of fingers and lives lost in the process. But my reading of this history was great fun, but hardly a laugh a minute. It was instead a piling up of bones. "In the clay vessel in which, from the bones of slaughtered animals, the putrid-smelling bone stock was distilled, to be painted on the horses with a crow's feather in the summer heat, around the eyes and nostrils, and on the belly, to protect them from the pricking and bloodsucking horseflies and mosquitoes...."
Perhaps not wrapped as tight as the text I read, it still feels as if the effort was justified, though not so convinced enough to bet another life on it. But I would certainly be interested in hearing what any others not willing to hide behind their mother's skirts might have to say about their reading of this too. The closest reading of late that I can compare this fine work to would be John the Posthumous by Jason Schwartz. Both writers seem to lyrically compile major lists and study their history in words that make it an awful lot for a body to consume. Even in light of several balanced servings....more
Though I skipped the last two sections for now, as I am not familiar with either artist nor am I interested at this time in learning about them, the bThough I skipped the last two sections for now, as I am not familiar with either artist nor am I interested at this time in learning about them, the bulk of the magazine, precisely all of it chronologically leading up to and ending at the music section, I still rate this work as five stars and a wonder. Anybody interested in Gerald Murnane would benefit from reading this issue and I cannot compliment or praise the editors of this periodical enough for the care in which their focus remains steadfast on the artists they are profiling for us. There does not seem at all to be an agenda such is found in most other litmags, especially those that vie for our attentions online.
In this issue the fan of Gerald Murnane may discover an interview of same, letters to and from, several critical reviews of most all of his oeuvre published thus far, a new work of Murnane's, and an old work never before published, as well as the announcement of two additional books of Murnane's forthcoming. I was enthralled throughout my entire reading and cannot recommend this issue strongly enough.
There is much to be said about this great Australian writer and I eagerly anticipate the oncoming traffic sure to be heading this way. ...more
Though a big fan of seriously lopsided proportions regarding the work of Gerald Murnane, I seem to be drawn more to the longer form of his short fiction and even more hooked into his longest long ones. Not that his essays are not good and interesting and full of helpful ideas in which I get to know Murnane even better, but the entire idea of having to stay with his object for the end result of a longer fiction gives me more to chew on and less he can get away with. That is, if you know what I mean. In his shorter work such as his so-called essays he has less rope in which to hang himself and less of a chance for making my head spin which is something I am extremely enamored with in my reading of him. Emily Dickinson wanted a poem to blow the top of her head off. I am satisfied with just a fast spin cycle. David Foster Wallace wore a bandana in order to keep his head from exploding, so you see, all of us have different ways in which we go about getting our needs met on the page.
So far in my reading there isn't any essay that stands out above the others, but they are all informative and important in understanding Murnane and his previous work. The piece on Kerouac, On the Road to Bendigo, offers another glimpse into the mind of Murnane and what makes him such a kindred spirit to such a moronic and misguided misogynist as Kerouac was. It seems they both had a marvelous penchant for making up complicated games as young boys they could play by themselves and keep detailed records of. In the case of Murnane he made a horse-racing game with marbles as did Kerouac as well. Murnane did not go in for the baseball card game that Kerouac developed but what is interesting to me is I did both. Of course, my games were not as elaborately detailed as either one of these two literary giants. I relied on the domestic makers of a board game titled The Kentucky Derby for my horse-racing pleasure and I also purchased a card game I think called simply Baseball developed by someone other than Jack Kerouac. I kept my own detailed baseball records and had a full league of teams. I had leaders in several baseball categories including best ERA, most strikeouts, wins, batting average, home runs, RBI's, hits, runs, not to mention the standings for each team in my single league and would spend hours at my desk shuffling and dealing, and learning how to cheat. As I look back I think of myself as compartmentalized in my soft-core cheating, but in a much less diabolical way than most of the rather obscene criminals we have heard gruesome tales of.
Through these collected essays I am also learning more about the books Murnane has read. Much of what he writes between these covers here are in some manner late book reviews, and there are authors mentioned I had never heard of and I am sent scampering to my source of all things literary for new answers on availability and their worthiness to others besides Murnane. And there are also criticisms galore regarding submitted fictions by others in which he plays the part of decider of whether to place the pieces in the magazine he was an integral part of called Meanjin. I liked his editorial style and the way he marked his comments on the margins of the pages he was in charge of filtering down to a final product.
The title essay of this collection, Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs, makes the reading of the entire book more than worthwhile. Anyone familiar with Marcel Proust and his masterwork will certainly enjoy this longish piece. The Proust name is mentioned often as is his text, and connections are made to Murnane's life that almost seem remarkable if you weren't already familiar with the way in which Gerald works. Landscapes and connections abound in this piece regarding the author's father and horse racing among many other things not needing to be mentioned here but certainly important to Murnane's story. One interesting example that should be made is Murnane's own lack of a sense of smell which is doubly a detriment one might think to relating to the words of Proust seeing as though taste and scent is so prevalent in his work and memory. I am not one to comment much on Marcel Proust as I have only owned the entire twelve volumes of his masterwork for a period of a couple years at most before selling it online for a very good profit. I had begun the first volume with every intention of finishing the entire masterwork but only ventured in far enough to realize perhaps I had not the gumption to ever finish such a book of several volumes though I immediately recognized a work of great genius and flair. My fear in reading Marcel Proust has always been at the risk of not reading all the other books and authors I have already, and will have, been attracted to in some way. To invest the period of time it would take to read the Proust entire masterwork is something I am unable at this point to do. Perhaps after I have significantly aged and my looks have evolved themselves into effects more resembling a prune, and I can find no other work that might purchase me to the extreme, then, and only then, will I be able to dive in to such a wondrously rich experience as reading Marcel Proust. A complete study of the work of Marcel Proust inevitably amounts to a scholarship escaping me but appears to be something required by others I respect for their reading prowess and discerning ideas of what that means to such a serious literary Bovidae.
Stream System was for me one of the most difficult pieces of Murnane fiction I have ever read. Of course, one may wonder why I use the word fiction here when this is obviously a collection of essays, so to speak. Well, the problem is with Gerald Murnane and not I. At the end of this Stream System he admits what he just related was all fiction and none of it really happened, and for every reason under the sun I still do not believe him. He sounds so truthful when he is speaking to me. And nothing ever sounds made-up. Especially the part about his younger brother being backwards and he avoiding him all his life and his little brother finally dying alone in a room with not one friend in the world including counting his older brother Gerald. And Murnane is only matter-of-fact about the entire occasion of his brother's death. There is no sentimentality at all, but true confessions as to how he hid from and avoided his younger brother all of his life and never was a friend to him. It was only on the day before his brother died at the age of forty-three that Gerald realized that his brother had no friends. For a moment I was a bit disturbed with Gerald Murnane and wondered if my strong affections for him had been too hasty and now felt a bit unseemly. But I may never know the truth about his brother or if Gerald really was as bad to him as his confession stated. He clearly disavowed everything when he claimed the entire piece had been written at a desk and he had never been where he said he had and for that I suppose he must be forgiven.
After struggling through that last so-called essay I sailed through the next two of the last three remaining for me to read. Not exactly all the way through however, as I still had at least half the second to last essay remaining to me when this compulsion came over me to express again my gratitude for Gerald Murnane on this page. These two essays before the last one are amazing in the sense that he is teaching anyone willing to listen and understand why and how it is that he does what he does on the page. He even performs a bit of a creative demonstration for us which is not only marvelous but extremely sensitive in its honesty and forthrightness. Either that or he is again somewhat pulling my leg with another bit of made-up fiction, but I highly doubt it. Murnane is a very humble man, and one who seems he cannot tell a lie even though he admits to writing fiction all of the time. For the sake of clarity the two pieces I am referring to are Secret Writing and The Breathing Author. Both are inside looks into the workings of the mind of Gerald Murnane and which are so fascinating to me I would think them scary for the uninitiated, of which those members would consist of those readers who have yet to read Murnane's long fiction The Plains or his collection of shorter fictions titled Landscape with Landscape. It would behoove anyone wanting to read and study Gerald Murnane to begin with these two above-mentioned books first to prepare oneself for the onslaught of images and ideas that come from everywhere it seems from the mind of Murnane and can cause a bit of consternation and confusion even if the reader is not perhaps fully prepared. It must also be noted that I have yet to read his very first two books as they were not readily available to me at the time when I chose to begin my study, and now my latest obsession, of which I have had too many prior to this new one to list here, and really is not pertinent to this page.
If Gerald Murnane was telling the truth in the second to last essay of this book, then those of us who do outlive him by several years will be the recipients of a multitude of private writings currently held in the personal files he keeps at his home that he says will be made public several years after his death and the deaths of certain others his words might harm or bring undue pain to. I probably won't make it long enough to learn all there is that Murnane wants to share, but I am sure it will be worthwhile and something I am likely to not want to have missed. But then, when that time comes, I will be like the eunuch castrated before puberty who knows nothing of what it might have been like to be a sexual being with all the feelings, good and bad, that sexual passion brings.
Murnane begins his last essay in this book with why he learned the Hungarian language at such an advanced age, if my memory serves, at fifty-six and generally an age too old to be learning a new foreign language. He related how he had become competent during the course of his life in six languages, but never had he become fluent in any to the degree of learning by hearing the languages except for his native English. But Murnane went on then to digress or segue his story into Catholicism, Latin prayers, hymns, The Nicene Creed, horse racing, and a few other examples somehow relating to this main subject, and finally branching off into his personal discovery of a book he read in English written by an Hungarian writer by the name of Gyula Illyes. The title of this English translation was People of the Puszta. He was so affected by the book his consecutive obsessive impulse was to write his next long fiction he titled Inland (which just so happens to be the next Murnane title in my queue) in order to "relieve him of his feelings". Because of being so impressed by this Hungarian novel he decided to learn the language so he could read the book in the original.
Gerald Murnane is such a special talent. It is a shame he is just now being discovered more widely. Many of his books are still hard to find in the USA and come at stiff prices even for those of us who might actually afford them. It is my hope that his Australian publisher Giramondo Publishing will bring all of his out-of-print titles back into circulation again and that Dalkey Archives or some other such publisher in the USA will deem fit to do so as well....more
Thank goodness for me I am courageous enough to break the rules. Even in the face of a serious suggestion to read the works of Gerald Murnane in the order in which they were written, still I refused and read them as the books came to me in the U.S. mail. First I read The Plains and that pleased me to no small degree and enough so that I could not wait to get my hands on another one. The next one available to me for reading was Barley Patch and that one was different, and a review of previous works, a sequel so to speak, but still I got the feel for Murnane and what he was up to in his so-called true fiction. This title Landscape with Landscape is so unlike either of the first two novels I read that initially I was spooked over what I had gotten myself into. But Murnane doesn't change too much in between the times it takes to write his books. He may, or may not, get better. This collection is a group of loosely connected short fictions which in some cases are basically novellas and rich as can be with all the themes of a full-length Murnane offering. I am flat-out amazed at this Aussie's talent.
It is one thing to write a review about a novel and quite another to remark on a collection of loosely connected stories. Given they are all fictions, this is the one thread they all have in common with each other. That and their impressive genius in their composition. Not to mention the complete engagement, even going into them highly doubtful of this development, but exceedingly pleased with the fabulous results. Of course, Gerald Murnane is not for everybody. And I am not here to shame anyone for not liking nor respecting him for being the great writer that he certainly is. His work is no different than songs by certain bands we like, or symphonies composed by artists the like we shall never see or ever hear from again. It is a matter of taste, and mine goes to something as my friend Gordon Lish describes as being "unexampled in its feeling".
The first story in this collection is titled Landscape with Freckled Woman. Stating from the very beginning that the speaker is the only man in a neighborhood committee that numbers nine women and himself, I was a bit skeptical that there would be much of interest for me here as I generally like to hide from these types of organizations, as does Murnane obviously as well. But almost immediately Murnane had me interested in his secret memory and how it affected his relationship with all these women at the table. His evolving ideas of who he once was and now is vastly alters the changing landscape that Murnane is always focused on. The one woman the speaker chooses to reveal to us besides a brief countenance regarding the president, is flawed in her appearance and has freckles, or marks on her skin, that makes her more real to him and worthy of conversation with as he is a writer and interested in these types of landscapes. But of course, he cannot reveal too much of himself to her as he is not gifted in the gab necessary to converse with members of the opposite sex so instead he tells us, the reader, everything he wishes he could intimately disclose to the freckled woman. It is an amazing story and I felt it to be a great beginning to this collection, but doubtful he could continue this thread of excellence in the remaining five entrees to come.
The second story in this collection is titled Sipping the Essence. In this story Murnane actually has names for his characters which is unusual based on the previous two books I have read thus far. But these characters are delicious and so are their names. Kelvin Durkin plays the lead character's best friend and really isn't much of a friend but somebody it seems the lead needs to talk to and bounce his ideas off or perhaps compare himself to. They are unlike each other in numerous ways except for their inexperience with women and that is the driving force in the story as they both are interested in the same girl. This story is so rich in its telling and one of the very best stories I have ever read. Kelvin Durkin ends up being a richly formed character of the first rank. The lead an awkward drunk who makes his own concoctions of liquors and juice or whatever he gets into his head as worth drinking. But his thinking is superb. He digresses enough to challenge the best of Sebald's adventures on the page. And Murnane is supremely clever and sadly funny about the true facts of life and we need to hear them coming from him and in the way in which he informs us. Unrequited love is the basis for the unfinished business between the three main characters. And the tale is rich and full of dreams and woe.
The third story is titled The Battle of Acosta Nu. Before reading this I did a bit of research as Murnane has admitted to only leaving his hometown of Melbourne once in all his life and this story takes place in Paraguay. His main character is a descendant of a small settlement of Australians. Though his story is fiction it is based on truth, as is all his fiction. In 1893 two thousand men and women led by William Lane left Australia for Paraguay where they established a utopian socialist colony called "New Australia". Paraguay offered the Australian settlers free land in order to help restore the population as just a few years earlier many of their youngest population was lost in a war on their country by serious invaders. The Battle of Acosta Ñu (or Campo Grande) was a battle where on August 16, 1869, 20,000 men of the Triple Alliance fought Paraguayan forces made up of 6,000 soldiers, many of them nine and ten year-old children. There is a national holiday to commemorate the memory of the children who lost their lives in the battle. In October 1957 the town changed its name to Nueva Londres, Spanish for New London. The colony was not a success, but over 2000 descendants can still be found today somewhat scattered into the surrounding area. Of these descendants, the main character in the Murnane story lives with his wife and two children. The manner in which Murnane weaves his tale is remarkable and is believable in very sense of the word. I cannot help but be reminded of Thomas Bernhard or W.G. Sebald in his writing although there isn't the blatant hatred and disgust present in the Murnane text that the above two gents so adroitly use to their advantage. But make no mistake, Murnane is definitely an Australian and proud of it, and wanting always to know more about his continent, country, and its land. Here, in Paraguay, he is again focused on the landscapes he lives in, the land that in his dreams he most loves, and his family which produces the tension needed for his truth to be told. A critically sick son provides the grist for thoughts on religion and spirituality, heaven and hell, nationality and a sense of home, racism, love, bravery, and honorable behavior among other digressions Murnane is so skilled at delivering. Murnane connects the story of The Battle of Acosta Ñu to the war his son is fighting in his hospital room. This, a poignant piece of literature, and of a quality I had no idea I was once again devouring. Will the Murnane brilliance never cease?
The fourth story is titled A Quieter Place than Clun. When I first started reading this after already being quite impressed with the first three works found inside this book, my mind was loosely wandering on its own instead of focusing on the words I was reading. It was immediately obvious to me that Murnane had always felt himself a bit different from others, as definitely not measuring up to the typical norms of the day regarding sports, and girls, and other activities such as the attendance of movies, games, and dancing. The Catholic religion was troubling to him but he was not yet ready to reject its teachings, just as most kids who never question, who are also afraid of rebelling too much against the powers that be. He was always more interested in his own mind, his learning and dreaming of wide expanses that the typical kid was not interested in. His idea of a girlfriend was somebody like himself who was more interested in talking than doing anything in a group or being socially vibrant and engaged. His fantasy held that this girl would find him one day, or he her, but his chances seemed to be slipping away as he observed the other happy couples busily moving through this life in Melbourne. I found it rather interesting how he then wove Thomas Merton and Kentucky into his dream expanse and a fantasy-girl at a North Carolina summer camp reading a book much as he did on an Outer Banks hillside surrounded by Spanish moss. I think in all his subtleties that Gerald Murnane is so very incredible, if you can please excuse me for repeating myself.
"…I decided that falling in love was nothing else than wanting urgently to see a woman's landscape."
The digressions run rampant in this tale of poetry he finds in books on the shelves of bookshops and exterior landscapes. Women, and the homosexuality of A.E. Housman, divide the latter half of this text and add a bit of confusion to the ensuing adventure. A character in the story by the great name of Warwick Whitbread, his wife and his friends, their women's breasts, thighs, and group picnics digressing into a Dylan Thomas idea of writing drunken poetry enough that a potentially-mounting sexual drive should save him from his own writing of it. After seeing enough of breast feedings and bare thighs he moseys down to an overgrown river bank to take care of his two-minute business in order to see if the women's breasts and thighs on his return to the group would still interest him enough to indeed possibly save him from this life of writing and make him be more inclined then to make his own children and raise a family. The problem, in a sense, was solved by his friend Warwick Whitbread by his not inviting our chief character to any more picnic excursions involving the Whitbread family and friends.
The continuing thread of the piece centers on his career as a teacher and his ongoing flight from the women in his building even though he was obviously obsessed with all of them. He moves into a spare room of another friend named the Danziger so he can write his novel that is to take the place of his writing poetry, which was not going much of anywhere of count. But still, our character spends a great deal of time alone holed up in his room or drinking heavily with the Danziger and his wife.
"Every Saturday night the Danziger and his wife went to a party somewhere in the suburbs. They urged me to go with them and bring back a woman to their house. Sometimes I did go, and sat drinking in a corner, hoping some preceptive young woman would notice about me the faint aureole from my fiery pattern of nerves. But always, in the early hours of Sunday, I would go home in a taxi with just the Danziger and his wife."
The story comes full circle to end up back in a solitary room with his book on A.E. Housman, looking onto another landscape in a place more quiet than any he had known. Though revisiting some of his themes of previous sentences I have read by him, he elaborates in ways not yet achieved and offers a different perspective of the same landscapes and self-imposed barriers he has already constructed. I believe this is what he sets out to do. Less dramatic than the previous three in this collection, this story nonetheless is completely satisfying and urges me on to the next installment.
In the beginning I was a bit concerned that I might be subjecting myself, and learning more about Murnane's sexual foibles, than I needed to. Charlie Alcock's Cock is the fifth story and it deals right from the beginning with his own young age, his older female cousins, his curiosity for secrets and sexuality, and all issues he has examined in prior fictions I have previously read. But there is nothing that feels old and worn or repetitive in an irritating manner. There is little doubt while reading the first few pages of this story that Murnane will be taking the reader again on another journey though he never leaves his writing table or his house. Murnane's perpetual dreams of landscapes are his only interest, and the intense focus of his gaze is his great drive resulting from his incessantly strong desire to be always somewhere else it seems. Perhaps it has been the unseasonably cool summer in northern Michigan this year and my own set of lifelong issues that has me a bit frustrated in the reading of this particular story. But I find myself equally ajar with the viewpoints of the world-at-large of the other young men in the story who are too worldly for their own good and the narrator's male cousin who is so comfortable in his skin and vocation for the priesthood. Meanwhile, our narrator struggles with finding a way into the heart and mind of a woman like himself as well as his constant need for sexual gratification which is handled exclusively by his own deft right hand. Nothing earth-shattering in this repetitive revealing of his ongoing neurosis for coming-to-age albeit his retarded time-table for doing so. But the title is making more sense the further on I go. And I am confident in the mastery of Murnane to get me where I need to be before he drops me off into another hidden suburb of the only town he knows. And he does, and it is a sadness that somehow comforts me. His honesty is refreshing, and though he has good reasons for his distaste for things Catholic, he loves their presbyteries and the solace they provide, their hidden arbors and vast lawns, private, and very good places to hide. Murnane is definitely an introspective and he almost kills me in this story of its proof. But he didn't and I am glad I forged on through the most difficult story so far in this collection.
Landscape with Artist completes this book. Australia's version of The Beats are called scrags and the narrator is interested in being one of them as he finally, after twenty years, leaves everything in the city and moves to Harp Gully. He will give up his job as a teacher, his wife and young family, and live the life of a writer living in a shack on a hill. But he believes all artists are pretentious and remembers thinking years ago he was Jack Kerouac ready for his own trip across the Great Divide. But all he can seem to muster most days is another drunken stupor, the entire day's drink spewing from his mouth as he regularly vomits behind another back veranda away from the house, staggering in misery before collapsing again as perhaps did Sal Paradise before him.
"I began one draft after another of the same story because I was too timid to leave Melbourne and to look for the place I belonged or the woman who would listen to the story of my travels."
Most everything in this story is imagined, as is his life, and even what he thinks of it as he looks back. Each memory another fiction he may have developed in his search for this elusive dream for the right woman and the place he might do his work. This, a constant theme in all Murnane's writing and one I never tire of as strange as it might seem. Gerald Murnane is a writer's author, somebody who is willing to go the distance to find what it is that makes himself tick. But in the process he is self-destructive to degrees apparently unhealthy and perhaps even unnecessary. The words keep coming and finding their place in sentences so well-developed they seem to fool. For as honest as they seem there is a lack of credulity in them. The frustrations are certainly real and believable, and in their process of becoming his writing flourishes under the weight of them. For some, I imagine there is no way out and their reading of this becomes unbearable. For me it is a supersaturation of all things good and true, and the journey through them not only inebriated, but invigorating, as if a shot glass could make the bigger difference in my shuddering.
"I have reached the degree of drunkenness at which things even a little odd or unfamiliar can seem strange and remarkable."
Lord knows the man drinks too much. And for somebody like me who hasn't had a drop of alcohol in over twenty-seven years it could begin to get a bit boring to continually read about his almost constant intoxication. But that is what my own reading and writing has become; a replacement for my addictions that caused my own undue suffering. It is important I think for Murnane to keep the pressure on and he does it with his drink. What strikes me most about his almost-constant inebriation is his mounting frustration in which the abuse of hard drink does nothing to curb it except for temporarily putting him out of his misery. And that is what the writing does as well. It is only good for in the doing, and the results matter little to abate the frustration a true artist must embrace. The brilliance in this story is in its obvious rancor for what is at stake. ...more
The "annual revelations" that our narrator describes near the end of this fine book gives credence to what came before. The evidence contained decanteThe "annual revelations" that our narrator describes near the end of this fine book gives credence to what came before. The evidence contained decanters of hard liquor, stiff-backed uncomfortable chairs, tents staked in tall grasses on vistas of windowless walls, and little said or exampled but more of the same in a serious study never concluded in which libraries remain for all students and scholars to be seen and read of the vast and mounting compilations of a history regarding these interior plains. An exhausting review by me of this book so unnecessary, and even to seem, if exhibited, redundant in its praises. A Murnane language pure and sophisticated, transcribed in flowing terms, its manner appealing and appreciated by a person such as I who wishes he could have been instead the one to have written this book first.
The narrator wanting, it seems, to be seen as a film maker whose work truly matters, for years out of sight and hidden away in some corner behind drawn blinds of a silent library, who after all this time still remains dedicated to his project and long efforts to discover a fitting landscape in which to film, necessarily recognizing the meaning of what he saw, and would one day perhaps actually film the dark chamber beyond its visible darkness. The only comparison I have to Murnane's writing is the many scribblings of philosopher Gilles Deleuze who spoke almost endlessly of being and becoming, of rhizomes and their meanderings, and the difficulties of finally getting anywhere. This is a book I will definitely read again and it is likely to have led me on to a further study of the complete work of Gerald Murnane, which in my opinion, is the highest compliment to ones efforts of a lifetime. ...more
"I have been writing about myself dreaming. I have been writing only to confuse you, Gunnarsen. I have confessed nothing. Read on, Gunnarsen, and learn what kind of man I am in fact. Read the true story, forger."
Inland is narrated by a man who I suppose is not in complete control of all his faculties. Or maybe he is. He imagines many things. So many in fact that the common reader of this book may get a bit irritated with it within the first thirty pages. But it all makes sense and begins escalating into quite a lively conversation, even if it happens to be happening just between himself. There are several characters at play here. His editor living in South Dakota perhaps, a woman, Anne Kristaly Gunnarsen, and her husband Gunnar T. Gunnarsen who is a scientist one of which no one has ever seen. Also included early on in this complete long fiction is a "writer of books" who comes maybe to visit the narrator who just happens to be the chief character, as well as farm servants, foremen, and overseers who all populate the farming estate of the Hungarian Alföld who in the beginning at least is telling us this tale.
It is important to note that before one begins to read a long story such as this it is best to have a good background and understanding of the working mind of Gerald Murnane, if that is even possible. My best frame of reference was to have read as much as I could of Murnane before diving into this one. The only books he wrote prior to Inland that I have not read and wished I had were his first two so-called autobiographical novels, Tamarisk Row and A Lifetime on Clouds, but Murnane repeats himself in every bit of his fiction and refers back to things he may have said in a previous fiction quite often so it wouldn't surprise me in the coming pages of Inland to read about Catholicism, women's breasts, drinking beer, masturbating, the writing of fiction long and short, landscapes, plains, prairies, plant life, trees, bushes, ponds, and hillsides among other things presumed and duly noted.
"…And at some point on my walk that lasted for nearly a year of Januarys, I learned what sort of man I would be for the rest of my life.
I learned that no thing in the world is one thing; that each thing in the world is two things at least, and probably more than two things. I learned to find a queer pleasure in staring at a thing and deeming of how many things it might be."
The above quote is taken from the text early in the book around page forty-eight. It is after reading this far and struggling throughout the bulk of it attempting to keep things straight that a reader like me realizes that doing this could be a grave mistake. Murnane, in a sense, is writing a long prose poem if one looks at the words lyrically and lets go of the atlas required to find the place names where they might actually occur. This is the last thing Murnane is requesting of us. He has already done this work for us. He is the one who has studied the map and decided on his course with little regard to accuracy or even truth. He is only looking for all the right words, which in this case so far had seemed, erroneously, like all the wrong ones to me. That is, until I stopped reading him for content and story and began reading only for pure pleasure. There is a story however. Make no mistake. But the way he gets us there is not as important as some would make it out to be. In A Thousand Plateaus, the brilliant work written by Gilles Deleuze and his partner Felix Guattari, it is suggested at the very beginning by both men to begin reading anywhere in the book and jump around as much as our impulses lead us so to do. The authors say it will not matter. And if one does read their philosophy in this way, and that goes for reading Nietzsche the same way too, then the consternation and confusions are voided and the result is quite a pleasurable read. It is only important that we take what we need from any of these types of texts, and attempting to keep our thoughts in order as well as the text is a hazardous thing to do. More errors will occur in our attempt to understand than the author intended his text to do. Murnane does not seem cruel at all, but he is definitely out and about on the page in order to have a very good time. Consider him sitting there at his desk in his office alone, day after day, and it is not a stretch to believe that he wants to have some fun too. And the more readers who enjoy traveling with him, I would think, the merrier it might make him.
Any scholars and academics who might by accident actually read this novice and amateur take of mine on the work of Gerald Murnane, especially a review of a novel already deemed to be Australia's answer to Marcel Proust and a fellow named Calvino, a work that for several years they say was a favorite in the running for a Nobel Prize and deemed perhaps Murnane's greatest work thus far, these so-called geniuses could be a bit annoyed with me for making claims that this work Inland is accessible to any of us who want to read Murnane correctly. In essence, this work is as complicated as a steel ball and there is no need in us making it any worse or more difficult than it is. Simply put, let's assume the narrator is nuts and we will be too if we intend to follow every path this insane person wants to take us on. I am convinced already, and only at page forty-eight, that the Hungarian Alföld wants somebody to read him and listen attentively to everything he says. In a nutshell, he is afraid no one is listening. It worries him to death that Anne Kristaly Gunnarsen, and her husband Gunnar T. Gunnarsen, will not ultimately be getting his messages he sends after all. And so he shocks us by writing about somebody or other having sex with sows and sheep, or heifers and the like. Even female farm servants. Giving them the old-fashioned Chinese burns on the wrists, he says. The Hungarian Alföld is not quite right in the head, and it is ludicrous to respect him so much that we look up in our own home-atlases the name places and various landscapes he says exists in the real world that you and I inhabit. If one reads enough Murnane is it stated repeatedly by all his characters and narrators that he does not, nor is willing to, live in the world we ourselves choose to. This world of Inland must be presumed to be all made-up, except for the several incidences he relates from the past coming from his own childhood memories and experiences that Murnane speaks of continuously in all his fiction and never quite believes himself to be true as truth is anyway. Gerald Murnane must be read as an entire masterwork much the same as one would read his hero Marcel Proust. But the Murnane oeuvre has not been collected as such in order for it to feel as such a daunting task as M. Proust's is for me. I have read Murnane's work haphazardly only because some it is is very hard to find and also out of print. Plus his books are quite expensive as most of them originated in Australia. So, we do the best we can.
Our summer cabin is in northern Michigan, thirteen miles inland from the great, and gorgeous, Lake Huron, and the cabin is situated in an area of seven small lakes, surrounded by white pines, jacks, and oaks, and borders on all sides the Huron National Forest. But here, in the midwest, the plains stretch, it seems, almost endlessly. There are wide and deep vistas of grasslands that roll out of sight and it is not difficult imagining your having to walk for many miles to find even a house or a town in which to shop in. Michigan is an enormous state and is surrounded, except its southern border, by water. Because I grew up and resided for so many years in a plains state Murnane reaches me on levels perhaps others are not as accustomed to arriving at in their own reading of him. I feel extremely gratified knowing I understand his language and his logic, and though I do dream of these forever grasslands and rolling hills, I am more drawn to a section of forest ten miles northwest of where I spend all my summers at my cabin. It is in those woods where daily my wife and our young dog walk three miles of trail up and down the hills of what was once, many years ago, a volunteer-run downhill ski resort. When I walk into this area off the main trail there isn't a moment when my mind is not hearing the sounds of my winter past and remembering a time when draft horses pulled sleds full of happy people sitting on straw bales and feeling somehow protected from the cold and snow blanketing the ground and trees of this paradise. And the trails today jut off that main entrance in many other directions and are now used for cross-country skiing, still maintained by a volunteer force of good men and women willing to give their time and labor to a good cause. Our adult children tease us when they walk these trails in the woods with us. We rarely use any other of the numerous trails available to us, as the one we are most comfortable walking on offers us a new and different pleasure daily. It always seems to change. One day it will be a deer who jumps and darts to cross our path, and another a porcupine lazily strolling down by the creek where our dog gets his drink and a quick swim before heading back to the car and home. There are often fresh signs of black bear, certainly because of all the wild blue berries and huckleberries prevalent in this sandy forested area. And then the sand banks cut by the trail where our dog might decide spontaneously to dig deeper into a hole for a few seconds before getting clipped on the nose by some creature we still have not identified. The landscape also changes with the light sifting through the tall pine trees and the shadows of long days. Nothing ever remains the same in our walk on this trail through the woods. And that is how I feel about Gerald Murnane. Inland keeps changing too and one needs to be satisfied just to be in its wonderful presence.
It is obvious to me the more I read this Murnane that everything he writes about is connected to everything else he has already composed in all his previous work combined, whether their being exists as essays, short and long fiction, or even a memoir if he has actually claimed to have published such a thing that would claim itself as truth. To think anything in Inland is unstructured or unorganized is admitting to not knowing the rest of the story of Gerald Murnane, which to my knowledge is still being written. Inland must be read with everything else in mind that Murnane has ever written prior to that book, just as any subsequent book must be taken as a whole with all else ever written. So by the time he finally finishes his long accomplishment there should be plenty to chew about and muse over.
"The word was far from neatly ordered."___Inland
It is obvious he does not have a fixed plan for writing this long fiction. I remember him saying something or other about the composing of this book in his essay collection titled Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs that I just finished reading. A certain book he read in English written by an Hungarian writer by the name of Gyula Illyes was titled People of the Puszta. He reported being so affected by the book his next obsessive impulse was to write his next long fiction he titled Inland in order to "relieve him of his feelings". He mentioned how he had stalled for some period of time while writing Inland and his writing seemed to be going nowhere. That tells me he writes what he wills and forget everything else. But his writing must stand up to his own tests he has devised for it. He reads each written sentence aloud and if it does not sound right and good he fixes it. This must be a very labor intensive process and he either works all the time or is somewhat accurate in his thinking aloud.
I have noticed two incidents of violence otherwise missing in his other fictions. The first was the narrator as a child making war on the breeding blackbirds and his aunts paying a penny for each baby killed or egg destroyed. The second was his father killing their pet dog Belle with a bag and tomahawk because she had not been spayed and could not be kept inside the house away from the barking males searching for her. Actually a third violent segment occurred as well when the young boy was given the job of burning in the trash barrel all the back issues of a woman's magazine the aunts had collected, and he watching their nude photographs go up in flames. Sometimes a breeze would be blowing and one of the burning pages would escape the fiery furnace and waft across the lawn. A young-woman would sometimes be looking up at him as his foot held down the page. He often thought of saving her but instead he let her face go up in flames.
It is apparent to me that Gerald Murnane wants to prove each thing in the world is two or many things. He continually digresses in this book and this I believe is because he intends on proving his prior statement he made about "things". He is seriously obsessed with this writing style and it has become a habit or behavior for him. In other words, he makes me smile every time he does this to me, the reader, and he knows full well what it is he is doing. It is he who is his own editor these days. I doubt anyone else is allowed to alter or cut his work in any way. I find it rather humorous that the new edition of Tamarisk Row, which is next in my queue, has had the final chapters restored and many of the errors found in the first edition have been corrected. Murnane has said because Tamarisk Row was his very first book he acquiesced to the demands of the female editor. Today he feels she made a huge mistake and he has thus corrected her not only in his book but on this page.
"…Each person is more than one person. I am writing about a man who sits at a table in a room with books around the wall and who writes for day after day with a heaviness pressing on him."
It is so hard to follow, as in come after, Gerald Murnane. The story never changes but then it does. The axe and the hammer coming down hard and the head that does not scream and the baby inside her sleeping was almost too much to bear. And then the ladder and the secret, the deceit and every delusion that made a criminal trial I am sure quite easy to decide. And it came to the reader as a quiet, but deadly, storm.
"I have found a way of watching a thing that shows me what I never see when I look at the thing. If I watch a thing from the sides of my eyes, I see in the thing the shape of another thing."
It becomes clearer to me as I read this book Inland that the main character, the narrator, considers many points of view. As much as everything is connected the narrator must admit that everyone sees the thing itself much differently than another. There is a constant shifting of the point of view as if there is more than one person narrating this book, or if not more than one then a point of view being considered that might be as aloft as is a cloud, or a green space in the open plains between pages in a book, or in the space between them. The narrator admits to not forgetting about mentioning the female editor of the magazine Hinterland, Gunnarsen and his wife, who both might be dead instead of still working and dreaming in the Calvin O. Dahlberg Institute of Prairie Studies.
"…a page of a book is not a window but a mirror."
There is not a page that goes by in reading that the narrator does not remember something or other and relates it elaborately with his words. The stories are simple but still complicated as he connects everything to each other and seems to let nothing get away. No memory image is safely stored away from Gerald Murnane. Whatever erupts in the mirror is quantified by long paragraphs describing the whole process of his remembering. No stone is left unturned and in due time the ambiguity of these images become clearer and less smudged. I am at once reminded of the song written by Jim Stafford back in the seventies about taking a trip and never leaving the farm. That, sometimes, is how I feel while reading Gerald Murnane.
"On grasslands I almost forget my fear of drowning… I am not afraid of drowning in grass."
The narrator speaks about a poem of W.H. Auden where he praises limestone because it dissolves in water. The wearing away of the thing the narrator most trusts, solid ground, almost makes him sick and he tries to forget the poem. I live in Kentucky which is famous for its bluegrass and the rich land credited to its sitting on top of a limestone bed creating the special formula that champion race horses are raised on. There are also thousands of caves in Kentucky formed by the eroding limestone Murnane's narrator speaks of. This also brings to mind the countless sinkholes in Florida which we read about, it seems, almost weekly now, swallowing up this or that. Last week it was a multi-residence in Disney World Estates where thirty-five or so people had to be evacuated because part of the building had fell into a giant sinkhole.
In all of Murnane's fiction there seems to be always waves of grass blowing outside the window and trees dotting the landscape. The plains and grasslands weigh heavy in all his prose. Water must always be contained, except for creeks and streams that do not bother him. Again, that damn fear of drowning, and I cannot say I blame him.
With only thirty pages to go I am taken aback at how this transformation has occurred before my very eyes without me realizing it until the new becoming had already been made. For lack of a better analogy liken it to coming down off a gigantic high in a mushroom cloud and slowly floating back to earth and normalcy until everything feels natural again and the narrator has found the mind that the readers had somehow thought he lost on this very strange trip Murnane had taken us on. I am nearly finished and the tale has become a Murnane memoir of sorts, believable at every turn, no tricks being played, and I am wondering what in the hell happened to both of the Gunnarsens and their Calvin O. Dahlberg Institute of Prairie Studies. Seems it, and they, have vanished into thin air. Or perhaps, as he mentioned earlier, they died.
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I have read enough bad reviews of Barley Patch to realize a good book when I see it. The negatives relate mostly to readers who did not finish the book or give enough effort to discover the goodness in it. I would guess that many of them were being introduced to the writing of Murnane for the very first time. If an earlier Murnane title such as The Plains had already been read there is no possible way the reader would have quit on him just because he admitted to quitting the writing of fiction fifteen years prior to the writing of this book. There are amazing parts throughout but one must actually read the book in order to get to them. Murnane is a very serious writer who is interested in real people even in light of his writing fiction. His characters are not "made-up" in the sense of unrealistic, but instead have flaws that make them susceptible to appearing in his fiction regularly. The unblemished woman is far less interesting to Murnane than one sporting freckles or even liver spots if truth be told.
I understand that I am reading the Murnane oeuvre incorrectly as I began my personal introduction with The Plains and then continued on into this title. It has been strongly suggested that I read Murnane's work in the order in which it was written, but I kind of like breaking the rules just as much as Murnane apparently does as well. He repeats himself, and revisits characters often enough that some readers consider him a bore. I do not. I like his style and the words he chooses are exquisite in his story telling. He writes of things most readers might find dull, but I enjoy the art of discovery and this is what keeps occurring throughout his lively and engaging fiction.
There are numerous reviews of Gerald Murnane available that talk about the gist of his topics and style that there is little need for me to impress my grasp on his writing and what it means to be one of the few who find his work a loftier exercise than most readers can handle, even though it is a badge of honor for a person like me. It is the same reason I love to read a writer such as Thomas Bernhard as much as I do, and the same reason I believe I relate to a writer like Gilles Deleuze or even Samuel Beckett. Perhaps I read for all the wrong reasons, but I do think not. Gerald Murnane is certainly an elite member in the personal canon of my literary greats, though he is unconventional in today's version of plot, character, and dialogue as it pertains to great and lasting fiction. Murnane makes you work hard for your pleasure and that is rewarding in itself. You have to pay attention or get lost in a labyrinth of people, places, and things.
This is the type of book I love to read, and my willingness to now collect the entire Murnane oeuvre must trump the normal and customary reading habits of most people I might know or have been acquainted with. The only instance where I may have doubted my new religious obsession with Murnane was during "the man on the horse" segment. I felt Murnane then was grasping at straws in his fiction. A bit disjointed and out of sorts. I hoped that maybe the introduction of the "nun" into the text would provide a new understanding, and she did, of course, in due time. And that is another thing I notice when I read Murnane, it is mostly about time. And, of course, landscape. The "man on the horse" proved to be an instrumental part of the book as well as in his life as he was trying to reconstruct through fiction his own conception, though he admittedly failed in his endeavor but not without a courageous first try.
I mentioned in one of my reading progress updates that, "If David Shields had been the writer of this book, the author of this fiction, I would have thrown the book in the trash many pages ago, perhaps from the very beginning. But Gerald Murnane is somebody I want to know, to be intimate with. I trust him and I am willing to go wherever he wishes to take me. And that is good because he is going places I do not remember being, but certainly I must have been there." And I meant what I said. For example, as a frame of reference, I cannot stand a writer with the personality of a David Shields and I find writers like him quite revolting. They seem "made-up" and full of themselves. I do not find them at all interesting, at least nowhere near as interesting as David Shields would want me to believe he is. But Murnane is different. He can speak of the very same issues of love, lust, courting, and masturbation that Shields does and still he has me engaged in my reading and not at all cringing with the disgust that Shields erupts in me. Frankly, I find that Shields is a creep and Murnane is not. And Murnane is so much more than a retarded lover unversed in matters of women and sex, but he does talk about it enough that there is an underlying impact to his writing.
This book has been unfairly criticized by some. It is definitely worth the trouble to read it. It is actually a very enjoyable experience. Kind of like being a dues-paying member of my coffee club. ...more
The importance of being Jason Schwartz is the lone fact that we need him. There is no one writing in the English language today that is on the level aThe importance of being Jason Schwartz is the lone fact that we need him. There is no one writing in the English language today that is on the level and measure of Jason Schwartz, and that even includes that McCarthy fellow. Yes, Cormac writes a strain more manageable than the virus that exists in John the Posthumous, but the works are both biblical. A clever writer on the periphery might think that a mere reference book laid out beside you could produce something of the sort these pages have listed, in order, between the covers of this OR book. But I don’t think so. Merely compiling lists fail to manage their dance on the page (in this case a waltz) as the words of Jason Schwartz do. I have always likened him to a poet of the first rank and that is probably the reason I enjoy reading his work.
To be fair I suppose I will have to give credit where credit is due. Gordon Lish found Schwartz first. But that doesn’t mean that I too can’t champion him. If you happen to read the full page praise at the very front of the book you can see the Lish that I am talking about. For only the right reason he might just explain.
Schwartz never, in any story I have ever read by him, explains anything. He is long-suffering in that regard and he makes it very hard on the lesser readers among us. It helps to have an open mind. And reading Schwartz is no guarantee you will come out of the experience feeling any smarter than when you first went in. But you won’t be numb. You will have what for some of us is called an abundance of feeling. “Unexampled” is how Lish likes to term it.
John the Posthumous by Jason Schwartz is a series of connections in digression. Historical fact, academic and theological reference books, all seem to be sitting at the side of his desk or writing table in case, and he does, wish to consult them and enter his findings and tabulations into his text. Of course, there are also the fictions which when connected appear to also be of some fact and enter also into his reporting. But Schwartz is not The Nightly News and he rarely resembles any news anchor we have ever gotten comfortable with on TV. I am not sure that Jason Schwartz can even be trusted. At least he doesn’t appear to be anyone who…and it feels I have already gone too far in my own assessments and have become what I refer in my house as a haglund in my posture now with my too judgmental nature. The writer and professor Schwartz is a completely other matter in that he most certainly is a stand-up guy. But it is because of the narrator of this book that one can be made to feel not quite so sure about him as a person. In other words, the fiction behind the words is sometimes scary. But still we go on, and it is as if we must.
What is remarkable, at least to me, is the seriousness in which the narrator takes himself in these studies, or stories if you wish me to be precise, and the pleasant conversational tone he employs, I suppose, to put us at ease. But that is anything but what I feel when I am reading him. My head is spinning much as Beelzebub in a horror film, but still I am comfortable that Schwartz, the man, will protect me from some fateful fall from a height in which I could not survive. My words here are not meant to scare you, or even suggest you not read him for fear of any danger to your person too often, or too much, in the presence of. Not at all. I love this guy and you will too if you just hang on as if on some scary ride. His rails and machine are both in good working order. One must always keep an eye on the prize.
One problem you are sure to encounter while reading Jason Schwartz is you will not be privy to what his master plan is. It becomes obvious immediately that he has researched his subject well though he rarely gives us hints for what his greater subject is that dictates the hours of long research and the scribbling that come after them. His motive from the very beginning has to be clear even to the most stubborn ones among us. Schwartz means to entertain. He has no other agenda than to impress upon those of us reading that language makes our lives and history most certainly worthwhile though the outcomes might not establish themselves as beneficial or as gratifying as we may have initially hoped for.
From page 24: “August arrives in due course, the color of a statue or a hatchet.” He continues on to say in the next paragraph of one line, “But this does overstate it somewhat.” Lines such as these please me and draw a laugh out from me or at least gets from me a smile.
I have heard no few complaints regarding the tendencies of Schwartz to categorize, to countlessly enter items in such a way as to suggest an extensive laundry list. But these no few have failed to get the gist of this somewhat scientific aptitude. Make no mistake about his creative use of hard nouns, things I might say, that add credence to what he is talking about in his setting down of place. It is what we must want ourselves to occupy, but instead he does it for us. As Lish has often taught as strategy, Schwartz himself does supersaturate. There is often a bit much etymology, but not enough even for my personal taste. I love knowing where words originated from even if they have been made up. I have no proof of this as I never cross-reference the work I read in front of me especially if it is deemed already fiction.
It could be argued that for as much as Schwartz elaborates his fiction there is still too much left out and unknown to us. Sort of like entering through a locked door into an unknown house of some repute, though no one has lived to tell about it. Every page a new discovery into a further unknown, though we are getting to know each other more intimately. It is his life we share in, though it is made up and of another time.
The book is separated into three sections. The first being titled, Hornbook.
From page 38: “Thief ants occur inside decaying trees.” That sentence alone is a poem in my world of verse. And then on page 39, “See the bees atop the cinders.” A world of its own in which we might also inhabit, carefully.
And just when the going gets a bit too dangerous the narrator stops abruptly and says, “But now I have managed to trample the annuals again.” In context it is similar to taking a walk in the garden with an older, more tired and nervous version of our beloved Marlon Brando.
I am not sure how it happened that it seemed a kind and thoughtful father figure was talking to me and then all of a sudden the voice changed to a grandmotherly type. Perhaps a Mrs. Doubtfire, but that seems impossible and makes no sense to me at all. I must have been reading too much into the thing about that canopy over the bed ruining the children’s room and the way he finished with, “my dear.”
In the second section titled Housepost, Male Figure the narrator’s voice is proper and speaks kindly but with authority. He certainly doesn’t know-it-all. He is trying hard to get things straight, or right, or fixed into some sort of order for us. He is not afraid to fail though he most likely knows he must. We all do as well. But I think the serious and exactness of these facts and observations presented are meant as a way for all of us to connect, much as things in the stories also tend to do, and in their own sweet time. There is gratitude enough for all and also a bit of too much sadness. Sort of like a Neil Young song that is going to end badly no matter how much we wish it to be otherwise. But this may be prematurely unfair as I am just getting into this second section, though I doubt it as I have had numerous previous encounters with this same character. “Character is our fate” remember, and it doesn’t take a poet the caliber of Jack Gilbert to remind us anymore as I for one got it perfectly the first time back when so and so said it. But we are working on a story here and I am getting way ahead of myself.
From page 65: “The cord wound around a brass cleat.” It feels as if I am reading at times a found journal, trying to make heads and tails in an evidence room down at the local precinct. Or perhaps a diary or even some sort of confession. But more is always unknown and the rest is our imagination. It is frustrating and never clear, though the found objects insist on our understanding of them. Even less on the awful truth of what might have really happened. The house still stands as well as some of the proof of its prior existence. What was used in this crime may, or may not, still be leaning or wedged into a corner of the dusty room.
The knowledge presented in this book would take more than a lifetime or two to acquire. The research needed to inform ones self of the many trades and manners found here on the page proves that Schwartz works harder than both you and I. All we’ve had to do is read what he has written, enjoy the poetry of his verse, and attempt to add two plus two and somehow make it five. The problem seems to keep changing before our eyes, but the tone of jeopardy always remains insanely the same. It is a labor that for some would make crazy. And that is why this type of work is rarely read and too eagerly discounted. Lish has already gone on record as saying Schwartz is clearly taxing. And let that be a warning to you. But you are never better off dead when a guy like Schwartz can amaze you.
The third and final section is titled Adulterium, of which the meaning of the word is unknown to me but may be construed as having taken part in some illicit or unbecoming behavior with someone’s wife, or husband. The thread of cuckold continues here as do the objects contained as prior evidence.
How frightening when he says on page 93, “The ashpit attracts finches rather than bats, but the housecoat catches fire anyway.” What poetry is expressed from within our fear.
There is a way in which to read him. It is troubling not to begin, and more so when Schwartz appears so busy labeling. Our planet has never seen another writer like him, and I find it remarkable, and a stroke of luck, that we here do.
The narrator seems to think the reader sees the same things as he does. Or it is a ploy in which to irritate or make us look even harder. Perhaps a question for our selves to consider, and in ways a failure to get what is clearly right before our eyes. For example, from page 104, “A winding-sheet would imply contagion, despite the burlap sacks at the chapel wall.”
It is quite possible, and I expect it is regardless of what I think, that the longer one spends with sentences of John the Posthumous the more understanding through feeling is derived. The words are never pretentious, however a dictionary or etymological study could prove useful or else, in contrast, complications may also arise which were never initially intended by the author to begin with. In other words, too much study could prove harmful and our obsession should fare better by just letting go and having some fun along the way. And for me this idea does not seem at all preposterous. It is likely this work was meant for us to enjoy in whatever way we might have come across it.
The clues are scattered more than bread crumbs are wont to be and they lead our investigation into a more elaborate labyrinth of sorts if one is enough interested in which to pursue them. I prefer the easier and more casual walk among the daisies of his literature and prefer my senses to do the hard lifting instead of this more predictable cerebral pull toward definite answers and complete understanding. My method of reading should result in much less confusion and a more reliable accounting of my complete experience. It helps to know how to read him, but I have already stated that previously and in fact am sounding now a bit redundant. And as quickly as we have entered this rich world we are gone. ...more
I have become a bit of a Michael Hamburger fan now because of his translations of Sebald's poems collected here and his wonderful essay on both W.G. SI have become a bit of a Michael Hamburger fan now because of his translations of Sebald's poems collected here and his wonderful essay on both W.G. Sebald and Jan Peter Tripp found within these same pages. I came into this book carefully and I had some experienced doubt as to what I was getting myself into. But the more I read now of anything by Sebald the better I like it and understand him. These are all marvelous little poems collected here in Unrecounted. And Jan Peter Tripp's work is understated, and amazing, if that makes any sense at all to you. I absolutely love work that sneaks up on you, that doesn't explain itself at all, but the more time you spend with it the better it becomes. I used to sell brick in order to get my peas and carrots. I would tell perspective homeowners that rarely does brick look better the closer you get to it. But when it does, you really got yourself something, and somewhat at a bargain too in this present world of clones, fakes, and wannabes. This book is no fake. It is the real deal. And it is going to get better with each successive look between the pages. Nothing short of beauty and art, and for the bargain price I get to have it resting here until my cold, dead hands figure otherwise. ...more
It is difficult to rate your own book, to review it objectively. For no matter what one reads there is a life story, a history, ones working environment to take into account, and all the other books which came before and have proven to shape your reading patterns. I come to my own work the same way as I do with my paintings, my poems, and my photography and film. I have spent a great deal of my adulthood learning what it is that I like. If I cannot find it in the world I inhabit, I make it. But I see absolutely no need in adding more pieces to an already cluttered mix and landfill if the new work is not novel or better than something that has come before it. That was my concern about publishing these three pieces in the first place, and the reason why I still chose to do so. I feel this work is original. I believe in the words and pictures on the page. I think the book is beautiful and well-designed. I will give this book five stars because I do believe it took an act of courage to produce this work and a certain jeopardy at stake within the public domain.
I realize I have to be somewhat audacious to think I can work successfully in so many medias. I kid often with my three brothers on our personal delusions and our firm grasp on perhaps an alternative reality. But still, we all go on. Making the best of it and wishing for more. The three stories included in this collection are all true and somewhat false. Liberties have been taken. Memory, especially mine, is not to be trusted. But every one of these stories feels right to me. All of them an honest attempt to get at my truth. To be forthcoming. And to prove true enough to be trusted by my loved ones and acquaintances that I will always be fair.
I like these three stories very much. I believe they are good and worthy of the time it takes them to be read. It is my hope that this is only the beginning for me with prose. It has been my dream for the entire duration of my adult life that I would make of myself something that mattered in the literary world. I yearn that meaning in my life shall be multiplied and spread to those both close to me and others I have not yet personally met, nor probably ever will. I covet the proof required to be considered the greatest friend to all on the page where I believe it will always, and forever, matter until the end of all our days. ...more
A longer and more polished review to follow, but suffice to say that this novella was a treat from start to finish. There are parallels to my own lifeA longer and more polished review to follow, but suffice to say that this novella was a treat from start to finish. There are parallels to my own life here, so much so that it may take me a while to write something of any note about this fine book. I am very happy to have added Stefan Zweig to my growing list of writers whom I adore and am so grateful for. This book may not be for everyone, as it deals mostly with what it means to love, and the manners in which love can happen and exist for a person who not only feels deeply but also wants to. It also concerns the ways in which love for ones art can overlap into the relationships between all others who pass and join for a time on the same or similar journey. Confusion is also about what is hidden behind our social behaviors that take place in order that they may conceal our truths, and how important it is to eventually, and safely, reveal them. A riveting and, for me at least, an exciting and dramatic novella that constantly and consistently pounds away at the truth about passion and love and, for some, the dire memory of what was. ...more
A remarkable "first book" written by an eighteen year-old kid. I have trouble believing he did not have help either with the original publisher or traA remarkable "first book" written by an eighteen year-old kid. I have trouble believing he did not have help either with the original publisher or translator of the time. The distinguished and mature sophistication exhibited was unbelievable for a kid that age and my bull-shit radar was smoking from being over-worked. Nonetheless, credit is due this beautiful work. Reading like a long prose poem the images were dreamlike and lyrical, however there was no character or event I ever connected with. There was plenty of place (setting) in the poem and its raw beauty was stupendous.
Hannah Alpert-Abrams has written a review of the novel which can be found here:
Enjoyable treatise on Max Sebald's collected prose work. Very interesting, and one book I am sure to revisit after I complete my extremely delightfulEnjoyable treatise on Max Sebald's collected prose work. Very interesting, and one book I am sure to revisit after I complete my extremely delightful study of W.G. Sebald. ...more
This emergence of memory offers so much to a fellow like me that now I have gone out and purchased every hardcover first printing of Sebald's four traThis emergence of memory offers so much to a fellow like me that now I have gone out and purchased every hardcover first printing of Sebald's four translated major works and plan on reading them in the order in which he wrote them. The Emergence of Memory has already been written about quite extensively and I don't need to add more to the critical table of contents. But allow me to make my own voice heard as I claim this collection is justified in the five stars I gave it. Not only did I like it, I really liked it, and I definitively believe the book is amazing. Another friend offered a valued tip by suggesting a Sebald documentary film titled Patience After Sebald....more
If you enter the reading of this book as prose, and focus on not noticing the format, and just take in the words, it becomes obvious rather fast thatIf you enter the reading of this book as prose, and focus on not noticing the format, and just take in the words, it becomes obvious rather fast that this is a well-written piece of literature. I began by imagining all the words as verse collected instead into paragraphs, and by the last third it did not matter any longer that the text looked like poetry. I suppose this collection was called poetry because it was so lyrical and beautiful. Max Sebald, or another, shaping these words into "blank verse" also added to its claim of being poetry. Having the Poet Laureate of England write a blurb for the back of the dust jacket also acknowledges, and in some ways, confirms its claim of being poetry. But nonetheless and regardless, poetry it is or is not, but instead the beginnings of a too-short career in making historical artifacts that never cease to amaze. W.G. Sebald has a way of making any subject interesting just because he himself is so taken by it. He has a gift that engages even the most hateful and doubtful readers among us. And the more one reads and discovers of Sebald the better prepared to tackle these different types of formats as I had to learn the hard way. It is best not to stereotype in all of life but instead to look upon our journey as an unveiling. ...more
This was such a pleasing read for me. Sebald was a special talent. I am looking forward to reading the two remaining unread titles in his oeuvre thatThis was such a pleasing read for me. Sebald was a special talent. I am looking forward to reading the two remaining unread titles in his oeuvre that includes Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz....more