Perhaps the most courageous attempt thus made in composing a significant fiction. A book for those who are sexually liberated, and for some who accept they are not.
Warning: Any individual not fully prepared to indulge in conventions of sex and marriage is herewith forewarned. This novella, and the accompanying additional source material, may in fact induce mutation in some sexual relationships....more
…Hundreds warned me I was going to die young from smoking and drinking but I disappointed them…
I was thirty-one when I first discovered Harrison’s best writer friend Thomas McGuane back in 1984. There was an article in the Detroit Free Press magazine that dealt with McGuane’s recovery from alcohol addiction and the publication of his new book Something to Be Desired. The next year would find me as well beginning my own recovery from addiction. Religious and obsessive reading of Thomas McGuane led me to naturally segue into Harrison. Both writers were from Michigan which also piqued my interest.
…Then again, I’ve always been a Luddite, much saddened by the invention of the auto. Many people think a Ferrari is beautiful, but it isn’t if you compare it to a horse.
Regardless of Jim Harrison’s periodic poetic dirges of drivel, he is an American treasure. An iconic figure cut of gluttonous gourmet and storytelling of the first rank. That is, when his writing centers on food, friends, hunting, and fishing. A sad day indeed when it was reported he had died. But we who read him for over forty years knew it was coming. He drank too much and lived too heartily to have lasted even as long as he did. And this fascinating and rewarding book proves it.
…A number of doctors have been amazed that I am still alive…
Developing Type II diabetes is no laughing matter. But for Harrison to continue his gouty ways, and in spite of his unhealthy dietetic preponderance, only furthered his quickened demise. But I am not so sure he would have had it any other way. Seems his eating and drinking habits started at a very young age and were modeled religiously beginning in northern Michigan, a land of excess too evolved to attempt an honest explanation on this page. Suffice to say I grew up there as well, and as luck would have it I escaped with my life by chasing a more healthy and vacationing filly down and into the bluegrass of Kentucky.
…When he reached the gate to Paloma Canyon on a friend’s ranch it was a few minutes before he could remember the lock’s combination because his mind had drifted back to a girl he had seen in a Key West dress shop exactly twenty-seven years before. She had been stooping before shelves of blouses in her white shorts and her butt was a perfect Anjou pear.
The last quarter of this amazing book presents the most humble and loving mind and heart to be found in such a grizzled veteran who squandered the vast majority of his lifetime on the word. And predictably, the penning of all of his work in fiction and nonfiction was based on personal experience. Harrison’s pleasures in his life alone could fill several volumes of autobiography. But these essays provide enough occasion to know the man in sufficient measure to recognize his quality of being, especially as he writes about nearing the end of his long and fruitful life.
…A friend, the novelist Tom McGuane, once said to me, “You can lecture a group of us on nutritional health while chain smoking and drinking a couple bottles of…
In his many resulting infirmities, severely wracked by pain, his sadness seeping through his writing feels in some ways like an apology or an act of forgiveness for not being a better man than most of us generally perceive ourselves. Harrison certainly knows who he is and what he is. And makes no bones about it. Even in his immense and punishing pain he never once complains and accepts his last trial as his personal and distinct cross to bear. And maybe it is my own sadness coming through his writing, but I have watched previously strong and robust individuals slowly lose their vitality and witnessed first hand their sad acceptance of it.
Camus maintained that the critical decision was whether or not to commit suicide and that once you assent to your own survival you must commit to life...
Harrison has always interested me. He is cut from a rougher cloth, but his mind and tastes are refined in ways unimaginable upon first look and rare sighting of this menacing man. And his words are often bitingly direct and presented as tease in order to entertain us as he gooses the less inquisitive minds who live among us. Harrison’s readers being somewhat a sort of privileged society looking down on the powers actually controlling our world these days. I liken Harrison’s work (his fiction and essays) as a treatise against stupidity, even in light of the disparaging of himself and his own mistakes in the process. In other words, Harrison makes reading fun, and for me at least, extremely rewarding and satisfying.
…Everywhere we are witness to the extreme confidence some people have in their stupidities…
Mr. Harrison was definitely a gifted writer. In this book he religiously celebrates the indulgences of over-eating and drinking too much. He not only makes his anecdotal bouts of gluttony interesting but actually champions it. And though his work is interesting to read there is a more responsible and informed part of me who believes his excesses not only killed him, but were sadly used as a way to cover up something. In my own case the villain would have been my many disappointments throughout my life. My frustrations as well as my not getting what I wanted. But learning to deal with these harsh realities has actually been quite freeing for me. Knowing that a richer life is made of frustration and the not getting of what I want has enabled me to learn more about accepting what is. John Steinbeck and his pal Ricketts called this non-teleological thinking. But perhaps I am wrong about Jim Harrison. Maybe over-eating and drinking exorbitant bottles of good wine is the way to true happiness and satisfaction. And living a life of moderation is something I am not expert in either. But I do follow my doctor’s orders and attempt to eat right and exercise to stay healthy. In contrast, Harrison’s explicit reason for taking a two hour walk was so he could drink an entire bottle of wine. For him, perhaps, there was no other way. And because of seemingly undying conviction we have here a pretty fantastic book about food, drink, and friends that only Jim Harrison himself could have written.
…My prodigious napping is caused more by my love of unconsciousness than fatigue…...more
2016 was another difficult year for any sustained reading. Seems to be a trend of mine lately. I am certain the reason is my being still fully engaged with the renovation of our new home in Florida and spending two months of summer at our small cabin in Michigan. Recently I even abandoned what had become an extensive three-year writing project, opting instead now to pilfer what I can from it and proceed in a different direction. On a brighter note my wife’s disagreeable and frightening bout with a serious neurological issue due to a fall has subsided enough that she has recovered a good part of her previous life back. But nothing ever remains the same. Florida continues to provide a balm for all that ails us, even in light of having to deal in September with Matthew, our first hurricane, and its pummeling affect on our senses and physical properties outside these four walls we now call home.
I did manage to read my fair share of books, but again woefully lacked the number of five-star reads I have historically grown accustomed to procuring. As always, I restrict my year-end report to only those books that garnered a five-star ranking from me. This does not mean the lesser sixty or so books I read were not worth my time or trouble. I often remember segments from minor works more vividly than those I deem a five-star read.
Claire-Louise Bennett’s first book Pond turned out to be the most amazing read of the year for me. The book had sat on my shelf for the last couple months of 2015 until I finally got the urge to look at it soon after the new year began. Every story felt as if you had been sitting there in the kitchen with Claire-Louise and she was relating perhaps insignificant details about her life to you but making them captivatingly full, always clever, charming, and meaningful. The more I learned of her travails and proclivities the greater involved I became and thus grew more than enamored with her as a person of interest to me. The rhythm and lengths of her chapters (or stories, if you insist) flow well and ease into each other, offering up a gait easy and comfortable enough to keep pace with. I also particularly enjoyed her use of a sophisticated vocabulary. Never did I deem her choice of words as pretentious or out of place with what she was accounting. I considered the book a novel and was impelled to twice read it completely, back to back.
In March I received a review copy of Jerome Charyn’s A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century. For me, this was by far the best biography so far written on Emily Dickinson; the most interesting, informative, well-written, and entertaining. A joy to read. A total surprise.
It took me over a year to read Miss MacIntosh, My Darling by Marguerite Young but I finally finished it. The book numbered over a thousand pages and the print was very small. The text a rambling treatise on life as in a perpetual dream state. Her tone never changed, the rhythm remained constant, and the language she employed seemed perfect. I cannot recall one instance when a word struck me as being wrong, or that she might have used a different one for better affect. However, the book was difficult to read. There really was no plot. Young simply focused on about six characters all connected in one way or another. All had been given several pages, and by the time she was finished with them they each remained memorable. It was astounding to me how MargueriteYoung could maintain and keep us moving freely among every drifting cloud within her ranging subjects.
I am not sure how I discovered Mary MacLane but she did not disappoint. The editor of this collection, Michael Brown, has devoted years to resurrecting MacLane from the dead. Human Days: A Mary MacLane Reader was like holding dynamite. The titles included began with her first book I Await the Devil's Coming which blazes off the page. Her selected letters are also amazing. But after Mary MacLane left New York for Boston there was a bit of a drag in her writing. She managed however to compose her next novel, My Friend Annabel Lee there, a book also remarkable because it offered such a fresh literary difference. In addition, the articles included in this collection for which Mary wrote for the magazines of her time were quite fun to read. But I began to notice her vivacious light was fading by the time she returned home to Butte, Montana and approached the age of thirty. In Butte she composed the sequel to her amazing first book, but it clearly lacked the same energy and passion. Mary, in her writing, was intensely more direct at age nineteen, and seemed to pull back as she aged after acquiring instant fame and notoriety as a youngster. She may have fell victim to her own celebrity, and thus weakened herself as a writer. Nonetheless, Mary MacLane was a remarkable talent and very much worth reading.
Any admirer of Emily Dickinson’s The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, or any fan of otherworldly great poetry, is missing out on an exquisite experience if avoiding, or failing, to study this most recent collection of fragments titled The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems. What is witnessed here is her process firsthand and it is nothing short of amazing. To see what actual version of each poem Emily finally settled on to be included in her final handmade fascicles is priceless. Emily Dickinson never ceases to delight and mesmerize me, even to the extent of enacting severe head explosions, as desired.
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America is a guidebook certainly to find its lofty place among my other treasures. My good friend Jesus in Florida (not to be at all confused with the Christian version) remarked yesterday, "Birds offer free entertainment", and I could not agree more. Perhaps it is a little late in life for me to find a new interest in identifying birds, but owning a cabin in northern Michigan and a small house near the Indian River estuary here in Melbourne provides ample opportunities for an emerging familiarity. Filled with detailed information and illustrations, this book should offer years of delight and even wonder, I suppose, if I live long enough to be fully deployed in my new mission.
The Wall by Marlen Haushofer is a novel of redemption under grave circumstances. It is a tale of determination and persistence in the face of uncertain and daunting circumstances. The book could be deemed an instruction manual on how to live a life with one’s own self, alone and entrusted with responsibilities perhaps too great for the typical human being handed them. But the narrator prevails and actually thrives in her seclusion, and is given the opportunity for true self-esteem and meaning in her life. Haushofer writes in an engaging style, conversing with the reader as if on solid ground and friendly terms, tolerant at all times for the fate she has been faced with, and in my eyes kindly hoping that we might do the same, given similar circumstances. Through her lot of characters she inherits (all domesticated animals), Haushofer develops their personalities emotionally and spiritually to the degree we become as well attached to them, and worry for their happiness, good health, and safety.
Via an Audible Audio app on my iPhone I listened throughout the entire summer to Jerry on Jerry: The Unpublished Jerry Garcia Interviews. Chances are good that I will revisit this from time to time as Jerry offers many pearls of wisdom regarding all sorts of life's art and conditions. Quite an engaging individual.
Although The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits is called a diary, in many ways it isn’t. The individual entries feel more like short essays to me. Each entry certainly does have a date on them just as diaries do, but they just as well could have been called chapters with titles heading them. The subjects vary widely, and are vast and numerous, but they always circle back to the personal Heidi Julavits and where she locates herself in each event, predicament, example, or given date. Such an interesting personality comes through in her writing that Heidi Julavits always leaves me wanting. And desire, in all its many elaborate aberrations, is really never such a bad thing, is it?
Cory Taylor died at age sixty in July of 2016, but not before finishing Dying: A Memoir that somehow details her life beginning to end. In this short book she deftly, and honestly, presents the history of herself as a child growing up, opening and expanding to the world around her, and then on to her contracting and retreat from it, resorting to living her final days contained within two small rooms. But Cory Taylor, in the face of it all, gracefully and gratefully composes a work bereft of pity, sentimentality, and remorse. Hers is a love story, pure and simple. And a complete joy to read....more
Acclaimed author and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips has written a marvelous book and one that could not have been discovered by me at a more opportune time. It comes to me as comfortingly rewarding to have several personal beliefs confirmed in light of unsettling developments seeming to permeate my life these days. The many pertinent essays selected as his best acknowledge for once what has weighed on my mind for so many years now. To name just a few certain selected subjects that Phillips wrote digressive essays about example compromise, boredom, obstacles, parenting, desire, and frustration. Though the work is scientific and based on clinical experience, Phillips manages to make each essay interesting and in the vein of what Johnson’s Dictionary definition of an essay describes as being a loose sally of the mind. However dense any particular Phillips essay is it still manages to offer enrichment and understanding typically absent from most psychology generally encountered. Though the book is more likely suited to lives of already long accomplishment (read this as old people), there are kernels scattered within that certainly contain enrichment and some momentary sense of pleasure and satisfaction for anyone seeking a specific answer, suggestion, or confirmation concerning a wide range of topics. Again, comforting is the word I most associate regarding this book, even in light of its unsettling truths about our defects connected with being human.
…The one suffering no one can avoid, and everyone needs to be able to suffer, though they can try to hold themselves back from it, is frustration…Frustration makes us work—it gets us to work and it gives us work to do—but we are not always sure which is the work worth doing. And many of our so-called satisfactions do not appease, or even touch, the frustration we feel.___Adam Phillips from Punishing Parents...more
The accident of birth is just that. And so is everything that happens afterwards, or so it seems to me…
Cory Taylor died at age sixty in July of 2016, but not before finishing this important book that details her life beginning to end. The fact that new treatments and medicines now extend our dying to degrees unmanageable by some and put to good use by others serves the writer well. Cory Taylor deftly, and honestly, presents the history of herself as a child growing up, opening and expanding to the world around her, and then on to her contracting and retreat from it, resorting to living her final days contained within two small rooms.
…I have heard it said that modern dying means dying more, dying over longer periods, enduring more uncertainty, subjecting ourselves and our families to more disappointments and despair. As we are enabled to live longer, we are also condemned to die longer…
Early in her life, consciousness, and its opposite state of unconsciousness, made an indelible impression on her. From that moment on it was what Cory Taylor believed in, resisting all attempts by others to persuade her otherwise. Subjected as we all are to compounding religions and their accompanying faiths in eternal life she would, for a lifetime, remain indifferent.
…For what are we, if not a body taking a mind for a walk, just to see what’s there?
Learning and the sensual life, her love for words and her mother, two sons and a good husband, would sustain her. All would play an important role in her dying, and terrifying, finality. But Cory Taylor, in the face of it all, gracefully and gratefully composes a work bereft of pity, sentimentality, and remorse. Hers is a love story, pure and simple. And a complete joy to read.
The moments that stand out for me are the ones when I felt most alive....more
Out of the blue I have been exposed to the writing of another somewhat contemporary literary icon. Her name is Heidi Julavits, significant other to writer Ben Marcus who is an unconfirmed ex-student of infamous teacher, editor, and writer Gordon Lish. I seem to remember Gordon making some not-so-nice remarks about Ben Marcus and feeling slighted or unappreciated by him. Lish not feeling credited enough with helping him, or something or other to that affect. It happens a lot with The Teacher. But I am careful, always, to not let it happen with me. Or any perceived affronts to surface in any way. No, I am not afraid of Gordon, but I do respect his eccentricities with its plagues and bouts of insecurity.
Heidi Julavits is one of the co-editors of the acclaimed magazine The Believer originating in San Francisco. She is also the author of several works previously ignored or unknown to me. But no longer is she kept at arm’s length as I recently discovered her previously published diary The Folded Clock. What a delight to unearth this rare gem amidst these current days of our horrendous electorate deciding the outcome for president of these United States. Clearly a choice for POTUS between a highly qualified and rational woman and the unseemly, almost unbelievable, monstrous caricature going by the name of Donald Trump. Any literary diversion for me today is abundantly welcomed if it helps me escape my current nightmare in facing the truth about the worrisome state of our country. But note here as well that I have no fear of reprisal from any so-called Clinton deplorable as they are not of the stripe that reads my kind of drivel found on the sort of pages you are presently reading. I am also confidant I could publish anything I want and face no immediate jeopardy in being found out by my few friends, even by my parents, or almost any other family member to speak of, less those I still remain in contact with. Numbers I must confess are few, and routinely dwindling.
A woman whose private thoughts had been for years confined to her journal, Julavits has wantonly written upon me. And in this somewhat substantial work Heidi Julavits details the many facts and facets of her daily life, her foibles and her prejudices, fairly and in a properly-sounding honesty rarely witnessed on the page. And respectfully, in frank contrast, I have never been able to connect with anything her husband has to say. Though I believe Ben Marcus is of much greater literary fame, I am incapable of understanding him, or perhaps the coded-ness of his words excludes me and bars me from entering the locked gates of his elitist club. It seems to happen more often to me with men. It is why I prefer to hang out (at least virtually) with women. But it is possible that I have never really applied myself to exercise an appropriate try in my entering the world imagined for example in his first book The Age of Wire and String. But his wife Heidi is different. I get her. And I wish my own wife would read her book and get to know her as well as I think I do. Good writing does that. But these two women have to be so completely different from each other, and not surprisingly, so often the same. Except my wife is yet to know this herself. For years neither my wife nor I had any idea there were actually women in the world like Heidi Julavits. It is so refreshing to witness such honesty on the page. But of course Heidi might be lying and me, being the too-reclusive and naive dumb ass I have historically been, falling for Julavits like a delusional lonely patron visiting his first strip club. (Fact: No dancer is really in love with you. You just think she is. It is her job.)
Although her book is called a diary, in many ways it isn’t. The individual episodes feel more like short essays to me. Each entry certainly does have a date on them just as diaries do, but they just as well could have been called chapters with titles heading them. The subjects vary widely, and are vast and numerous, but they always circle back to the personal Heidi Julavits and where she locates herself in each event, predicament, example, or given date. Unfortunately for us she doesn’t drop important names, and that is understandable, and in good taste. But she does mention by name famous dead people. Few names, it seems, if they are still living. Sort of puts the whammy on getting the full picture unless the reader is as well-read and educated as Heidi obviously is. I believe her work fails in this respect. In my mind any celebrity, dead or alive, qualifies to have their name revealed for obvious reasons. Especially reclusive writers who have made a sizable income from their public works. And I noticed she even resisted mentioning the title of an Austrian Haneke movie she was using as prop in one of her chapters, and for me it seemed important enough to name the horrific Funny Games as substantive to her point. I do not get her reasoning behind making certain books and films a mystery the reader is required to already know of, or have need themselves to resort to Googling on the internet. But this is a small fault when measured against such a momentous and original example of fine writing.
Some critics of Heidi Julavits take issue with her perceived life of privilege. Having a successful husband and two young children, all of them living in New York City most of the year, the family spending three months of every glorious summer at their seasonal home in Maine, and traveling all over the world to places like Italy to attend artist’s colonies and such, is certainly enviable, but she has earned it. I can only imagine all the hard work of her humble beginnings, the demands of networking in a most competitive environment, her participation in literary readings and symposiums, teaching and publishing, and her attempts at maintaining some semblance of a normal life while raising a family. Julavits appears to have no pretensions over believing she should win an award for being the best wife or mother. Like many of us she does the best she can.
Julavits says she reads with a fountain pen in her hand so she can fool herself into thinking she is writing. I prefer reading near my computer, if possible, as I often record notes and ideas that come to me in bursts. Too many times I am not in the vicinity of my handy keyboard with no pen nor paper in sight, and by the time I make it to either one I have forgotten the supposedly brilliant line I had just composed in my erratically winsome mind. It happened again this morning on my patio. I was remembering the very start of my reading this book on November 7, 2016, the unnerving fright-filled day before our POTUS election. And as I write this entry today the date is now November 13, a Sunday, and I only have a depressing (for me) nine pages left to read of The Folded Clock and I really do hate for this experience to end. But I also have come to better grips with myself over my candidate’s loss. God, am I ever sick of politics, pundits, and tweets. Let’s face it, the wrong person won, but we must get over it. Let him have his cake! Maybe he will somehow try to be a better person than he promised his deplorables he would be. And though I am exhibiting a rare tolerance for certain things Trump, my parents will not be given the same courtesy. I have yet to forgive them for reelecting Little George and The Dick to a disastrous second term in 2004. And they will receive no congratulatory call from me regarding their winning-candidate.
Yesterday I received by post two of the next three books I plan to read by Heidi Julavits, all novels, and surely to be in some measure disappointments for me. I cannot imagine her fiction possibly equaling the breadth and interest I felt in reading her diary. But what am I to do? Julavits says she has always wanted to be a novelist. But what if Julavits really knew how good she was with prose? I, for one, want more personal missives from her. She has so much to say, and I love how she says it. Such an engaging and fascinating personality comes through in her writing. Julavits always leaves me wanting. And desire, in all its many elaborate aberrations, is really never such a bad thing, is it?...more
Listened to this book throughout the summer of 2016. Will probably revisit from time to time as Jerry offered many bits of wisdom regarding all sortsListened to this book throughout the summer of 2016. Will probably revisit from time to time as Jerry offered many bits of wisdom regarding all sorts of life's art and conditions....more
What a marvelous book. It is beyond me why this novel is classified a feminist classic as it holds up as something great no matter whose sex wrote it. This is a story of redemption under grave circumstances. It is a tale of determination and persistence in the face of uncertain and daunting circumstances. The novel could be deemed an instruction manual on how to live a life with one’s own self, alone and entrusted with responsibilities perhaps too great for the typical human being handed them. But the narrator prevails and actually thrives in her seclusion, and is given the opportunity for true self-esteem and meaning in her life. And that is not a feminist theme but rather something universal to be strived for no matter what sex one is, or even regarding our present day, working out perhaps what sex one isn’t.
Marlen Haushofer writes in an engaging style, conversing with the reader as if on solid ground and friendly terms, tolerant at all times for the fate she has been faced with, and in my eyes kindly hoping that we might do the same, given similar circumstances. Through her lot of characters she inherits (all domesticated animals), Haushofer develops their personalities emotionally and spiritually to the degree we become as well attached to them, and worry for their happiness, good health, and safety. This book is as good as any I have read, and so accessible that it caused me no care to look a word up or write one down. Sometimes the simplest form works out to be the best. Haushofer certainly found a winning voice within the covers of this little masterpiece of fine literature....more
A guidebook certainly to find its lofty place within my other treasures. My good friend in Florida remarked yesterday, "Birds offer free entertainmentA guidebook certainly to find its lofty place within my other treasures. My good friend in Florida remarked yesterday, "Birds offer free entertainment", and I could not agree more. A little late in life for me to find a new interest in identifying birds, but owning a cabin in northern Michigan and a small house near the Indian River estuary here in Melbourne provides ample opportunities for a budding familiarity. Filled with detailed information and illustrations, this book should offer years of delight and even wonder, I suppose. ...more
In her short story Morning, 1908 Claire-Louise Bennett writes masterly of what it feels like to find oneself in a potentially compromising situation and then realize it may have been what she wanted in the first place. (view spoiler)[Wandering outside in a summer evening in only her nightgown with a coat thrown over, and meandering downgrade from her cottage door to the edge of a fence and gate containing several grazing cows, the narrator is startled to see a young man with a back pack making his way on her remote road towards her. She is immediately taken by the fear that it is she he has eyed and comes for. After considering the consequences of being possibly raped she decides it might not be the worst outcome for her, almost recreational, and something dogs do. And that it is possible that this young man is what she wants anyway, and she well-suited for the adventure just as she dreamily entered into her present situation dressed as well, in her eyes, naked. She knew her stupid overcoat would offer little protection for her. But every forward movement the young man proves to make, as a result, keeps himself a certain distance from her, and finally her imagination of a sexual fantasy is all that remains. (hide spoiler)]
Just for a moment everything gathered in dreadful suspension, my eyes gaped, cold and enormous — and then it all glided backwards into an atmosphere of broadening redundancy, intersected by a vertical and rather searing sense of abnegation. And then she adds, Remote sensations really, hardly mine at all — nothing to take personally....more
This was by far the best biography so far written on Emily Dickinson, the most interesting, informative, well-written, and entertaining. A joy to readThis was by far the best biography so far written on Emily Dickinson, the most interesting, informative, well-written, and entertaining. A joy to read. A total surprise....more
You want dynamite? Here, I offer a lit stick. Collected titles such as I Await the Devil’s Coming blaze off the page, and her selected letters are amazing. But after Mary MacLane left New York for Boston there was a bit of a drag. She managed however to compose there her next novel, My Friend Annabel Lee, which also was remarkable because it offered such a fresh literary difference. In addition, the articles included in this collection for which Mary wrote for the magazines of her time were quite fun to read. But I began to notice her vivacious light was fading by the time she returned home to Butte, Montana and approached the age of thirty. In Butte she composed the sequel to her amazing first book, but it clearly lacked the same energy and passion. Mary, in her writing, was intensely more direct at nineteen, and seemed to pull back as she aged after acquiring instant fame and notoriety as a youngster. She may have fell victim to her own celebrity, and thus weakened herself as a writer. But her life certainly was interesting and I remain passionate about reading her forthcoming biography published by Petrarca Press.
The editor of this collection, Michael Brown, has devoted years to resurrecting MacLane from the dead. And I am appreciative, and glad, for his efforts. She was obviously amazing....more
Even before I was finished, actually having more than just a few pages remaining of the second to last piece, and still waiting for me a two page story to read before I could completely say I was finished with this book, I already decided I was going to start right back in and read it all again. It is the rare book that challenges me so. I can only recall Robert Walser’s The Robber having a similar affect on me, but that was because I failed to understand his work enough, even though I loved it and thought it certainly a masterpiece, but felt in order to do it justice I needed to get right back on it while it remained still fresh in my mind. In the case of Pond there resulted in me a different sense of failure because of my own personal failing to lift a single word, or sentence, or paragraph from this writer’s book in which to share with important others in my life, those being, for the most part, the good citizens who actually read what I might say after I may have read a particular book of common interest. I still cannot believe I did not pilfer a word of hers for my own use until almost the very end. It was then that a phrase struck me, that being …no one can know what trip is going on and on in anyone else’s mind… and I abruptly stopped reading and immediately set to recording my own thoughts about my endless uphill struggle in regards to developing any intimacy with my father. Go figure, but that is what happened to me while I was reading. Not exactly a mind-bending phrase or a slice of sentence worthy of remembering, but from the moment it struck me I was impelled to put pen to paper, which is a good thing where I come from.
For whatever reason, that snippet from Pond led me to remember several snowstorms we had while growing up in northern Michigan. And it wasn’t my memory of the snow fights and forts we built among all the frozen white piles dumped in the vast acreage near our home where the city deposited loads of snow removed from the roads in and around our small town. What I did choose to remember instead was the weekly city garbage truck that a man named Tippy drove around with his son Benny riding on the back along with an ex-felon by the name of Eddie Birdy. Eddie was said to have raped a young girl several years prior and we were all instructed to keep a safe distance from him and not stare too closely as he was bound to expose himself at some future date. But then, my remembrance wasn’t even about Tippy Shanebeck, or Benny, or even Eddie Birdy either, but rather my older brother’s and my responsibility to keep the family’s driveway cleared of snow all winter, including the apron running out into the always-drifting road.
Keeping the driveway clear was, for the most part, doable because back then people just had driveways sized enough for one large car like my mother’s ’57 Pontiac which she kept in the garage, or my father’s company car which back then seemed to always be the latest model Chevrolet Impala. I looked back on the endless hard work and amount of time it took my brother and I to clear that apron, which according to our dad had to be shoveled out at an almost forty-five degree angle so our mother and he could both navigate their exits comfortably. The problem became for my brother and I the amount of snow that had fallen, or was yet to fall, or the storm that seemingly would never have any tapering off whatsoever. Our father taught us both to begin our work early and finish late so as to keep up with these great amounts in a more manageable exercise of endurance. There were days we shoveled for an entire day and the next one as well. And as much as we attempted to do a suitable job there was always the typical criticism that we could have applied ourselves better, and we were again ordered outside in our boots and gloves and hats to clean up our mess and widen more the angled apron to his satisfaction. The worst part always came, inevitably, when the city trucks would come through and plow another abundant load across the entire swath we had already made clean and presentable. Sometimes there was more dumped snow than ever before as neighbors often just shoveled their own snow out into the road and the plows deposited theirs into our clean path as well. And that became a metaphor for me about what I chose to remember about my dad and how our intimacy never developed into anything more than keeping our shovels handy in which to clear and pile more heaps of mounting snow.
So, basically, Pond is an amazing book seemingly about nothing but brimming with meaning. Every story feels as if you had been sitting there in the kitchen with Claire-Louise and she was relating perhaps insignificant details about her life to you but making them full and always clever, charming, and extremely interesting. The more I learned of her travails and proclivities the greater involved I became and thus grew more than enamored with her as a person of interest to me. The rhythm and lengths of her chapters (or stories, if you insist) flow well and ease into each other, offering up a gait easy and comfortable enough to keep pace with. I also particularly enjoyed her use of a sophisticated vocabulary. Never did I deem her choice of words as pretentious or out of place with what she was accounting. But it is obvious the woman is gifted and smart and knows what she is talking about. Claire-Louise Bennett has a voice that will be heard. She is much too talented not to be heard. Pond is so far my greatest find for 2016, and it feels quite wonderful to have met her so intimately. ...more
2015 has been a rather difficult year for reading. I have been fully engaged with the renovation of a small house in Florida, traveling back and forth between Kentucky, Florida, and my cabin in Michigan moving and trading furniture and tools in which to pattern a new adventure soaked in sweat. Even our customary three month annual summer vacation at our cabin in northern Michigan proved unnerving as we disagreeably closed on the fortuitous, but too quick, sale of our home in Louisville and were forced to spontaneously move our belongings to Florida in the midst of one of the hottest seasons on record. Add to this my wife’s disagreeable and frightening bout with a serious neurological issue that almost did us both in as we searched frantically for an answer to her worsening daily condition. Too exhausted and worn out to even hit the wall, our energy was zapped and leisure remained for us a fading memory. But as the Christmas holidays now approach it is gratefully reported that Florida has proven to be a healing quotient for both of us, the doctors here more than adequate, my wife’s recovery in full swing due to her diligent and hard work both at physical therapy and meditation, and the endless summer I have always dreamed of now has basically become a reality. My reading and writing has picked up and a rhythm is now firmly established. I am eighteen months into a still developing writing project that is past the frustration stage and steadily leading me to pleasure.
In spite of all my yearlong troubles, I still managed to read my share of books, but this year I woefully lack the number of five-star reads I have historically grown accustomed to procuring as my good fortune generally provides me. I, as always, restrict my year-end report to those books that garnered a five-star ranking from me. This does not mean the lesser books I read were not worth my time or trouble. I often remember segments from minor works more vividly than those I deem a wonder or amazing.
I have been reading Miss MacIntosh, My Darling by Marguerite Young for what seems now to be over a year. The pages number well over a thousand and the print is very small. The text is a rambling treatise on life as in a perpetual dream state. How this gifted woman has pulled this long work off is beyond me. Every morning I read at least two pages and marvel at how her dream continues and never seems out of place or unnatural in any way. Her tone never changes, the rhythm remains constant, and the language she employs seems perfect. I cannot recall one instance when a word struck me as being wrong, or that she might have used a different one for better affect. The book is, for me however, difficult to read. There really is no plot, no pat story or structured entertainment. So far she has focused on about six characters who are all connected in one way or another. They have all been given several pages and by the time she is finished with each they seem for me memorable. It feels as if it is all an observation though, a standing outside of oneself looking into a world of wild extravagance and perhaps too-rich an imagination. I have likened it to being engaged within a long and drawn-out acid trip, and that is what is astounding to me. How MargueriteYoung could maintain this lofty flight throughout its entirety and keep us moving freely among every drifting cloud within her ranging subjects. Still, at least two hundred pages remain to be read by me, and at this pace I will be tied to this book for another three months or so taking me into 2016. I have about five or six books going at any given time, and the more interesting and shorter works among them generally get read quickly.
I Remain in Darkness by Annie Ernaux was the best of her entire body of work that I managed to pour through while in Florida working on my house. Her honesty is something I admire. Surely her memory is not all true, but who cares?
My favorite Norwegian writer,Tomas Espedal, provided me with another great experience with his latest endeavor titled Against Nature: The Notebooks. He writes for people more my age, I think. In other words, he is no spring chicken himself even though he likes younger women it seems.
Gordon Lish provided me with a pleasant surprise in his latest novel Cess: A Spokening. Based on his rather disappointing previous title Goings: In Thirteen Sittings I believed any further literary output of his would certainly fail to produce another work as good as any of the best in his past, but I was wrong and admit publicly the error in my thinking.
I thoroughly enjoyed two titles written by another Norwegian named Erlend Loe, those being Naïve. Super and Lazy Days. It is my wish that more of his titles will be translated into English for us mono-lingual readers such as myself.
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers provided me with a pleasant week of reading as there are few others who can string a sentence together as McCullers can.
I visited New York City over Thanksgiving and came across a copy of Camera Solo by Patti Smith in the Strand bookstore. I was surprised by the beauty of this book and her photographs and words spoke to me more than her latest offering M Train managed to.
Feeling displaced and shaken from birth I am not surprised this author has never exactly seemed to fit in. Being the weirdo in the room is what she says she is used to. But she defiantly prefers to reject them before they rejected you. But this sophisticated and crazy spinster outsider manages to make me want to be led on a walk with her like a cat on a leash.
Jessa Crispin, in just one published book, has surpassed Geoff Dyer on my favorite memoir/travelogue/litcrit list. Her fabulous courage to attack and gallantly face her fears head-on far exceeds anything my previous hero Dyer ever managed so far, himself, to do. Crispin may even be funnier than Dyer; she is at least as clever. The prose in this book is steady and clear, a comfortable stream, relaxed with no pretentious outbursts meant to impress us into believing how brilliant a writer she truly is. She adroitly presents appropriate examples of literary icons she chose to follow to their deaths and why. Except Crispin isn’t really following anybody. She is leading her pack of one, which by my guess has to now number at least hundreds. But I wouldn’t follow her just anywhere, as I have already suffered enough throughout my own many journeys. However, I would be more than interested in reading about hers. Anytime. And if Crispin is a feminist, as some have already classified her, then I am one too. She takes no prisoners in her every criticism, and that includes the women as much as any man she used to find these interesting dead ladies.
Crispin claims she is herself not beautiful, but I take umbrage in her assessment. And perhaps that is too strong a word for what I mean. But I know that to be afforded the opportunity to casually sit across from her, even in a lousy cafe, would be a pleasure few of us can say we ever had. I found her writing, her conversation, remarkable for several reasons, but most of all because she is so damn interesting. And honest. Sometimes brutally, which is refreshing to me. And she is not mean-spirited in her assessments of others, but she is not reserved at all in her commentary. Her studies and experiments in travel support a life now-deemed worth living, and even in its precarious difficulties is better than her killing herself in Chicago. And that is not to say she won’t at some future time. As imperfect as she and her life might be at times, she is undoubtedly brave and willing to take the necessary risks in order to live. She follows her heart, or is at least determined to learn how to. But picture this: She resorts to carrying her own unwieldy bags simply because she can, and thus appears in my mind, and is perceived, far sexier than she affirms as homely. She is a beautiful person, and made obvious in this important book. ...more
The title of this superb little tale should have remained and contained both the words Mixing Part. The title Lazy Days is unjust, inappropriate, and mediocre for a book this good and honest to the core. From the opening pages one can easily discern what I mean by this as the English translation for the German name of the town this family chooses to spend their holiday in is nothing less than tantalizing as it contains a humorously bad translation. Mixing Part Churches. It definitely set the tone for where the author meant to take me.
Having already raised a family of my own certainly helped me to understand and appreciate the humor and seriousness of this brilliant work. All relationships are absurd, and the reasons we remain in them are often questionable. Some call it love, others an arrangement. I have always termed all marriage alliances as deals no matter how much love is involved. And often, throughout a long life, the deal changes. New negotiations must incur and new agreements for any hope for the continued “love affair” to thrive. Often in these processes, relationships become devoid of any passion, and often love exits to far-off reaches, and is nowhere in the vicinity of where it was supposed to endure the coming tribulations. In other words, sometimes our lives do become theater, and this is what this novel details.
I cannot imagine this book being enjoyed, or being of much use to anyone not already subjected to a long and accomplished relationship. If deceit and cowardly behavior signifies what a marriage can be, then this bit of work by Erlend Loe would be too much for those of us to bear. Plus it is not conventional in its style. It is basically all dialogue and the reader must discern at all times who is actually doing the talking. There is little help given the reader except for the supreme craft of Loe always present on the page. The questions and conversation he employs keep the action steadily moving. Everything on the page is connected, and skillfully executed. I had absolutely no trouble in following the dialogue. It was as if my wife and I were the ones who actually wrote this book. It was if my own kids were present on the page. I like to think our family might too have been, at times, interesting, and this book was actually one I should have written myself. But alas, I did not. It was Erlend Loe who performed this miracle. It appears Loe has additionally much more to offer his reading public, as he has never repeated anything in the three books translated into English that I have read thus far. He obviously borrows from his life and his varied interests in it. It seems every question regarding his life he attempts to face honestly on the page. And we are rewarded consistently by his efforts. The sharp and biting dialogue prepares us for the route his wandering plot portrays. The results are magnificent in their clever and exquisite development.
Having been confused from time to time over which direction my own life should take, and wondering if I ever could be the person I often imagined myself to be, it is refreshing to read of the same consternation the narrator Telemann has for his own life. By reviewing his own sexual fantasies happening outside his marriage bed it helps the reader to understand why Telemann’s wife Nina might actually stray herself from the so-called sanctity of marriage. After his wife’s Nina’s gift of a popular cookbook to him, Telemann obsesses daily over the author Nigella Lawson and her buxom body. Telemann extends his obsession to hating the art collector Charles Saatchi who she was presently married to. The concept that Life is always theater is not difficult to accept when confronted with it so aggressively as Loe is wont to do. By also involving the couple’s later attempt at viewing together the great seven and a half hour Hungarian film Sátántangó by Béla Tarr the absurdness grows amidst the reality of their creative adulteries. Having been myself subjected to this film twice already, the haunting soundtrack composed by Mihály Víg, by default, as well saturates the Loe narrative for me. Sátántangó was based on one of the great novels written by László Krasznahorkai, who is a regular collaborator in most Béla Tarr directed films.
Contrary to the mostly lukewarm reviews of Lazy Days, I found this title to be fresh and invigorating, and one of the best reads of the year so far for me....more
A refreshing look at a young man from Norway trying to make sense of his life and attempting to find meaning in it. Perhaps the narrator is a bit too serious or obsessive in his assessments over the purpose of his life. He thinks constantly about the question of time and space. His over-adjustment to this uncomfortable predicament is to simply throw a ball against a wall all night or repeatedly hammer wooden pegs into a board. And this might seem too juvenile based on the literary and scientific interests of the narrator. Of course he isn’t dumb, only childish in his new behavior. But finding a girlfriend helps, as does a trip overseas to NYC to visit his brother. Having fun and playing games instead of worrying all the time becomes his new reason for living, and in this process he learns to love and be loved. But the question remains throughout the entire book if it will be okay for him in the end. ...more
OK I cheated and skipped a few. Skipped several really. Hell, I read maybe three or four pages tops and had to call it quits. The test, the words. I’m talking about his, IN THE CESSPOOL segment. A vicious volley that never seemed to let up! The teacher, Gordon of course, would have reprimanded me and said go back and read them all again, every god-damned one of them! But I couldn’t and I can’t. It isn’t in me, though I do admit to loving the look of certain of her words. And a few of them do do me in. Like gnomon,which is one I have used twice already. There is an old poem of mine it is found in, and then as well front and center in a title of a short film I made. Or how about agog, plenum, or even saxifrage? Already have been used. But there is no way I am reading every god-damned word in his Aunt Adele’s list. Or test. But Gordon’s text that accompanies the test, as in the two notes fore and aft, are stupendous and as entertaining as anything Gordon Lish has ever written. I love this Gordo who speaks about his family, his friends and lovers, his enemies who, in my mind, count among his greatest assets. O the mileage gained in having a certain nemesis! Or countless numbers of them even. A figure that might be staggering to somebody like my own dad who just loves having his friends, counting them, who thinks everybody loves him and believes himself so clever, and charming, and good-looking to boot. My dad will be turning eighty-nine years old this August, and he still thinks, of all things, quite highly of his pretty legs. Thinks he has two of the most beautiful appendages and reports to everyone, it seems, that all the ladies comment on them favorably whenever afforded a fortunate chance to have a look-see. Not that my mom appreciates the attention the old boy insists on drawing to himself. She hates the attention actually, but it is the price she has had to pay for keeping him at her side for over sixty-five years. He is such a little boy. There is no doubt that he will never change.
Though much is made on the jacket blurb regarding the importance of Lish’s beloved Aunt Adele, no little significance can be accorded to his own remembrances and what is left of a memory perhaps befuddled within his own advancing old age. This is a novel made for the love of family and its too-late respect for proper social etiquette. Though polite in every respect, Lish patterns a way into the decadence so prevalent in all his works, that sex act that hovers above all else, and the language that somehow makes it all seem possible.
Then, after I finished reading the book and faithfully reported to my wife that Gordo has gone and done it again, written another great work, I decided to revisit the list test of Aunt Adele’s. Seems there were a few words important enough to me to take another look. But not all than the more than thirty-five hundred of them that he persistently listed. I began to place into order what words I believed Gordon absolutely wanted me to know that I might prove to him my strict and undying adherence to his tyrannical orders, and to muster the required energy to prevail against my own ineptitude. My short list held the following: impudent, sepulchral, millenary, jocundity, saxifrage, spiracle, promiscuous, vignette, seditious, spall, nocturne, civility, rosette, shibboleth, axiomatic, egodicy, foolocracy, emiserate, palimpsest, inglorious, unction, possibles, nondurables, possibles (again), pizzlelicker, possibles (again), fettled, saxifrage (again), spiracle, factitious, possibles (again), swale, slaverous, soffit, jissam, cambered, riprap, doggery, bibulous, ponderables, recumbent, adamant, repulse, supersaturate, fugacious, facticity, locutive, penchant, adamic, plenum, and tell me please you finally get my drift. ...more
Few things have happened to me, and I have read a great many.___Jorge Luis Borges
It was uncanny upon my first reading of only a few pages that the mood and tone of this Borges work seemed surprisingly familiar to me. It was as if I was the one writing what I was reading, even though I understood so little of the text. But it felt so comfortable. I was blissfully content being involved so intimately with this music, and the words of Borges (or his translator) I found to be simply perfect everywhere on the page. There was not one word I ever wanted to change. My eyes were extremely pleased with the form, the shape, and the color of every phrase. Often as I read any book I look too hard for mistakes within each sentence or paragraph, but in this slim volume I never could find one. The entire book was such a joy for me to read. It was so beautiful, and it always felt important. I had also expected, due to unjust mediators, to find the poetry of Borges lacking, but instead I discovered in his brilliance another soul in which to develop a connection, a camaraderie, a fraternity of something far greater than myself. And, like me, alcoholics and drug addicts rarely feel they are a part of anything. And I imagine, for most everybody, this type of warm and delightful experience worthy of five stars. And for those of us who say dear Borges is no poet, they seriously have no clue for what poetry can do. ...more
There are far too many examples of Borges' genius presented in this book for somebody like me to comment on them. That is, other than to say that I loThere are far too many examples of Borges' genius presented in this book for somebody like me to comment on them. That is, other than to say that I loved this book and my introduction to Borges on a more personal note. He is definitely somebody worth reading and listening to....more
Another amazing book by Tomas Espedal. I love reading his truth, an honesty that holds no prisoners, that frees like few others have the power to releAnother amazing book by Tomas Espedal. I love reading his truth, an honesty that holds no prisoners, that frees like few others have the power to release. This is a wrenching love story that has no end, and figures to remain a spiritual part of me for the rest of my life. A beautiful man who has composed another wondrous title to behold. ...more
A truly wonderful book and quite helpful to a novice such as myself being so recently introduced to the work of Marguerite Young. Every essay interestA truly wonderful book and quite helpful to a novice such as myself being so recently introduced to the work of Marguerite Young. Every essay interesting and well-written. There are two brief interviews of Young in the back of the book, and at the front are several brief remembrances of her by friends, students, and acquaintances. It was actually quite an amazing read and worth every bit the five stars....more
I had believed for the last several months that perhaps my 2014 reading year was not nearly as spectacular as it was in 2013, but still, all in all, aI had believed for the last several months that perhaps my 2014 reading year was not nearly as spectacular as it was in 2013, but still, all in all, a very rewarding experience. But when I began to assemble this list and I returned to take another look at what I had actually read I discovered how wrong I really was. There were plenty of star-studded gems for me. And again, for this year, I will list only the books I rated as 5-star wonders and termed “amazing”. There are so many books to read out there it is too daunting a task to also list books I simply “really liked”, but I do note that there were plenty of them and well worth my time.
I decided to re-read a novel I had loved years ago and discovered again how precious Thomas Bernhard is to those of us who demand a serious read. The novel was Yes and it certainly did hold up to my second reading.
I tend to read in fits and stages and get stuck within a geographical area or style of writing sometimes. It seems I both read and loved in a clump Jorge Luis Borges and his Ficciones, Cees Nooteboom and his Rituals, and Antonio Tabucchi whose Requiem: A Hallucination and Pereira Declares: A Testimony both delivered beyond my expectations. Other titles by these same authors have not held up as well for me.
At my cabin in Michigan this past summer I had a few welcome surprises. I bent my reading more toward Scandinavians and was blessed with a feeling of gratitude as I was introduced to the work of Per Petterson. His novel Out Stealing Horses was pure joy. I liked his other novels as well but they did not reach the 5-star mark again until his latest which just recently came out titled I Refuse: A Novel. I read a few titles by Tomas Espedal and he provided me with another 5-star wonder titled Against Art:. I had read some glowing reviews regarding the trilogy of Jan Kjærstad. I have gotten through the first two books and so far only the first one titled The Seducer qualified as amazing. It is possible when I have finished reading the last book of the three that I will change my mind about the second one, but without a doubt The Seducer was one of the very best books I read in 2014.
To cap off my summer I was moved to read Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens. I think this book should be required reading for any adult child. Another “thinking book” a reader I respect suggested I would like was written by William Barrett and the title was Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy. I did read it, and I thought it was amazing, interesting, and written in an accessible language.
At the end of summer I took a chance on a dead Englishman by the name of J.L. Carr who I find quite fascinating. I have since purchased all of his books based on my successful reading of A Month in the Country. Carr is a clever man who has a charming personality that comes through on the page.
This fall I began a study of Elfriede Jelinek and the tour has taken me to documentary films as well as her books. Two of the printed works I read were 5-star wonders and I am thinking there will be more to come. Lust and Her Not All Her: On/With Robert Walser were both amazing.
Late in the year I discovered a documentary film titled Shepard and Dark which led me to read the selected letters between these two one-time relatives and very old friends. Their book of correspondence was titled Two Prospectors: The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark and was nothing short of amazing and even life-changing for me even though I gave it only 4 stars because it was all correspondence. But that book made me want to read everything written by Sam Shepard (which I did) and I even forked over a hundred bucks for a limited print edition of Johnny Dark’s book of photographs, stories, jottings, and memoir titled Johnny Dark: People I May Know. That gem was a five-star wonder if there ever was one. Sam Shepard gave me endless satisfaction in all four of his collected short fictions and more letters between he and another actor/playwright Joseph Chaikin. Sam Shepard is a wonder in spurts, but he cannot sustain the level of “amazing” throughout. He would be better served by having a more tyrannical editor at his publishing house Knopf.
Rolling Thunder Logbook written by Sam Shepard was also a great find. I had no idea it was this good. The photographs and text so rich in description. It was almost like being back in time. This is a must-read book for fans of Bob Dylan, artists, creativity, great music, and a time lost now forever except by the traces left by books like these that somehow show the way it was and could have been.
Due to my Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark extravaganza the last writer I discovered in 2014 was Paul Williams. He has published three volumes concerning the body of work and performances of Bob Dylan. Because of the Shepard and Dark boys above I was revisiting all my dvd’s I had collected through the years regarding Bob Dylan, and also re-watched some of the films he has starred in including his own. So I began my reading of Paul Williams in the middle and purchased Bob Dylan Performing Artist 1974-1986 The Middle Years. This book has been so informative and thought-provoking that I went on and purchased the other two (he 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 his skill at singing and songwriting too.) It is mind boggling to me how much raw material is available if a person wanted to do a complete study of Bob Dylan. It is impossible to imagine any other performer/writer/composer equalling this man’s output and quality when taken as a whole. Paul Williams attempted the insurmountable task, and what he did accomplish in his own write is certainly notable....more
"He is but as the stubble of the field, and yet he has no beard."
My completed study of this epic novel spanned fifteen months beginning in January of 2015. Almost immediately upon beginning to read I recognized Marguerite Young’s genius and realized I would not be able to retain in my body her beautiful words while conducting what has become for me a typically recreational enjoyment. I decided I would have to instead devour this 1198 page work in increments of two to four page sittings. What struck me throughout these many months was her fierce attachment to her artistic vision. There seemed to be no consideration for her reader at all other than her implied promise to keep true to her subjects as well as her unrelenting gaze held steadfast on the object of her dream. And though I did enjoy the entire text in the greater sense of art, the immensity of my love centered on her unwavering dedication to her never-ending dreamscape. It was simply amazing how she never once veered from the tone she established on the very first page, and how she kept it all together for the seventeen years it took to complete the novel to her satisfaction.
I consider this novel as being one very long, distinguished and sophisticated, lyrically beautiful, poem. And it matters not the speed in which one reads it either, or where a stray but personal thought might take us within Young's text. For me it is all an elaborate digressive dream. Such a beautifully written book. Not one word wasted, though many. Often I felt I was going nowhere reading her, but nonetheless I remained endlessly, and happily, trapped inside her marvelous hallucination. But it was never easy, only palatable because of my discipline for humanely consuming only two to four pages each day. It also occurs to me how remarkable the many years of diligent and exhausting research she must have conducted to achieve this great, and believable, work. There is no way any one person, especially a writer, could possibly be this knowledgeable about our lives which include the mundane and countless nuances coming from every walk of life. In the extreme seclusion of pen and paper, a writer often fails to share in many of the common experiences she might indeed write about. But in fact I did believe and trust in her, though I knew in time we might both be hallucinating. And there was never a sign or hint of any hidden agenda so often discovered in our latest contemporary works. Just Young’s extremely joyful delight in language and her learning about history and the past and present worlds drifting at times all around us.
This novel certainly is not for everybody. And the proof can be seen in all the abandoned attempts of others attempting to read her. But for those of us who can give her a mere two to four pages a day of our time the task is well worth it. She labored hard for seventeen years on this grand eloquence, and then gave us the easy part, though she probably never cared. ...more
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
Not sure if I will ever get back to this fine work for a second reading, but it sure was enjoyable. There may be a review forthcoming, but perhaps notNot sure if I will ever get back to this fine work for a second reading, but it sure was enjoyable. There may be a review forthcoming, but perhaps not. Time is at a premium these days....more
Through the years reading Christopher Hitchens has been hit or miss for me. Mortality was amazing, but many other works basically unaccessible to me pThrough the years reading Christopher Hitchens has been hit or miss for me. Mortality was amazing, but many other works basically unaccessible to me perhaps because they are all too cerebral and the subjects fail to interest me. I remember Hitchens on a Bill Maher show on HBO where he was a guest and argued with the audience for almost the entire program. I did not appreciate that behavior then, but do so now after reading this book. I cannot more highly recommend this book to any person who wants to think for themselves and stand apart from the crowd. Hitchens was courageous in both life and death. He is sorely missed. ...more
The most private of men writes a diary, keeping it current on each day he actually sits down to work on a novel which would become The Grapes of Wrath. Keeping a journal was something John Steinbeck had attempted in the past to no avail. But it is our great fortune that he succeeded at the most important time of his life to practice the discipline that not only earned him great literary rewards but also secured his memory in our American consciousness.
This journal is one of the best literary works I have ever read as Steinbeck’s truth rings loud and clear, his desperation both real and imminent, and the personal frustrations of being a writer not only presented in fact but written upon us with his blood. What initiated two summers ago for me in my first reading of Travels with Charley was a new interest in the person John Steinbeck, more so than even his fictions. Though extremely controversial and outspoken, Steinbeck valued his privacy and solitude. He kept few friends, but those he did have were close and of like mind. The emotional pain he suffered in his amorous relationships is made all too clear in this journal written at a time of both great literary achievement and the impending failure of a marriage between two people seemingly highly suited to one another’s goals in life. It is unfortunate that the physical and passionate side of this relationship could not be redeemed and saved. But Steinbeck left this wife for another ill-fated lover who became his second wife and ultimately the mother of his children.
The journal takes place at a time in the world of beating war drums, fascism, and Hitler’s rise for world dominance and destruction. Meanwhile Steinbeck was struggling with fame and the pressure coming from the needy of every stripe. And as he was attempting to write what would become his greatest novel, his new neighbors were irritating the life out of him with their hammering and radios being played so loudly he could not think. But as disagreeable as this was to him it all helped to shape his diary into a fascinating window for peering into the life of a most interesting man of letters. I truly hated for this book to end. But it did, and what was finally and forcefully gleaned from this exercise was his firm belief in the importance discipline plays to any writer of note. ...more