This is the 13th book I've read by Marías; I've now read everything that's been translated into English, except for the short story collection "WhileThis is the 13th book I've read by Marías; I've now read everything that's been translated into English, except for the short story collection "While the Women Are Sleeping" and the forthcoming "Thus Bad Begins." And while the first 200 pages or so were pretty boring to me, I'm not sure if that's because this is a lesser effort, or if familiarity has bred some small measure of contempt. All the Marías trademarks are here: a narrator with a career dealing with language considers various issues related to death, circling around one or two Shakespeare quotes for insight. Entire sections frequently focus with microscopic intensity on expanding thoughts between squished between volleys in conversations. Marías' lowgrade old world chauvinism is on display, too, which never bothered me too terribly much before, but which is more difficult to swallow in the voice of an unconvincing female narrator. My biggest complaint, however, is with the quality of the prose. Marías' repetitions and long sentences are part of the pleasure of reading him, but the prose here is often a little lackluster. The best parts of this novel, for me, are the constant references to "Macbeth"--not only the ongoing discussion of Macbeth's line, "She should have died hereafter," but oblique references and ruminations on lines that are never quoted but only alluded to, like Duncan's "There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face," and Lady Macbeth's "The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures." A secondary pleasure, later in the novel, is the discovery of the intertextual relationship between this novel and a really good earlier work. Still, I'm glad I saved this for later, as this was my least favorite, so far, by one of my favorite authors....more
Three stars, because I'm entirely sympathetic to Gray's argument that humans are in all important respects mere animals, and that humanism is a sham,Three stars, because I'm entirely sympathetic to Gray's argument that humans are in all important respects mere animals, and that humanism is a sham, a holdover from Christianity that wrongly insists that humans are uniquely perfectible and that true progress is possible. Still...what is this mess?
Largely disorganized, uneven (elegant passages shuffled with ones that are extremely poorly written), full of unbacked claims and faulty assertions, inaccurate readings of Eastern religions, undercooked discussions, unclear sentences that strive to sound cool, attempts at aphorisms that fall flat...this book either lacked an editor, or lacked an editor with a backbone. This is grade school Cioran. But where Cioran can occassionally use "I" and yet still humbly speak for generalized modern experience, Gray writes in authoritative second-person, documentary prose which, despite this, overflows with embarrassing bloviating ego.
There are plenty of good, timely insights about mankind, history, the nature and desirability of consciousness (his argument, that consciousness is not so desirable or important, is compelling), and modernity. I learned stuff that will make me investigate Schopenhauer, and I'll check out the Brethren of the Free Spirit (which Gray mentions, fails to describe or define, and yet goes on to compare to the Situationists), but this was largely a waste of time.
Philosophy is usually over my head, but this is TED Talk-level crap. It's written in the combative style of clickbait, as though Gray expects his ideas to be received as outrageous (though they are not new) and to be met with nothing but opposition to his views.
Another rare foray into contemporary nonfiction that has ended in disappointment. Any suggestions? ...more