“No one can advise or help you — no one.” So begins the author before he proceeds to dispense some very helpful advice. He doesn’t have much to say ab...more“No one can advise or help you — no one.” So begins the author before he proceeds to dispense some very helpful advice. He doesn’t have much to say about technique or style, but has a great deal to say (in a very small space) about more important matters, such as inspiration, authenticity, and even love. Much of the time he seems to be saying as much or more about life than about art.
This is less a coherent work than a collection of brief but thoughtful essays (or sermons) intended for an audience of one. The book is short enough to read in one or two sittings, but is probably best read in short bursts and then pondered over a little at a time. These ten letters, after all, were distributed to its original recipient over a period of six years! The rest of the world can be grateful that Herr Kappus saved and published these letters, and perhaps also grateful that he suppressed his own – presumably less eloquent – side of the conversation.
It would be pointless to go into any further commentary here, for as the author points out, “Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings.” (less)
What a falling off in quality from the first two installments of this trilogy! The decadently sensuous, baroque language and wicked sense of humor are...moreWhat a falling off in quality from the first two installments of this trilogy! The decadently sensuous, baroque language and wicked sense of humor are still there (with an added quality of bitter disillusion that made this story seem more judgmental in its presentation), but the plot lurches randomly from one tedious episode to another, with vague characters appearing and reappearing for no apparent reason. Some episodes seemed to be sketchy or missing, the various themes are not fully worked out, and the chapters were quite short and choppy, some only a paragraph or two in length. There’s a wonderfully macabre finale that manages to bring back the much more interesting characters who were killed off by the end of the second volume, but by then it is too little and too late.
It was a shorter book than either of the first two, but was sometimes a chore to get through. The slackening of energy in this volume makes it seem more like the middle of a series than its culmination. Too much of the time the author seems to be spinning his wheels, getting by on style alone. There are reasons for all of this, of course – the author fell fatally ill and the novel had to be finished by others from his drafts, and he never had an opportunity to complete the projected further novels in the series.
Ultimately it is an occasionally brilliant but frustrating testament to what might have been. It’s still worth reading, though, just because the author left behind such a small but dazzlingly original body of work. (less)
Not exactly "1776," this extremely brief musical skit sums up the Constitutional Convention in two pages of wooden, perfunctory dialogue and a jaunty...moreNot exactly "1776," this extremely brief musical skit sums up the Constitutional Convention in two pages of wooden, perfunctory dialogue and a jaunty little tune with endearingly clumsy lyrics ("Oh Mister Hamilton, just listen to me. Your plan reminds me of royalty." That sort of thing.) Conveys the basic facts, but I wish there had been a little more character development, and more humor. Franklin has an entertaining one-line cameo, though.(less)