Kelman at his best perhaps. Witty, human and wise. But he does go on. I am going to elevate this book to a bedside place and edit it into a short storKelman at his best perhaps. Witty, human and wise. But he does go on. I am going to elevate this book to a bedside place and edit it into a short story format....more
The introduction to this 2008 is by Stewart Home who is probably very well known and respected, but I didn't like it. He wants to place the novel as aThe introduction to this 2008 is by Stewart Home who is probably very well known and respected, but I didn't like it. He wants to place the novel as a 'protopostmodernist' exemplar, and says those who see it as related to The Outsider or as containing an 'existentialist protagonist' are wrong. I think he is wrong. But be that as his may, it is a very 'writerly' book, and even I could go on for ever about it, even with no idea what I am talking about. So just a few comments here. It is as far as I can see technically perfect. I am not sure after reading the introduction whether a piece of writing's technical and structural qualities are relevant or permissible these days. But I will remain certain, if only in my isolation, that it is a brilliant work of art. Talking of art, it is also an extraordinarily painterly book (as well as being a cinematic book, not the same thing). Its painterliness is of sounds too, and white gusts of wet (not rain). The canal is convenient to have around as a reference, and the either ends of Clyde quays and Leith quays. Also a bit of an installation itself with its black screwed wakes and floating a spirit of corpse to supplement the actual one, a plot line that carries much - matches, cigarettes especially: many cigarettes, you could write a thesis on the way time is split by them and what each signifies; Joe has nine just looking in the mirror on the second page (and yes, yes, the mirror too is a device and a symbol and a sort of ey too, and therefore a sort of I which is a problematic eye etc etc), but cigarettes smoke, and this is a painterly smokerly novel, Trocchi is the John Constable of cigarette smoke... Smoke over the black waters, with their depths and smells (or is it sounds, or is it a mix of sound and smell, as is suggested by either the writer or the writer behind the writer or the protagonist : there are three narrative voices you will have spotted., smoke as mist, as fog, as just formlessness, as cloud, as cloud that paints into other cloud, leaks, soggy - then the quick lurch into startling sharpness of the triangle motif, see how many you can spot including the one dangling from Saint Vitus the jerky tramp,and cranes and hawsers and one which is identified as definitely a symbol, but not 'of' anything known *which is exactly what symbols should be), and all these gantries and clashes of metal on metal are the hard girders of a structure or structures, so hard that they are as unbending as the mental structure of isolation, of the feeling of self (maybe too Joe feels this in the toilet drinking whiskey, just like any drinker) opposed to the leaking blending into shapelessness, dark depressions and dread which are the colour of wetness, and mud and soggy grass, and rain is never far away. The explicit expositions about mental structure are superb, should be extracted for a handbook, including the closely observed moments of inauthentic communication just to be allowed not to have to communicate, the sexual dance of flirtation etc. Though Joe is indeed a call him what you will, let's say psycho, he is just stripped down human meat below what's beyond the gloomy environs of the Strathlothian line. And forget not that the mirror is cousin to windows, which begin, in the first paragraph to assert their peculiar mystery, and continue throughout, as windows of eyes, of looking intos, of being stared at, look at the starnge confusion and vertigo of the mixing lights in the slat of window at the end in the bar when the daylight wearies out and the figures within thereby become brighter, and look at the incredibly condensed use of apertures among the hurdy gurdy goyaesque carnival of the fair. Water Colours, it does indeed, water colours sound and smell and taste and vision. Of course, a central interrogation is of looking and seeing, and how damned difficult it is to see, like how Joe sees in the young students near the end their joy which they themselves cannot see. And if you say that Joe's way of seeing things is weird, or perverse, or inhuman, or immoral or whatever else you can put together from the official libraries of appropriate res ponse, don't forget that this is not a novel about a sick mind but about how the mind in general works. The sex too, the sheer buttock celebrating, strong thigh gaping, manly woman, boyish girl, mechanism of it all, and the minute observations of the red and the white and the spider veins at the top of the the thigh, an endless cataloguing of prurient fascination, this look, this ownership in isolation of the whole world that comes through the clouds now and then with a vivid clashing of image down to the atom.
Another thesis could be written about 'yellow', the whole thing is held together by whatever this yellow is, besides its colour but includingg that of course. Fish and flesh,fingerprints on water, this is a truly awful and dreadful novel. ...more
Good collection of sermons. The fault as ever is that they can make us feel too good in our wretched state, a bit like feeling good after seeing a telGood collection of sermons. The fault as ever is that they can make us feel too good in our wretched state, a bit like feeling good after seeing a television documentary about something unpleasant that humans are doing to other humans. Not enough emphasis on the commandment to love and what this may mean in practice, too content to leave the listener to work out their own salvation. Still, a very clear exposition of central doctrines, entertaining wordplay to blow away misconceptions (somewhere surely there must be a source of these misconceptions and an authority to be certain that they are thus?). Not the writer's fault, of course, but so clear are the parameters and contours of the bestiary he lays out that some poor souls will adopt it as their own personal revelation and thus btpass the fire of seeking their own salvation. In other words, replace the error of scriptural literalism with a literalism manufactured in the same world that gives us romantic novels....more
A first reading, the second to follow soon, the nature of a commonplace book so filled with (dangerously) seductive short-view snippets that try to maA first reading, the second to follow soon, the nature of a commonplace book so filled with (dangerously) seductive short-view snippets that try to make sense of life. The life of octogenarian Sammler, surviving, reborn from the heap of corpses in a routine Nazi operation (no one cares, or knows) that includes his wife. Survivor with a damaged eye from a rifle butt, half blind half seeing, the details of physiognomy, bushy eyebrows, Wallace a filmic charade of too-real contours and shapes. It is a wonderful book, very Jewish and therefore universal. And, yes, funny too! Funny even though I found myself ponderously affirming various theses on the collapse of values in decadent modernity, found myself thirstily drinking from the sentimental wordlessness of human action as affirmation, seduced beyond consciousness to both agree that axplanations are turgid while lapping them up at every pahe. In the end, the site of our misery is words themselves, our entrappment in grammar. There is the miracle of all great novels, that while mounting a wholesale attack on their own very constructing, somehow the catechrestic lumps of dead words is transcended. A novel of hope, therefore, in very dark times....more
Third time of reading. Sermonic, if there is such a word. Written by a priest and theologian. But as in the manner of Tillich, I do believe many of thThird time of reading. Sermonic, if there is such a word. Written by a priest and theologian. But as in the manner of Tillich, I do believe many of the insights into human existence would appeal to the nonreligious too. The suffering at the heart of the human condition identified here is that related to the well identified 'loss of values', meaninglessness, existential anguish etc etc so beloved of 20th century cultural commentators, the loss of spirit, the aridity of the bourgeois, distractions eating away at 'authenic' life, the central concern of melding with destiny and, of course, the ongoing moments of 'true resurrection' when the spirit comes to live in a broadly defined creativity. Tinged with references to poetry, psychoanalysis (even Laing gets a footnote) of this artistic period that spills over into 'postmodernism' so perhaps too familiar, too distanced to a period when such avuncular commentaries shared a certain portentous style, and too ignorant to discuss its politics, because (wrongly) assuming its objectivity: the book is good, but a contribution from a particular time and interest, from a parochial parabling, and certainly from a somewhat privileged background regarding the drawing of the parameters of suffering. ...more
The most lovely and wonderful book I have read for years. It can be read by anybody, it will appeal to everybody. I have never read a book before thatThe most lovely and wonderful book I have read for years. It can be read by anybody, it will appeal to everybody. I have never read a book before that has made me cry, and this did it twice. The characters in it are lovely, the writer must be lovely to bring them to the page. And too, the writer is a brilliant writer, top of the pile, I can't wait to read more of her. It is a celebration of life, this beautiful novel....more