David's Reviews > Journey by Moonlight

Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb
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Jan 05, 11

bookshelves: spurned

The odds that I will finish this book are, according to most statisticians, negligible, so I should just dispense with the charade and chuck this bitch on the discard pile. It's currently on the far side of my bedside table, where it continues to collect a thin layer of what I would call picturesque dust. I look at it before I go to sleep every night, but only out of the corner of my eyes, because it silently accuses me of failure, and as the days go by its silence grows louder and louder and more prosecutorial. I really should stop thinking of book-finishing as a moral issue. This isn't an abandoned lover or friend or a shirked duty. I owe absolutely nothing to Antal Szerb or to his book Journey by Moonlight, which so far as I can remember appears to be about ennui, of the distinctly midcentury European variety. Those of you who've endured Antonioni's Italian travelogue L'Avventura know exactly what I'm talking about here. Those of you who haven't... well, picture some inscrutable Hungarian dude going on a honeymoon in Italy and then accidentally-intentionally taking the wrong train and abandoning his wife. (I say 'abandoning' because when he realizes his 'mistake' he doesn't attempt to meet up with her again.) He's a pretty flat and boring guy, and we have no real sense of why he's doing what he's doing. Just blame it on good old-fashioned bourgeois indolence, I suppose. But why do novels and movies about indolence have to be so indolent themselves?

Anyway, I feel extra-guilty for giving this book heave-ho because Antal Szerb is a Jew who died in a concentration camp. I realize this fate has nothing whatsoever to do with his abilities as a writer of fiction, but books by Jews who die in concentration camps should be good books, or better than this book. This is exactly the kind of decadent art that had Hitler cowering behind his landscape paintings and his collection of Greek nudes. Is it just me or are the modernists looking worn to the nubbin as time goes on? All these people in chinos and espadrilles wandering purposelessly across pastoral landscapes, bothered by some vague, indefinable something... which is all very fine and good if the book gives me an entryway into the individual's crisis (for lack of a better word) and not a droning nothingness. But don't take my word for it. I'm a quitter. Maybe this book kicks into gear somewhere beyond the one-third marker, which is where my drug store receipt bookmark is and will remain. I consider myself duped by this looker of a book cover. Look at that photograph of the horse on the bridge in Venice. It suggests a certain greatness to simple minds. In other words, marketing is the last great art.
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Comments (showing 1-48 of 48) (48 new)

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Jessica oh you're reading this!
Can't wait to hear what you think--


message 2: by Ben (new)

Ben After this he's reading Greene, Irving, and Woolf.

Because I said so.


message 3: by David (new) - added it

David I have to confess that it was cover that made me want to. I'm so shallow.


Jessica yer so shallow DK.

no. i disagree. being attracted to and swayed by visual art is deep.

i do it all the time.
so it must be.


Jessica Ben wrote: "After this he's reading Greene, Irving, and Woolf.

Because I said so."


Ben: it's wasted energy, I tell you.
DK won't go near those authors..
well, maybe Woolf.


message 6: by Ben (last edited Dec 17, 2010 06:27AM) (new)

Ben What made him finally try Coetzee? That was rewarding for him.


message 7: by David (last edited Dec 17, 2010 06:34AM) (new) - added it

David Chairy knows me pretty well. There's a very good chance I'll read Woolf (someday); I actually started To the Lighthouse a long time ago and liked it but got distracted by something along the way.

There's a small chance I'll read Greene.

And, well... things don't look good at all for Irving.


Jessica 'To the Lighthouse' is my favorite Woolf.

second is 'Mrs Dalloway.'

(but then I haven't read all of them)


Jessica Ben wrote: "What made him finally try Coetzee? That was rewarding for him."

gottlieb?


message 10: by Ben (new)

Ben Impressive that she was so accurate. Of those names, Irving is the one you're least likely to enjoy (in my opinion). Has brian read much Woolf? I don't recall. He's a Greene-guy, though. I think all of us are who've read him.


message 11: by David (new) - added it

David I think it was D-Pow's review of Barbarians that pushed me over the edge with Coetzee.


message 12: by Jessica (last edited Dec 27, 2010 05:09PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jessica I confess I've never read Irving (not a novel, only a personal essay he had some time ago in the New Yorker--very interesting). I was just talking about this yesterday with a colleague. He mentioned Irving and I told him I'd not read him because 1) when he was so popular I was busy reading unnoticed women writers and European and Russian authors and 2) now that I'm less snobby, and think I might actually enjoy him, there are just too many other novels I want to read more--


message 13: by David (new) - added it

David I do plan on reading Woolf, Elizabeth! Really, I do! I own a copy of To the Lighthouse.


message 14: by Esteban (new)

Esteban del Mal Anti-Semite.


message 15: by A.J. (new)

A.J. Howard During the caps locks review craze that went around a couple months ago I thought about posting a review of L'Avventura:

GIRL GETS LOST ON ISLAND FOLLOWED BY TWO HOURS OF UNRELATED DESPAIR.

Have you seen Blow-Up? At least that has a pretty kick ass Yardbirds performance in it.


message 16: by David (last edited Dec 28, 2010 05:33AM) (new) - added it

David I have seen almost all the 'major' Antonioni's films. Unfortunately. (Although L'Eclisse and The Passenger are quite good.) Red Desert, however, made me angry, by extrapolation, at the totality of humankind, natural law, and the universe, so I decided I should probably take a pass on Zabriskie Point. Also, I still have a lingering migraine from La Notte.


message 17: by Ben (new)

Ben Ten votes? Tough crowd.


message 18: by David (last edited Dec 28, 2010 06:04AM) (new) - added it

David Pshaw, Benjareeno. This isn't even a real review. I'm honored just to have been nominated.


Jessica I ain't voting for this one.

Dissing Szerb like that...and then Antonioni on top of that.
Blow- Up, The Passenger are terrific.

Pshaw indeed.


message 20: by David (new) - added it

David Yer meen.


Jessica aw DK, you know I love you.
just not feeling the love for this 1 review of yours. Of 100s you've written.


we've got nearly 2 feet of snow here.

by the way.


message 22: by David (new) - added it

David Your non sequitur weather report fails to distract from your abiding, essential meanness. I woundn't be surprised if the snow were a punishment from Allah for your often noted belligerence.
; )


message 23: by Malbadeen (last edited Dec 28, 2010 06:26AM) (new)

Malbadeen As a tax payer I'm upset that my statisticians are spending their time calculating whether or not you'll finish this book.


Jessica David wrote: "Your non sequitur weather report fails to distract from your abiding, essential meanness. I woundn't be surprised if the snow were a punishment from Allah for your often noted belligerence.
; )"


damn.
I thought it just might work...


Jessica here's another one:

I have to take my kitty to the Vet now.

Her first appointment.


message 26: by David (new) - added it

David Marie emrich wrote: "As a tax payer I'm upset that my statisticians are spending their time calculating whether or not you'll finish this book."

Fear not. These are private statisticians, not government ones. (I would never trust a government employee with such important calculations.) Incidentally, they are also busy calculating the odds of the expensive Christmas present you bought me arriving today. It's looking pretty good!


message 27: by Ben (new)

Ben I want to see a picture of your kitty, Jessica!


message 28: by David (new) - added it

David Jessica wrote: "here's another one:

I have to take my kitty to the Vet now.

Her first appointment."


You're probably taking her to have her put to sleep. Just for kicks. That's how mean you are.


message 29: by David (new) - added it

David Oh, Benji, Benji, Benji... Do I have to do everything around here? What you SHOULD have said was:

I want to see a picture of your pussy, Jessica!


There. It is accomplished.


Jessica YOU are mean, David.

she's getting her shots.


Ben: my FB profile pic is her picture.


message 31: by Ben (new)

Ben David wrote: "Oh, Benji, Benji, Benji... Do I have to do everything around here? What you SHOULD have said was:

I want to see a picture of your pussy, Jessica!


There. It is accomplished."


Ah! That's perfect. I never think of these things. (Meaning puns, clever comments and the such.)


message 32: by Ben (new)

Ben Jessica wrote: "Ben: my FB profile pic is her picture."

Facebook is blocked at work, but hopefully I'll remember when I get home!


message 33: by David (new) - added it

David Here you go, Benji. I schlepped it over:

[image error]


Jessica thanks David.

That was so kind I just might have to vote for this review...

but I gotta run now


message 35: by Ben (last edited Dec 28, 2010 06:46AM) (new)

Ben Thanks, David. And wonderful, Jessica! Keep takin' good care of that cutie.


message 36: by Malbadeen (new)

Malbadeen David wrote: "Marie emrich wrote: "As a tax payer I'm upset that my statisticians are spending their time calculating whether or not you'll finish this book."

Fear not. These are private statisticians, not go..."


You don't even know the 1/2 of it!


message 37: by JSou (new)

JSou I like when you use the word 'nubbin'.


message 38: by Michelle (new)

Michelle What a pretty pussy.


message 39: by Ben (new)

Ben Yeah, just came back to look at the cat again. Beautiful.


message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

nice story :)
are You Yourself writing?


message 41: by Manny (new)

Manny David, no one can toss off a backhanded compliment to Hitler the way you can.


Lacika Bubo I think you should have just kept to yourself this "review". Just because you have failed to read through a book, you don't need to lament about your failure. It happens to the best of us. I feel sorry for you, because from what you wrote it is obvious you have got no clue about the story. And since this is a puzzle kind of a story, you have no choice but to read it to the end. Did you attempt to read anything else from Szerb?


message 43: by Lucy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lucy I love this review, David! And I loved this book!


Victor O. Krausskopf just finished moonlight and felt like sharing my enjoyment with fellow enthusiasts... and then I stumbled on your review. what surprised me most is that you didn't like it; given your online profile and preferences I would have been certain that it would have delighted you as much as it did me. Fascinating how unpredictable our tastes are!


message 45: by David (last edited Oct 29, 2014 03:51PM) (new) - added it

David Lacika wrote: "I think you should have just kept to yourself this "review". Just because you have failed to read through a book, you don't need to lament about your failure. It happens to the best of us. I feel s..."

Okay, I am a year late responding to your jackass comment, Lacika, but here I am... responding. I'm glad you felt the need to come here and tell me that I shouldn't have written this 'review' (thanks for the quote marks—otherwise, someone might have mistaken this for a professional review), but I don't really care what you wish for and I don't care if you feel sorry for me. Why are you telling me?

If you were not a complete asshole and actually just wanted to say something about the book (rather than airing your objections to this review's existence), I'd be happy to hear from you; but since you are a complete asshole, go find someone who gives a flying fuck what you think or feel—because that person sure ain't me. I am just so tired of internet rudeness. You are a bore.


message 46: by David (new) - added it

David Victor O. wrote: "just finished moonlight and felt like sharing my enjoyment with fellow enthusiasts... and then I stumbled on your review. what surprised me most is that you didn't like it; given your online profil..."

Lucy wrote: "I love this review, David! And I loved this book!"

Thanks, guys. Glad you liked the book. So much about enjoying a book for me is timing... I probably just wasn't in the right mood for this when I started it.


message 47: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Coughenour Very funny review – but reading a novel because its author was "a Jew who died in a concentration camp" is surely the worst reason ever. It took me a while to get into the book too, but it finally won me over. That's not saying it would redeem itself for you. My shelves are stacked with books I'll never finish.


message 48: by Alik (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alik Why "should" books by Jews who died in concentration camps be good books? Why should they be better than this book? What exactly is "better than this"? I am quite sure this book is not about ennui and has very little to do with Antonioni's narrative. The way I read it, it is about the relationship between fiction and reality and (failed) ways to translate one into the other. It also connects to European history and Hungary in its context, about literature as such and some other things (it would probably be a short story if it were just about one paticular). It is, by the way, rather beginning than middle of the century and has in my mind an interesting relationship with Alain-Fournier (and thus with FS Fitzgerald), and with Dostoevsky. But I do concur: to see that it is highly stylized, one must get pretty far into the book.


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