Ben Loory's Reviews > A Heart So White

A Heart So White by Javier Marías
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Sep 10, 2011

liked it

liked it, didn't love it, didn't really "really like it," found myself often sighing loudly towards the end-- JUST FRIGGIN SAY WHAT YOU'RE GONNA SAY ALREADY AND STOP SAYING IT EIGHTY TIMES IN A ROW-- but there's no doubt marias is an extremely talented writer, above all a great writer of scenes... there are scenes in this book-- many, many scenes-- that i will probably remember my whole life (bathroom, balcony, meeting of interpreters, post office, museum guard, wow there are a lot)... it's just the narrative voice which can get so maddening... always circling, thinking, rethinking things, but never very profoundly... often felt like being trapped in the head of a normal guy who thinks he's a genius of the ages... but without being given enough breathing room to allow that to be funny...

and i guess that's really my problem with the book, it's just so utterly serious... never cracked a smile once the whole way through... no sense of joy or excitement (or even anxiety or fear)... people mention henry james and w.g. sebald in their reviews, but i don't really see either of those here (except on a very superficial level (THEY ALL USE LONG SENTENCES))... mostly it reminds me of milan kundera (though i like this a lot more than kundera)... same kind of weighty oh-the-humanity, weariness-of-the-centuries, fine-let's-fuck kinda thing...

i don't know. it is a strange book. compulsively readable, at least most of the way. pretty fascinating on a structural level. just not very emotionally involving.

BORING PEOPLE. that's what it is. ALL THESE PEOPLE ARE BORING.

but anyway, my second marias, and it won't be the last. (i liked Written Lives a lot better, that one had a sense of humor.)
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Reading Progress

03/02/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Patty (new)

Patty done already? was this one really short? does this mean that we are no longer in sync?


message 2: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Loory not short but compulsively readable (for the most part)... been reading it for the past couple days... writing the review now... have you ever read any of his short stories?


message 3: by Patty (new)

Patty with elvis is the shortest one i've read, i think.


message 4: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Loory i don't usually say this kind of thing, but i think this guy'll win a nobel prize.


message 5: by Patty (new)

Patty i agree, and what's more, i think he deserves it! i also agree about the lack of emotion. what's funny, though, is that while i'm reading his work, it all seems very cold and blunt and droll, and then for years (YEARS) afterwards, i'm haunted by it. there is a scene in one of the novels that was utterly distant, removed, pragmatic and cold. and while reading it, the methodicalness almost drove me nuts. but i can't stop thinking about that scene, in fact i think it was the most terrifying thing i've ever read.


message 6: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Loory i'm not surprised to hear that... the scenes are so finely and firmly etched, the way he goes over and over every moment. the sense of irrevocableness about everything is in itself kind of frightening.

it is hard to believe he didn't actually live everything that happened in the book.

what is your favorite of his that you've read?


message 7: by Patty (new)

Patty I think Dark Back of Time is my favorite so far, but I think Your Face Tomorrow is his best work. It's almost like you can feel your brain while you are reading it, though.


message 8: by Adam (new)

Adam All I've read of Marias is the story collection When I Was Mortal. My favorite story was "On the Honeymoon," which he later used for an early (perhaps the first?) episode in this novel. I liked the abrupt ending to the story (waiting for an ominous figure to arrive at the door of a hotel room), and I didn't want it expanded upon. And while I liked the story collection a lot, I wasn't convinced that Marias's style would work as well in a novel. BTW, some of the stories are a bit Hitchcockian; I think of "Broken Binoculars" especially.


message 9: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Loory wow, that's interesting, i never would've thought that chapter had stood alone before. not that it couldn't (it's pretty self-contained), but the whole novel definitely swirls around it... pretty neat. (the book doesn't so much expand upon that chapter, so much as add more mysteries to it.)


Ajeng But this is indeed the way he always writes. If you can't handle his forms and writings then maybe you should skip all his books and just read his latest: Infatuations


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