Lee's Reviews > The Waves
Best book ever, I said when I finished before returning to the first non-italicized page to re-read phrases that this time around didn't baffle (as much). A quarter through, as I started saying "wow" aloud at perfectly phrased phrases (that "land on two feet"), it was clear that this is and has always been an obvious canonical MVP. Tried reading it maybe ten years ago sitting in a Jiffy Lube waiting room, got to page 21 (dog-eared it), reading without retention, turning pages but not much else, and so didn't return to it after the oil change. Loved All That Man Is recently and recognized that it shared (or stole) its structure somewhat from this one; they both trace the long curve of life and are about life itself rather than some aspect of it. I'll have to adjust my rating for "All That Man Is" since this is about as good as it gets. Impressionistic, absolutely individuated, unpredictable, supremely insightful, and carefully crafted elevated language (phrases). No reference to Wittgenstein (as they do nowadays, creating an easy impression of intelligence). This is the real deal: original insight into the rhythms and texture of life. Essential: life and language reduced to their essence, which elevates everything. Ordinarily I'd rail against Disembodied Proper Noun Syndrome but disembodiment is part of the point; it emphasizes the voices, like a chorus of angels intoning perfectly weighted incantations to evoke what had been their corresponding bodies' lives. An exaggeratedly written text, self-consciously a compilation of phrases, the author's presence always benignly hovering over the words, and yet there's Bernard, Neville, Percival, Jinny, Rhoda, Susan, all of them I know now, all of them I see. Interesting to imagine what a contemporary version of this would be like, with childhood imaginations branded by Disney and Pixar (Lego Ninjas seem to occupy my daughter's imagination these days, usurping Paw Patrol, which vanquished Transformers) and young adult consciousnesses infiltrated by Instagram activity. But this, although ~85 years old at this point, is timeless, since it's abstracted; the grains in the wood of the door, the path through the sand, the red carnation, the textures, the rhythms, and the curve of time, the "sex scene" on page 103, and of course the bands of onrushing waves are timeless. Most semi-colons ever in a novel maybe? Ideal example of a novel that teaches you how to read it. "Immeasurably receptive, holding everything, trembling with fulness, yet clear, contained . . ." Will need to re-read multiple times of course. And now might re-read "The Sound and the Fury," which seems like it was influenced by this too.
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