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Mulligan Stew - Spine 2015 > Discussion - Week Three - Mulligan Stew - Chapter 8 - 9

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message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
This discussion covers Chapter 8 – 9, page 226 – 322


Mkfs | 210 comments Judging by Lamont's correspondence, Chapter 9 is a retreat to the technique of Three Deuces, whose "blur of geography" was cited by critics as its most notable feature.


Zadignose | 444 comments I've quite enjoyed much of Mulligan Stew, but I must admit that the "Masque of Fungo" nearly broke me, and I've been on hiatus. I will carry on... just not necessarily today or tomorrow.


Mkfs | 210 comments The Masque was an endurance contest, to be sure, but fortunately it was short. I'm reading a Burgess novel now which has something similar: a musical on the life of Trotsky as one of the three concurrent storylines. In some ways better, in some ways worse.

Chapter 9 is a bit of a slog as well. Things do start to pick up afterwards, though.


message 5: by Jim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Zadignose wrote: "I've quite enjoyed much of Mulligan Stew, but I must admit that the "Masque of Fungo" nearly broke me, and I've been on hiatus. I will carry on... just not necessarily today or tomorrow."


I rather enjoyed the masque. I don't know why. I suppose I imagined it as some sort of psychedelic freak show with Frank Zappa as the orchestra leader...


message 6: by Zadignose (last edited Dec 22, 2015 01:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zadignose | 444 comments I did find parts of it entertaining, it just somewhere went beyond that point to where I was hoping it would wrap up soon, and then there were like another fifteen or twenty pages to go. I mean, in this book, and in other books, I have sometimes had my impatience triggered, but then I've quickly reengaged, so it didn't bother me, but in this case my impatience stayed with me rather... more... It was like getting to the two-thirds point in Leviticus and then stubbornly sticking it out from there.


message 7: by Jim (last edited Dec 22, 2015 02:01AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Zadignose wrote: "I did find parts of it entertaining, it just somewhere went beyond that point to where I was hoping it would wrap up soon, and then there were like another fifteen or twenty pages to go. I mean, in..."

I think this impatience factor is important to understanding the book. Can you imagine being a reader at a publishing house and having to write the reader's report for this? Or maybe it was easy - "Unpublishable!"

So then what is Sorrentino on about? If you're a writer with Lamont's lofty goals - i.e. writing "important" books - you are likely frustrated by the genre books that sell so well, like Dermot's drek. But what if no one cares about what's important and only about what sells? And so on and on and on... Isn't this the perpetual complaint of all serious artists from the 19th century onward? I'm sure there were plenty of 19th-century Anthony Lamont's who though Dickens sucked and couldn't understand his popularity and success.

So who is Sorrentino mocking? The hacks? The wannabe greats? The greedy publishers? Or the no-accounting-for-taste unwashed masses of the reading public? Or choice "E.", All of the above?


Zadignose | 444 comments True. I won't dismiss it, and I may come out as a fan, but only make note now of the experience when I was immersed in it.


Mkfs | 210 comments Sorrentino, as far as I can tell, is making fun of every aspect of the literary/publishing world -- with the possible exception of the reader.

He's got academia in there, aspiring authors, commercial authors, lofty writers, patrons of lofty writers, critics. Perhaps not actual booksellers; I don't recall any.

One of the more amusing aspects to Mulligan Stew is Lamont's constant changing of his writing technique in order to match what he thinks readers/publishers will want, as bitterness and parania set in. It's like an entire (failed) writing career, told through the process of crafting a single novel.

Of course, Sorrentino was an editor at Grove Press for something like 20 years. Part of me likes to imagine this novel as revenge for all the crap manuscripts he had to wade through.


Zadignose | 444 comments I do think that a large part of this book is about a writer's anxiety. What if, despite all my ambition and idealism, I'm delusional, worse than a hack, a panderer, and on top of it all I'm doomed to eternal oblivion? Seeing the shortcomings of others doesn't mean I'm not blind to my own.


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