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Mulligan Stew - Spine 2015 > Discussion - Week One - Mulligan Stew - Chapter 1 - 4

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

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
This discussion covers Chapter 1 – 4, page 1 – 99


At Swim-Two-Point-O-Birds…?


message 2: by Zadignose (last edited Dec 01, 2015 03:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zadignose | 444 comments It starts off well. I've only gotten started, but it's funny at the same time that its parody is rather biting. I think there's some real bitterness expressed regarding the fatuousness of people in the publishing biz, and certain kinds of clumsy hack-writing. It was somewhat notable that the second version of Chapter 1 seemed somewhat improved over the first start, but then it stumbled into pure inanity.

A winning sentence for absurd metaphor is "I knew that the reason for our meeting was hovering in the air, like a great sinister plastic animal that was waiting its opportunity to come between us and give us cancer."

I've pondered, from time to time, the question of when--if ever--it is appropriate to employ deliberately bad writing for effect. Is it only a cheap ploy? Well, one fair answer is "if it makes you laugh your ass off, then it may qualify as bad but clever, thus good, thus fair game."


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

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Zadignose wrote: "I've pondered, from time to time, the question of when--if ever--it is appropriate to employ deliberately bad writing for effect...."

A really good question for chapter 3. I'll wait until you get there to discuss this...


Mkfs | 210 comments So... does everyone else's edition start off with a list of (apparently made-up) rejection letters, in place of testimonials. before the title page?

I'm reading the '79 Grove Press edition.


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

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Mkfs wrote: "So... does everyone else's edition start off with a list of (apparently made-up) rejection letters, in place of testimonials. before the title page?

I'm reading the '79 Grove Press edition."


Yep! Apparently it was a publisher demand...


Mkfs | 210 comments Jim wrote: "Yep! Apparently it was a publisher demand... "

Nice! It really sets the tone for what follows.


message 7: by Zadignose (last edited Dec 03, 2015 10:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zadignose | 444 comments The Chapter 3 scene in the restaurant was about as clunky and absurd as what preceded it within the context of Antony Lamont's Guinea Red. The fact that Ned Beaumont speaks almost entirely in French, and for all I can tell it's just a bunch of words related to food, so he's not actually "speaking" at all, is surely silly, as well as a mockery of the inclusion of second and third languages within certain novels, and a tacit admission that it doesn't matter at all what Beaumont is saying.

But what is really far out is the outrageous multi-page list of noun phrases that constitutes the O'Mara story. Sorrentino manages to tease us (or me) a bit by including some pathetic letters and passages that start to make Lamont a little worthy of sympathy, a hopeless, struggling, dejected author with high aspirations and declining self-respect, and maybe he's just misunderstood, and then whamo! we're reminded just how much he really fits the self-indulgent twat label that has been affixed on him.

It's rather painful, because I, for instance, can easily feel the dread that despite high-aspirations and ideals of my own, I may also be a crashingly awful writer despite my delusions. Yikes!

But anyway, Sorrentino seems to mock the kinds of devices to be seen in... Joyce, I guess? (My knowledge is somewhat limited)... Rabelais... Beckett... and yet he mocks what is great and I suspect Sorrentino is mocking his own idols, or at least mocking the results of those who would imitate these idols... and compounding this strange impression is that the targets of such mockery are already hyper-self-aware dealers in self-mockery.

The O'Mara story is heaps of annoying puns, sing-songy rhymes, nauseating baby-tawk, pop-culture sentimentality, with a little desperate lechery mixed in.

But it makes me laugh, when it's not making me scratch the corneas out of my eyeballs.

Perhaps I exaggerate.


message 8: by Zadignose (last edited Dec 03, 2015 10:58PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zadignose | 444 comments One instance from Chapter 2 of what appeared to me to be Beckett parody, based on my experience of Watt and appreciation of his absurd, over-analytical use of commas:

"It was too early for me to place my ideas on clairvoyance, in general, as a wedge, or wedges, between Ned Beaumont and the two young women, seeing, as I surely did, that nothing that I could say, or even hope to say, on the subject, at least at the present time, could be of the least value, seeing as how my conception of such a discipline, or gift, was that of the amateur, ore even the dilettante, but I thought that I might allow my vague uneasiness on the relationship, to rise to the surface, of the chummy rapport, that we had, so that my colleague and dear friend, might glimpse it, and perhaps look at the liaison he was involved in, with a more objective, and, perhaps, even a suspicious, eye."


At least one motif of the book, then, seems to be what Bloom termed "The Anxiety of Influence,"--the great danger of living in the shadow of those literary greats whom we admire but whom we despair that we may never overthrow.


message 9: by Mkfs (last edited Dec 05, 2015 03:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mkfs | 210 comments Zadignose wrote: "But anyway, Sorrentino seems to mock the kinds of devices to be seen in... Joyce, I guess? ..."

I pegged it as a cheap shot at Finnegan's Wake, though it's been so long (too long! and yet, not long enough) since I read it that I can't be sure.

There's a type of post-modern writing that can use lists like this to good effect, but they are usually a) significant and b) short. By 'significant', I mean that the items which are listed have been chosen to communicate the greatest possible amount of information about the character : Contents Of Refrigerator, for example, might include Sriracha and film canisters (remember those?), but not mention butter or baking soda.

What is amusing about the lists in O'Mara is that the catalog of Likes and Dislikes are indistinguishable: they communicate absolutely nothing about the character, and as such are a complete waste of time. Lamont wants to be a James Joyce, but fails to understand how the techniques which he employs actually work.

The French dialogue in Chapter 3 is another (and more entertaining) example. Lamont doesn't count on the fact that the readers of his novel will be cultured enough to notice that he just cribbed a bunch of entries from a French Bistro. Beaumont's French is, as pointed out to me, "like Kevin Kline's Italian in A Fish Called Wanda".

I suppose we could wonder if Lamont is intentionally using these techniques incorrectly in order to show up modern and post-modern writers, but if he is doing that, then what the hell is Sorrentino doing? Best keep it simple: Lamont is a hack.


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