I came across this bit by Seth Riley over at The Millions, and boy…he gets it. I’d like to buy the guy a drink because who else is going to talk desert murders, prison violence and fetishized torment with me (and endure all the fevers and all the kicks and punches only to laud the cause of them afterward)? As Riley knows, Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 is a book that splits you open and tears you up. I’m still turning the thing this way and that long after reviewing it late in 2017 and giving Bolaño top marks for ingenuity.
Since then I’ve added his Third Reich and The Insufferable Goucho to my collection. I guess I don’t hold a grudge for pain inflicted.
Addendum/Edited to add…from the comments to Riley’s piece:
Both books [2666 and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian] are kind of like moral tests, and if you keep reading through the dead babies hung on trees and sequences of rapes and murders, it’s almost like you’ve failed the test. I keep on failing. It’s gruesome, it’s horrific, but I can’t turn away.
…I think this John Fox guy gets it, too.
Reading two very different books…
The first, The Tin Drum by German writer Günter Grass, is a narrative march that thrums out a steady mea culpa for a nation caught up in ideology, temptation and grisly vision – and one torn apart time and time again. Part one of Grass’ Danzig Trilogy, it rips to shreds our understanding of interwar Germany and Hitler’s Putsch. It raises Poland, that first peon of ’39, to main battleground.
Oskar is Grass’ stunted protagonist whose two presumptive fathers (because of Mutti’s infidelity) go separate ways over the questions of Polish nationalism and German duty. His perspective is one of looking back, told from young Oskar’s eyes but with the nervy candor of an adult’s mental patient mind and the added help of a fabulist’s exaggeration. Grass is dropping little hints about his Oskar and why he is the way he is, and he’s leading me on by degrees.
At the other end of things, I’m nearly finished with Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, a biological sci fi that traipses across eco literature and the weird grotesque hand in hand with Lovecraft and Sartre. Think of it as a book that raises some fundamental questions while it offers an artist’s rendering, done in globbed and glossy oil paint, of the workings of ecology. It’s beautiful and maggoty, and I’ve not read anything like it before! It’s been growing on me like the never-ending script of its Crawler, a creature that is at the center of Annihilation and is either symbiotic with or parasitic on the mysterious Area X where the novel takes place. Getting curiouser and curiouser…
I ask because your rivers darkle (and I know there’s no other word for it), and your phantoms and men are one and the same.
…I love it.
When every purchase gives you a bounce-back coupon…!
Garth Risk Hallberg, City on Fire
Omar El Akkad, American War
Emily Fridlund, History of Wolves
Fridlund’s chilly Minnesota novel is likely going to be my next book. History of Wolves was a finalist for the 2017 Man Booker – and it’s Fridlund’s first novel. I can get behind a MN girl who writes good stuff 😉
I’ve been thinking of picking up the Hallberg for a verrry long time. Read a few pages here and there and know it gave the author a sizeable advance: a healthy $2 mil. The same guy who recommended American War to me (and who knows my reading tastes) seconded City on Fire as being more than worth my time. So…I bought it!
Reading The Adolescent and gossip ain’t ever gonna die.
And by summer reading I mean both the book list and the vibe.
A recent trip to Half Price Books and a stop at B&N brought in some new reads:
V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas
Giovanni Boccaccio, “Mrs. Rosie and the Priest” (stories from The Decameron)
Dezső Kosztolányi, Skylark
Stephen King, The Stand
Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers
I’ll have reviews for Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend and Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen up in the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime I’ve been thinking about the importance of exposition. It was Tartt’s novel that got me thinking about it because she wrote it with such inventiveness in The Little Friend. Continue reading
Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker
Dai Sijie, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Jenny Erpenbeck, The End of Days
Émile Zola, Thérèse Raquin
Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue
I’ve had too many books that I adored while reading them which now carry with them nothing better than that awful, says-nothing, lazy accolade: I enjoyed these books, sure I did! They were good books.
Good books, huh? Well, gee…
I don’t doubt there were a great many good books. But why they were any good escapes me now. You’d think it would be easy to remember the good ones.