Thursday, August 31st, 2006
The Russian Debutante's Handbook: not at all subtle, occasionally obnoxious. But there are moments that just sing. I think Absurdistan was the same way; but maybe Shteyngart is getting better at the subtlety, since I don't remember being as annoyed by his roughness when I was reading that.
I started Gary Shteyngart's The Russian Debutante's Handbook this morning and am digging it. The voice is very similar to Shteyngart's voice in Absurdistan, and I am reacting to it in the same familiar way.
Sunday, August 27th, 2006
A couple of weeks ago we watched Kiki's Delivery Service, which Belle Waring had recommended a while back -- and this weekend we watched Spirited Away. Wow -- two great films. I think on balance I like Kiki a little better, though Spirited Away is far more ambitious and more intense of an experience, and utterly gorgeous. Kiki is more a story with characters, Spirited Away a parable with archetypes. Both are masterful examples of their respective genres -- Spirited Away however has some niggling plot holes and characters playing against type, that stuck in my craw a little.
Friday, August 25th, 2006
Sylvia and I are reading Lloyd Alexander's Book of Three together now -- her favorite character is Gurgi, who she associates with saying "I want the small one for crunchings and munchings". -- Today she noticed that Gurgi says "Gurgi" instead of "I" or "me", like Elmo does. So "Elmo and Gurgi should get married. Gurgi's a boy, and Elmo's a girl. -- No, Elmo's a boy. But they can still get married. It will be a boy family and no girls allowed."
Talking with Ed the other night, he said he felt like Alexander's books had screwed him up as a child by making him think he had a destiny to fulfill -- so he would be continually judging his life rather than just taking things as they come.
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006
In New York Magazine this week, Jennifer Egan mentions 5 books she has found useful. Nice -- I have not read two of them, and have only read a smattering of poetry from a third. I am excited about going to see her read tomorrow evening.
Update: What a great, great reading -- Chapter 5 was a good selection. She said hi to me! I'm all flustered now.
Saturday, August 19th, 2006
I finished Look at Me today -- I'm in shock at what an amazing book it was. It reminded me very strongly, towards the end, of Vineland. Beautiful characterizations, and such a strong, clear voice! There were a couple of weak points in the plot, where the string of coincidences got to be a little hard to buy; but these passed quickly enough as I was swept back up in the glorious rush of the narrative. Off to find Invisible Circus, and her book of short stories.
Thursday, August 17th, 2006
Ok, 2 answers for my shared experience question:
- I would like everyone to know the music of Mississippi John Hurt. It's a little silly but I get hassled by the fact that whenever the Blues comes up in conversation, people think about electric music recorded in the 70s and later, or possibly about electric music recorded in the 50s. Plus I want everyone to know this music because it's so good.
- I would like everyone to know American Splendor by Harvey Pekar, and the graphic art of R. Crumb. I think productive conversations would be possible if I could just refer to Crumb's vision of sexual inadequacy and everybody knew what I was talking about without any explication. This also goes for Pekar's work ethic.
I want to tag Roy Edroso and Dave Feldman.
Tuesday, August 15th, 2006
Okay, this is my idea for a "meme" -- it doesn't quite fit the questionaire model that's out there but whatever: what creative work or works (book, movie, music, painting, sculpture, etc.) do you wish was part of the vocabulary of everyone you will ever speak to? What prompted the question was me thinking about Look at Me, that I wished everybody had read it so I could use ideas in it as premises and assume people were going to understand what I was talking about -- this often happens with books I am in the middle of reading. But I want to generalize it a bit and take it outside the experience of reading a book and digesting its ideas. Anyway -- I am going to work on an answer and tag some people later on. In the meantime if you are interested feel free to write your own answers.
A note about Look at Me -- I really want Charlotte's and her brother-in-law's mutual antipathy to be explained -- it is so deep and intense, right now it is just sort of hovering over the story without contributing anything.
I am reading Look at Me [SPOILERS FOLLOW] voraciously. Constantly adjusting my perspective as I read it, at times I am perched above the story looking down into it and thinking about its structure, frequently I am drawn down into the guts of it -- when Charlotte made her plan to get Anthony to start drinking again, I reacted with a wave of visceral disapproval; but when Charlotte made her suicide attempt I was only very marginally with her, thinking more about what would happen in the story around this event.
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