Monday, June 30th, 2003
Inspired by Invisible Adjunct and Kieran Healy, I am seeking input from my readers as regards my summer reading list. I am, however, doing it a bit in reverse: I went to the bookstore this weekend, bought a bunch of books which caught my eye -- these will make up my summer reading (at least until they are exhausted); and now I want to find out if any of you have impressions about them. I do not, alas, have a comments feature; but if you send me e-mail in this regard I promise to put it up as part of this post. So fire away! Here is this list, with comments:
- Travels in Hyperreality, by Umberto Eco
- The Ginger Man, by J.P. Donleavy
- Under the Net, by Iris Murdoch
- Nuns and Soldiers, by Iris Murdoch
- The Beginning of Spring, by Penelope Fitzgerald
- Journal of the Fictive Life, by Howard Nemerov
- Quetzlcoatl and the Irony of Empire, by David Carrasco
- Black Spring, by Henry Miller
Wednesday, July 9th, 2003
For the past while I've been reading two books. The book I like is Cartoon History of the Universe part III, by Larry Gonick -- it surpasses the very fine parts I and II, it just shines. Gonick's history is excellent, lots of stuff I didn't know mixed with lots of stuff I knew but had forgotten or not bothered to really learn, and dry humor, and slapstick! I have been reading it before I go to bed and it is beneficial to my dreams.
The book I don't like so well is Donleavy's The Ginger Man, which I have been reading on the train to and from work. Yesterday I found a passage that I think sums up everything that is wrong with this book, as well as its virtues.
I look into Tone's face, which is Ireland.
"What would you do, Tone, if you ever got money. A lot of money."
"Do you want the truth?"
"I want the truth"
"First thing, I'd get a suit made. Then I'll come along to the Seven Ts and put a hundred pound note on the bar. Drink up the whole kip of ye. I'll send a hundred quid to O'Keefe and tell him to come back. May even, if I get drunk enough, put a plaque in the sidewalk on the corner of Harry and Grafton. Percy Clocklan, keepr of the kip who farted on this spot, R.I.P. Then, Sebastian, I'll start from College Green and I'll walk every inch of the way from here to Kerry getting drunk at every pub. It'll take me about a year. Then I'll arrive on the Dingle Peninsula, walk out on the end of Slea Head, beat, wet, and penniless. I'll sit there and weep into the sea."
So... this passage is clever, pretty funny, very cynical. But that's all it is. Tony Malarky has no soul, is just a creature put on the page to communicate to us this sardonic fantasy. (And I wouldn't really consider him a foil to Sebastian Dangerfield, either -- Dangerfield himself has no fullness of character.) That's how the whole book feels to me, kind of pretty but with no depth to it, and no unifying thread. I might call it juvenile. It tries to present cynicism in a romantic light which seems to me a pointless exercise.
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