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José Saramago

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Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

I finished The Autograph Man today and found the ending very powerful. And let me just say that based on the two books I've read so far, Ms. Smith is the queen of the loose thread. There are so many bits of unresolved sub-plot as you get to the end, you cannot help but think there's no way these are all going to be wrapped up in any way approaching verisimilitude -- and feel a wave of relief at the end, when many are just left hanging. It does not feel willy-nilly either -- the threads that are left open are the ones best suited to keep the story in your consciousness a while longer, thinking about how it could move forward past the closing scenes.

posted evening of September 26th, 2006: Respond
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Friday, September 22nd, 2006

I really like the pacing of The Autograph Man -- the movement can be furiously fast but at the same time you feel a kind of deliberation on the author's part, a conscious movement through the story -- the connections undergirding the text feel like the beams of a building's skeleton.

posted afternoon of September 22nd, 2006: Respond
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Thursday, September 21st, 2006

I am warming up to The Autograph Man. Thinking about what I meant by saying it was not serious, probably it was that I suspected there were not going to be any layers of meaning under the playful narration -- that's probably why I compared it to The Fan Man, which I remember enjoying a lot but not seeing any meaning in its play.

But now I am seeing those layers of meaning that I thought would not be there. So. Don't judge a book by its first few chapters -- I have read through Part I now and am just starting Part II -- and it seems to me the core of Part I was a non-verbal debate among Alex-Li, Adam, Mark, and Joseph over what the experience of being Jewish is. What hipped me to this was reading a post of Teofilo's that I happened on today, which describes a take on the Jewish experience that I think is very close to Mark's. Compare Teo's post to this passage: matter what Mountjoy thought, he had not become a rabbi to please his father. In his own small way he had wanted to carry things forward. Like the continuity man on a film set. At the time, this was an analogy that had not satisfied Adam, who thought the call to the rabbinate should be entirely pure, a discussion a man has with God. But God had never spoken to Rubinfine, really. Rubinfine was simply, and honestly, a fan of the people he had come from.... This was the only way he had ever found to show it, that affection.

I am seeing now what this book has in common with White Teeth, which is that both books are about communities, the characters are seen primarily as members of their community. I liked that about White Teeth and it is coming in well here too.

posted evening of September 21st, 2006: Respond

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

Yesterday I finished reading White Teeth and started reading The Autograph Man. White Teeth starts out great and just keeps getting better and better as it progresses. The ending blew me away. The vast quantity of threads left loose and hanging did not bother me at all, indeed it added something. My initial reaction to The Autograph Man was, it seems really fun and well-written, sort of like a more coherent equivalent of The Fan Man, but not a Serious Novel in the same way White Teeth was. Of course this reaction prompts me to do some thinking about what would make it serious or not -- I haven't come up with much yet in that regard. For now I am treating it as an analogue of The Crying of Lot 49 and hoping it grows on me the same way that novel has.

posted morning of September 20th, 2006: Respond
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