Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Tin Drum - Gunter Grass (German)
A great novel. Wholly original. The big scenes are almost always successful, often to an inordinate degree – they amaze (such as the mother eating fish till she dies; and the appalling episode which precedes that one, about the horse head and the eels). It’s also a confusing book, elusive in its specifics, but successfully imparting an emotional impression. It’s a dark look at life, at this world. Little Oskar is one of the most imposing characters in fiction – him and his drum. His self-centeredness, his cruelty, his vulnerability. I sense that this book is partly about sexual longing (as for great sex scenes, the ones between Oskar and Maria are near or at the top; in fact, it’s when I read those scenes that a feeling for Oskar swept over me). The prose is perfectly attuned to its character and subject – dense, heavy, perverse, powerful. *

Get Ready for Battle - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Jhabvala is an accurate analyzer of people. She places them in the context of their contradictions, which creates a nice tension. She writes true-to-life tragic-comedy. At the end, when Mala violently asserts herself to Vishnu, I felt the emotion. I felt how slippery Vishnu is, how difficult it will be to make a caring man out of him. But I felt there may be a chance. The person I was most involved with was Sarla Devi. She’s fated to pursue, in vain, the just path. Jhabvala closes the book with her wandering the red light district, still on her futile quest. *

Journey to the Land of the Flies - Aldo Buzzi (Italian)
Buzzi veers from one topic to another, or abandons a line of thought, or introduces a new subject out of the blue. The apparent carelessness has its charm in a book like this. The impression I get is of someone very learned, who values (and knows well) literature, food, the beauty of things (especially women). He shares his knowledge, much of it arcane, as he travels the world. You can take from this book what you will. For me, Buzzi served up a generous helping of pleasure. *

The Poor Mouth - Flann O’Brien (Gaelic)
Very funny, raucous and wild. O’Brien presents the Irish in a state of abject misery and attributes to them a plethora of lowly characteristics. He exaggerates in a deadpan way, but the reader knows that O’Brien is pulling our leg – pulling it very hard. Despite the wild exaggeration, this is not nonsensical. O’Brien, an Irishman to the core, is making a point akin to the one Swift made in “A Modest Proposal.” *

1 comment:

j. m. said...

I could never do this. What a grand project to write down your feelings once the covers have been closed. I barely can resurrect a couple lines to friends if anything. And lately my reading is so spartan. I do read, generally everyday now, but that can't even stand next to your achievements. I am dazzled by your fluidity. Am made dizzy by your courage.