Friday, June 27, 2008


Of course it is a bit of joke when the newspapers and schools hand out reading lists for the summer but many years ago The New York Times did run a feature and writers talked about what they were planning to read and Gilbert Sorrentino talked about CADENZA by Ralph Cusack a book I had learned of in Grogan's in Dublin which in turn lead to knowing Jack O'Brien just as he was launching the Review of Contemporary Fiction and then Dalkey Archive some years later...

So I was thinking about this summer and suggesting that my kids and others might enjoy some suggestions:

---JOURNEY TO THE END OF NIGHT by Louis Ferdinand Celine is the only book I know that describes the actual constant state of war that I (born in 1944) have lived through as has the world and which looks like continuing into the long future.
To have not read this book is to...

---STORM OF STEEL by Ernst Junger. While describing Junger's experience in World War One it is the best description of combat as it is actually experienced and even though the war he describes is seemingly of a long gone moment the experience of combat has not dated and this has been confirmed to me by young men who have come back from service in Iraq who are glad to have found a book that captures what they felt. Unlike Junger they did not have as he did the pleasure of reading TRISTRAM SHANDY while they served in Iraq but that is a commentary on the sad stupidity of American education...

---ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac is--- if we need one--- the great modern American novel but of course it is more than that. Finally about the idea of going and going and going and our need for friendship even if in the end...
Loathed by academics and so-called well-read readers of The New York Review of Books ON THE ROAD is the most cheerful book I know because it is rooted in Kerouac's genuine understanding of the brevity of life

---THE MELANCHOLY OF RESISTANCE and WAR & WAR by Laszlo Krasznahorkai. Hungary is now the most interesting country in Europe in terms of literature. Just to mention Peter Nadas, Peter Esterhazy, Imre Kertesz, Sandor Marai, Zsuzsa Bank (THE SWIMMER) and the soon to be published Attila Bartis (TRANQUILITY)... and you can begin with any of these writers and we are fortunate with a number of their books now available but it is KRASZNAHORKAI who has been a little over-looked though many know him indirectly through the movies of Bela Tarr and in particular his WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES--- the two opening scenes of this movie are to my mind among the greatest moments I have ever experienced in all of my years---

... it is KRASZNAHORKAI who shoves over Joyce, Faulkner, Beckett, Bernhard... I could go on with the listing... and I could well imagine listening to someone reading him to me on my deathbed. Sadly I had hoped that my daughter who is nearly bilingual in French and English would be able to sit down and read to me the banned books of Celine in my senility but I now realize she should have been learning Hungarian
instead of French

Let me quote a passage from WAR & WAR: he understood nothing, nothing at all about anything, for Christ's sake, nothing at all about the world, which was the most terrifying realization, he said, especially in the way it came to him in all its banality, vulgarity, at a sickeningly ridiculous level, but this was the point, he said, the way that he, at the age of forty-four, had become aware of how utterly stupid he seemed to himself, how empty, how utterly blockheaded he had been in his understanding of the world these last forty-four years, for, as he realized by the river, he had not only misunderstood it, but had not understood anything about anything, the worst part being that for forty-four years he thought he had understood it, while in reality...

---GOING TO PATCHOGUE by Thomas McGonigle. I re-read this book last night and while originally published in 1992 and well reviewed it was never done into paperback so now exists in a certain limbo... about a young man going out to Patchogue a village on Long Island near New York City... about being in the village and the coming back to the city by way of Bulgaria.
A sort of commentary on Turgenev's and Beckett's FIRST LOVE...
the perfect travel book while being also a celebration of what did not seem to be there until written about.
Devoid of filler GOING TO PATCHOGUE demands attention line by line and each of those lines was written in the hope that the reader has not read them before.
Lord Patchogue would approve if allowed to by Jacques Rigaut

And now just a list:

---ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner
---SOMEONE by Robert Pinget
---HOPSCOTCH by Julio Cortazar
---PARADISO by Jose Lezama Lima
---LIFE A USER'S MANUAL By Georges Perec
---A BRIEF LIFE by Juan Carlos Onetti
---LARVA by Julian Rios
---CORRECTION by Thomas Bernhard
---THE DEAD OF THE HOUSE by Hannah Green
---GATHERING EVIDENCE by Thomas Bernhard