Being that there was a vast outpouring of support and a myriad number of demands I am here doing a new version of a PERFECT BOOK REVIEW.
The PERFECT BOOK REVIEW #2.
From MAN AND THE SACRED by Roger Caillois
The sacred is what gives life and takes it away, it is the source from which it flows, and the estuary in which it is lost.
But the sacred is also that which one would not know how to possess simultaneously with life.
Life is wear and tear, and waste.
It vainly strives to persevere and to refuse every expenditure so as to be preserved.
Death lies in wait for it.
(One discovered Caillois via Michel Leiris and Georges Bataille: the how authors and books lead to other books and other authors. )
THE STORY OF THE EYE by Georges Batialle as anyone knows stands in a tiny circle of books with Hedayat’s THE BLIND OWL and I would add now thanks to Dalkey Archive: ON ELEGANCE WHILE SLEEPING by Viscount Lascano Tegui (1887-1966) who and which exists in that world populated by Macedonio Fernandez’s THE MUSEUM OF ETERNA’S NOVEL all of which are ruled by the shade of the Comte de Lautramont whose MALDOROR never ages, never grows young…
But Tegui: “When my mother died, my father, who was busy dyeing his sideburns, looked me over from head to toe and, finding my hair wasn’t sufficiently serious for the occasion dyed it black.”
As the river crossed our town it jammed the millwheel with the bodies of drowning victims, bashful beneath its surface.
Yale University Press sent me three books.
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO MODERNISM by Gabriel Josipovici was that rarest of all critical books: it is helpful. Helpful in a similar way to ABC OF READING by Ezra Pound and while pointing to the essential books it is also a consolation: I felt less alone reading it, less alone in finding someone else who has wondered how readers could actually think that Franzen, McEwen, Rushdie, Amis, Barnes (FILL IN 95 percent at least of the novels reviewed in the last few years by the NY Times)… the list goes on and on… how can they be taken seriously as they are week after week when Josipovici knows that if you have not read deeply in Claude Simon, Robert Pinget, Thomas Bernhard, just for starters, you might as well have died in 1900. You have not read Joyce or Proust or Eliot if you can think that what passes for literature in the United States is of any real interest beyond who knows what…
THE GLADSTEIN CHRONICLES by Jacob Glatstein. Living on the Lower East Side in New York City I am always aware of what is not here… The people who used to be here… Glatstein’s two short novels describe the Jewish world of Europe in 1934 with the foreboding that it will not be there sooner rather than later… now living in New York and American citizens Glatstein’s narrators return to Europe from which they had left many years before. As I read I am reading at the same time Joseph Roth and I know he will drink himself to death in a room above that café in Paris holding in his mind what Glatstein also well knew through foreboding…
CYCLOPS by Ranko Marinkovic is translated from the Croatian and appears in the Margellos World Republic of Letters series. While it might have been popular when it appeared in 1965 it seems more a relic… the jacket blurb accurately both consciously and unconscipously the problem with the book, “Melkior encounters a colorful circus of characters… all living in a fragile dream.” Two of Marinkovic’s stories appeared in a long gone anthology DREAM OF A SIMPLE GIUAN and OTHER MODERN YUGOSLAV STOIRES edited by Branko Lenski. They are not about “colourful” characters but about pain, imagined to be sure or observed to be sure, but actual and hauked to the page by chosen words.
It would have been better if Yale had published a book by Miroslav Krleza.
GREEN INTEGER sent me PENTHOUSE F by Richard Kalich which comes with an off-putting grotesque cover but going beyond the cover and I hope you will the novel or book, since it exists somewhere between those two words: “At a certain point in writing, a Writer becomes his character and from that time on, as already mentioned, does little more than take dictation.”
The book seems to tease out: “DRINKING WITH YOU WOULD BE LIKE DRINKING WITH MY MOTHER.
The book is from the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A place that used to have building supers with concentration camp numbers on their arms, visible in the summer: "Now, notwithstanding the splattered bodies of the boy and girl found lying on the concrete in front of my building."
Gil Orlovitz, author of MILKBOTTLE H threw himself to his death, I believe, as did another writer Richard M. Elman once knew… and Evelyn Scott died up there in a borrow room in an SRO… the author of Calendar of Sin.. the woman Faulkner said was pretty good for a woman.
This is what one thinks about reading this novel.
Oxford University Press sent me:
GULAG BOSS A Soviet Memoir by Fyodor Vasilevich Mochulsky. This is the first memoir by someone who had worked in the vast murderous camp system of communism. Of course, one remembers that no one was ever, NO ONE was ever held accountable for all the millions upon millions innocent victim--- including the grandfather of my wife--- to make it personal.
After six years of working in the camps Mochulsky went on to a long career in the Soviet Diplomatic service… giving lie to all those who thought Soviet diplomats were only diplomats and not members of the NKVD or KGB. It is the coldness, the obliviousness as in the memoir of Rudolf Hoess that impresses this reader…: the re-incarnation of bastardized versions of Pontius Pilate, that very good hand washer.
From Farrar Straus Giroux: CANTI by Giacomo Leopardi translated by the boss there, Jonathan Galassi.
And good work it is as it was allowed to be published because they had pulled in great sacks of dollars from the yokels who have rushed out for the Franzen.
And in three lines the distance between literature and rubbish:
Happy indeed if you’re allowed/relief from sorrow, blessed when/death cures you of all sorrow.
Again from MAN AND THE SACRED by Roger Caillois:
There is no artifice that is as good.
Every living being knows it sense it.
It knows the choice remaining to it.
It dreads give itself, sacrificing itself and is aware of this wasting its very being.
But to retain its gifts, energies and resources, to use them prudently for all practical and selfish goals—
as a consequence, profane--- saves no one in the final analysis from decrepitude and the tomb.
Everything that is not consumed rots away.
Furthermore, the abiding truth of the sacred resides simultaneously in the fascination of flame and the
horror or putrification