Friday, August 12, 2011

SOME REMAINS WORTH READING:: STILL


2===Within my brief interest the book sections of newspapers in the US have shrank, become nearly extinct, are barely holding on…while new  books continue to appear and will go un-noticed and while most book deserve to go un-noticed it is now to our slightly new gain that it is possible to share the appearance of some books both new and old that deserve to be read and held to one’s self… and even the Library of America which is well established has coming in the Fall two books and a collection of novels that deserve to be discussed or noted

3===I was thinking, as I held the latest in the collected Philip Roth,  that I was the man with nail and hammer moving about his casket at the last moment so with the 7th… but I had to be honest:  Julien Gren had the honour of having the most in-print volumes in the Pleiade while still alive and while Roth will never be the equal of Green in the real  cosmopolitan world for too many reasons to go into…  but Roth is an honorable writer and there is a little unfairness to choosing him for this lavish attention and ignoring to date John Updike, Ernest Hemingway, and the famously missing poetry of Herman Melville, but better Roth than the announcement of the collected Toni Morrison or Don DeLillo…

4=== but the LOA has done a wonderful service  with a volume devoted to the writings of AMBROSE BIERCE including his essential Devil’s Dictionary from which I will quote a word much on my mind as I am recovering from spine surgery---making progress--- but ever mindful of my fate: OBLIVION, n. The state or condition in which the wicked cease from struggling and the dreary are at rest.  Fame’s eternal dumping ground.  Cold storage for high hopes.  A place where ambitious authors meet their works without pride and their betters without envy.   A dormitory without an alarm clock.

6=== race, skin colour… as with everything in the United States all institutions  seem to wobble a little when it comes to the colour of the author’s skin.  The LOA of course gave in to the normal segregation impulse by having Toni Morrison “edit” the two books of James Baldwin while friends noted long ago.. now,  40 years ago at Columbia: why is that the NYTimes only had negroes reviewing negroes?   This thought lingered after reading the obit for the death of George Cain, whose novel BLUESCHILD BABY came out and of course it was reviewed by the appropriate negro and there would not be a second book.

7=== so with no Langston Hughes, no Ralph Ellison, a seriously compromised Richard Wright, a stalled James Baldwin, we are presented  with HARLEM RENAISSANCE NOVELS, nine novels ranging from the visible to the obscure.  I will list the titles and the authors: CANE by Jean Toomer, HOME TO HARLEM by Claude McKay, QUICKSAND by Nella Larsen, PLUM BUN by Jessie Redmon Fauset, THE BLACKER THE BERRY by Wallace Thurman, NOT WITHOUT LAUGHTER by Langston Hughes, BLACK NO MORE by George S. Schuyler, THE CONJURE-MAN DIES by Rudolph Fisher and BLACK THUDER by Arna Bontemps.  A celebration of academic packaging, and while I am grateful for the chance to read BLACK NO MORE and THE CONJURE-MAN DIES I think  I would rather have had volumes devoted to Nella Larsen, to Jeam Toomer…

9=== of course my voice is small but I am making the point that LOA is one of the few positive aspects of publishing today and as a result I take it seriously and only wish that the LOA… had more courage and filled their volumes with more texts so as to my nearly approach the grandeur of the Pleiade  by which it is still so over-shadowed, so incompetent  when compared with what the French so ably do in the Pleiade which is a commercial venture, we must remember.

10=== a little nutty you might think but then I am running the shop.  Here are some new and forthcoming books that I hope some readers might want to write about as I will also be writing about them:

789: THE ROVING SHADOWS and SEX AND TERROR by Pascal Quignard.  Coming from Seagull Books, the essential publishing house today which together with DALKEY ARCHIVE  and ARCHIPELAGO BOOKS and NEW DIRECTIONS are probably the only actual living publishers today with an occasional alive books from FSG and Knopf.  I am sure you have read Quignard’s THE SALON IN WURTTEMBERG, ALBUCIUS , ON WOODEN TABLETS APRONENIA  AVITIA.

790:  PARALLEL STORIES by Peter Nadas, at more than 110 pages, with not a single page that can be skipped.  If I was an editor I would devote a whole issue to this book and Nadas’s other books, but mainly this book.  It is totally accessible, readerly, complicated only in that you the serious reader will only be able to read a page or two at a time… so you see the problem--- there will be many fake reviews of this book, cribbing from various handout from publishers…

791: again from SEAGULL, two books by Annemarie Schwarzenbach: ALL ROUTES ARE OPEN, in Juner 1939 two women drive to Afghanistan…  enough said .  Also, published is LYRIC NOVELLA  which disguises a lesbian subtext as the two protagonists of this novel should have been women…

793: from Yale, Two volumes of the Letters of T. S. Eliot so with finally the publication of the letters bck on track one can read for him or herself the life of the author of the only poem that is likely to survive the 20th Century, THE WASTE LAND.  Well annotated and indexed the reader has been freed from the sleazy popularizations of aspects of Eliot’s life in favor of reading it from his own view point and then the making up of the mind

794:  from New Directions: NEVER ANY END TO PARIS by ENRIQUE  Vila-Matas.  I began reading this before I went to hospital for surgery; I read it in recovery and continue to read it: I am rationing it out one chapter a day.  I do not want it to end.  You most likely have his Bartleby & Co, which I reviewed but in this one we are with Vila-Matas, living in Marguerite Duras’s attic room and discovering Paris as a poor young man, using sometimes texts from Hemingway as his reliable guide, as his treasured guide… a perfect book as it depends upon its readers in a comforting sort of way.

795:  from DALKEY ARCHIVE: Gerald Murnane is from Australia and while that is reason enough to never read him as it is for the poor slobs who call Canada home, MURNANE is an exception.  Years ago Braziller published a little book of his THE PLAINS which was his hook and people thought of course he was writing about the plains in the US… but no, he is the only writer in Australia who writes as if he is living in Paris, in London, In New York, never provincial, never isolated, he becomes universal by his complete attention to what is in front of him… BARLEY PATCH:  the first line:  Must I write?

796: from DALKEY ARCHIVE:  DUKLA by Andzej Stasiuk. DUKLA deals with light, a journey to discover light, to describe light, whatever do we mean when we talk about the light of a certain place…
I reviewed his ON THE ROAD TO BABADAG for the LATimes:  here is my version---- ON THE ROAD TO BABADAG Travels in the Other Europe by Andrzej  Stasiuk
The best travel books like “On the Road to Babadag” are read for more than mere information, they are read in order to go.  Setting out from his tiny village of Czarny near the Polish Slovakian border , Andrzej Stasiuk heads for that area where the Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary come together, not a exactly a destination  immediately called to mind when we say a person went traveling in Europe.  And from there he goes on to further reaches of an obscure Europe, Albania and eventually the coast of Romania where the Danube dissipates into the Black Sea near the town of Babadag.
Stasiuk, now the most prolifically translated Polish writer with six other books in English, is a patient traveler, “Sometimes in the dark, you saw sparks from a horseshoe.”  As Whitman was Kerouac’s Shade in “On the Road” E.M. Cioran  (“The Short History of Decay”) is Stasiuk’s  welcome literary ghost, for  in the Cioran’s native village, he notices the smells, ” the soil between the cobblestones had collected a century of horse piss; wisps of the stable from innumerable harnesses; from the fields came the choking air of pasture, from the gutters the cesspool seep of barns and sties; and one day in the river I saw entrails floating.”  Hard stuff, but the genius of Stasiuk is in the necessary contrasting quote from Cioran,” It would have been better for me had I never left this village.  I’ll never forget the day my parents put me on the cart and took me to the lyceum in town.  That was the end of my beautiful dream, the destruction of my world.” 
Of course the reader is entering a place where all familiar landmarks are gone, a place where, “For us everything starts or ends with a war.”  It is place where work is still real, a place where one feels “the enormity and continuity of the world.”  A place where one sees, “between two rows of houses moved a herd of sated cattle.  They were accompanied by women in kerchiefs  and worn boots or by children.  No isolated island of industrialization, no sleepless metropolis no spiderweb of roads  and railroad lines could block out this image as old as the world,  The human joined with the bestial to wait out the night together.”
Stasiuk takes us to real places and on the Day of the Dead he lights candles in a war cemetery, ”the roots of these trees have been  feeding for more than seventy years on the bodies of Estonians and Croats, in a corner of the world no one visits.” 
Go travel with Stasiuk this summer.  You don’t need a plane ticket.

So what remains? 
Tell me what you have found!

14 comments:

Jason said...

great post...great blog...I find lots of new shit here...glad you're recovering after surgery...

Rav Grewal-Kök said...

Thanks for this. I'm going to echo Jason's wishes for your recovery.

Arun Kolatkar's Jejuri in the NYRB Classics, and the selected von Kleist from Archipelago have made a difference to me, this summer.

Anonymous said...

The Quignard books sound great. Upcoming books I'm excited for are:

To Kill a Child- Selected Stories by Stig Dagerman (one of the greats who died very young, sadly)
Sailing against the Wind by Jaan Kross
Satantango by Laszlo Krasznahorkai
Cain by Jose Saramago
The Patagonia Hare- Claude Lanzmann's memoir
Miguel de Beistegui's book on Proust as Philosopher
The 2nd vol of Derrida's The Beast and the Sovereign
Learning to Pray in the Age of Technology by Goncalo Tavares

But by far the one I'm looking forward to the most is Parallel Stories. A Book of Memories is one of the greatest novels I've ever read and I'm desperate to get my hands on a review copy...any ideas??

Thomas McGonigle said...

Anonymous is so right about SATANTANGO and the Jaan Kross, same with Dageman..
i am less certain of Derrida as he was part of the group that killed actual book reading.. while he is more or less a peculiar sort of Jewish guy who coming from Algeria gets himself through hard work into the house only to to pull it down as he successfully did so as to leave nothing really behind except Americans who didn't get the joke.. finally started to watch Lanzmann's movie Shoah and at more than 500 minutes fails to better Renais"s NIGHT AND FOG at more or less 30 minutes...
the Nadas can be got from FSG i have seen bound galleys dumped at Strand...
but real thinking in this comment, real ambition

Anonymous said...

as a writer born and living in Australia your comment saddens me, mainly because I know you speak the truth. Perhaps there is hope for me however as I don't feel like I belong here at all.

Stephen Cahaly said...

Hi Thomas. When I was living in Japan, a good friend who had a large library, mostly in Japanese, many on Sakamoto Ryoma, a low-level samurai who revolutionized Japanese society, kept three books in English: one, a book of Bob Dylan's lyrics, two, a collection of interviews with Dylan, three, Bierce's Devil's Dictionary. His favorite entry is Acquaintance: "A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to. A degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous." Sounds like publishing too. It's good to see you high on Murnane. I have a friend from Australia who is looking at him against her culture. She pointed out recently a literary hoax from 2006 I'm sure you're aware of, where publishers couldn't recognize Patrick White when presented out of a slush pile. For anyone interested, it can be read here,

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bookshow/stories/2006/1690362.htm

Thanks for your blog. Steve.

Art Vandelay said...

Do you know of any worthwhile Australian writing?

Jay said...

The Quignard books are great. Wandering Shadows is the first volume of a set called Last Kingdom. So far six volumes have appeared in France.

Another author readers might like is the Hungarian novelist Gyula Krudy, who died in the 1930s. He is a little bit like a combination of Gogol and Balzac. He wrote an enormous amount, but only a few are available in English, from New York Review Book.

Thomas McGonigle said...

For the person interested in Australia: anything by Gerald Murnane. Dalkey Archive will gradually bring more of his books to the US...

Don said...

New Cortazar from Archipelago was excellent, another volume of Bolano's poetry from New Directions, Demolishing Nisard by Eric Chevillard (Dalkey Archive), another Magdalena Tulli novella from Archipelago. Lots of good books about.

Don said...

The great tragedy, of course, is that no one has given a proper review to the newly translated Kertész novel, FIASCO.

Art Vandelay said...

Anything else apart from Murnane? It seems like there's not much of note.

Thomas McGonigle said...

I was allowed to review FIASCO for the LATIMES..there was an online review and then they put it in the print edition that was not available on computers... The review was short and that is what they thought Kertesz was worth 350 words.. the NYTimes thought he was worth ZERO words

Thomas McGonigle said...

I've fallen a bit behind... but I am still reading PARALLEL STORIES by Peter Nadas... so slowly as so commanding...