Wednesday, April 6, 2016

PREFACE, PREFACE, PREFACE to ASTRIDE

PREFACE TO THE Preface:
Yesterday during lunch with Jon Rabinowitz, founder of Turtle Point Press, he mentioned he was  reading Peter Taylor.  I suggested he might be interested in George Garrett’s DOUBLE VISION  as it concerns itself with Peter Taylor who in both imagination and in reality had been a next door neighbor of both the real and the fictionalized George Garrett.  It was last of Garrett’s novels to be published and was not reviewed in the New York Times or in many other places… it is one of his very best and easily joins THE DEATH OF THE FOX, POISON PEN and the short story Wreath for Garibaldi. 
I was introduced to Garrett by Chad Walsh in 1969  who suggested I go to Hollins College as George was there and in turn Garrett welcomed me into the MA program and sent me a year later via a phone call to Frank MacShane at the Writing Division of the School of the Arts at Columbia… Garrett made it financially possible for me to come to the University of Tennessee celebration of his life and work, well knowing as he told me that it was all a trial run for their hopes to bring Cormac McCarthy to that place… and so while they promised to publish a book commemorating this event of course that never came to fruition as the Garrett festival failed in its true intention to lure McCarthy there… something Garrett knew would be the result but to enjoy seeing and hearing all those who had been part of his life… and while I didn’t see him much in the following years I did talk with him just before his death when I was up in Massachusetts visiting my son, a student at the Groton School, and opening the pages of DOUBLE VISION  I know that on page 153:  “Frank also copies down one sentence from a piece, “The Writing Life,” by Thomas McGonigle: The dead are always with us.
                  And while I have published two books and a third on the way from Notre Dame…this quotation and being quoted in Annie Dillard’s A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek stake a miniscule and probably laughable point of culpable pride.
                                    PREFACE
ONE  from the 25 March, 2016 TLS:  Geoffrey Hill writes, “In our present condition of oligarchic democracy…”  
TWO   In the WSJ for 1 April, 2016 it is stated that 95% of college professors in the humanities are self-identified as left of center.
There you have the US and the UK in 2016.  
Preface Two:
BE WARNED  I HAVE NOT QUOTED FROM THE BOOKS I AM WRITING ABOUT.  I AM A LOUSY TYPIST AND JUST CAN’T AT THE MOMENT FIND THE ENERGY TO TYPE…

Books I am reading and books I think everyone should read or at least look into:
SEVEN SEVEN….. THE HATRED OF MUSIC  by Pascal Quiginard.  (Yale University Press.)   A book of fragments, reflections… the huge mistake of listening to music, all music, from a man who was a classical musician, who organized a major festival of baroque opera… a life long listener who stops…  understanding we are surrounded by noise from the time in the womb, noise we have no control over… he has a very disturbing reflection on the use of music in the Nazi murder camps where the murders were carried out to a soundtrack of the very best of classical music…
Quiginard joins at least in my mind Robert Calasso and E.M. Cioran as being the three essential thinkers of the current moment.  They are the only individuals who seem to be able to think, to be suggestive, to warn, to be clearing a way for thinking to continue.  Tied to no dreary political party, no theory, to agenda… with an absence of jargon and access to all the major world languages : ancient and modern…
Survivors of the so-called Sixties remember::: :the beating to death of a Black man by the Hells Angels who were guarding a Rolling Stones concert at Altamont as the band played on…
::: remember Charlie Manson took direction from the Beatles’ White Album when he sent those people out to do some carving in the garbage dumps as he sang on an album called LIE… just another guy wanting to play music… right in there with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Doris Day’s son…
ah, the days of LSD and music…
EIGHT EIGHT…   I have been reading Thomas Wolfe again as I did so long ago when I read my first novel, his first novel LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL… a book I came to on my own, the only novel I had read before going to college… but this time YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN… as I have thought to describe a party I was recently to and remembered that Wolfe had a very memorable party scene in this his last novel.  What I had lost touch with was Wolfe’s ability to inhabit lives other than his own and his description of the rich remains as essential today as ever… and it is no wonder that Wolfe was one of the first American writers that both Thomas Bernhard and Peter Handke turned to… something little known or appreciated as Wolfe’s books were forced to be forgotten by the creative writing industry in the US…
NINE NINE….I have also been reading  I the Supreme by August Roa Bastos.  The single best description of “a leader” and the immediate delusion that inhabits such a person.  Told in a startling original manner with no consistent timeless voice, no attempt at re-creation, no paying homage to the usual blandishments of suspense and plot.  A sole reliance on the exact moment each sentence is read in order to create the person of Franca… who becomes--- because of how carefully the centering of the book upon Franca---  every nasty leader along with usual bunch of the so-called good guys… to remember a leader is to always dip your fingers in the blood or another or the many…  in the same way that Joyce in Ulysses tries to describe a conversation between a father and son that in reality can never be, no matter how willing or how hopeful the parties might be… by sending Stephen and Leopold out to eventually meet… on the sure conveyor belt to  six feet under…
TEN TEN…I AM TRYING TO READ Laszlo Krasnahorkai, DESTRUCTION AND SORROW BENEATH THE HEAVENS.. . (Seagull Books) but it reminds me of SOUL MOUNTAIN by Gao Xingjian, the Chinese Nobel prize winner and which in turn reminded me that Jack Kerouac’s BIG SUR  or THE DHARMA BUMS which were both superior to Xingjian and I would suggest that the Chinese guy was trying to be Kerouac and while pretty good, fails--- at least for me—as I have been on that journey and to that place before with Jack Kerouac. 
ELEVEN ELEVEN…And sadly I was defeated by Klaus Hoffer’s AMONG THE BIERESCH (Seagull Books)  in which a young Austrian writer tries to imagine the life and culture of an obscure part of what was the old Austro-Hungarian empire…which seemed a not very interesting project though it is said to be popular in Germany… because in English we are fortunate to have a translation told very much from within the imagine setting that Hoffer is trying to urge into being…in the form of Gyula Illyes’s PEOPLE OF THE PUSZTA…first published in 1936 but available in English since 1967…
(an over-looked New Directions book, THE SINISTRA ZONE  by Adam Bodor  some years ago took us to one of these obscure border regions but some of us had read his THE EUPHRATES AT BABYLON…)
        
The only reason I knew about the Hoffer book is that it was translated by Isabel Fargo Cole whose essential translated version of “I” by Wolfgang Hilbig (SEAGULL BOOKS) and the book of stories THE SLEEP OF THE RIGHTEOUS also by Hilbig introduced me to finally a German language writer one could read after reading Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, Ernst Junger, Uwe Johnson, Ingeborg Bachmann…to lay out some names for context… and Hilbig lead to re-reading his wife, Natascha Wodin whose THE INTERPRETER was published in English as long ago as 1983 to no reviews…and ONCE I LIVED         from Serpents Tale… also not widely reviewed but if I had the power I would link her to Jean Rhys… in her ability to present the interior of her women in such a manner that individualizes them though they are hardly the positive roll models women have been cajoled into providing and happily do all the way to the bank and irrelevance… How these two people could be together… not having the German I cant answer that.. as Hilbig in “I” has created the perfect example of  a man who is inside the security apparatus of the DDR…and really inside every other apparatus including the American versions  which have sadly been endlessly romanticized by American writers…
Lastly I should have written about ATLAS OF AN ANXIOUS MAN by Christoph Ranmayr (Seagull Books) as I had long ago reviewed his THE TERRORS OF ICE AND DARKNESS… but that review is not available as I wrote it for Newsday day when that was a very good newspaper for books… The ATLAS is a collection of 70 some destinations but I have not ventured into it but not from laziness instead sheer jealousy--- I guess they do things differently in Austria and German where a good writer—on the basis of  his novel THE TERRORS OF ICE AND DARKNESS and THE LAST WORLD--- gets paid to travel…
Such is a moment and then a PS.
THE RECENT DEATH OF A GREAT WRITER…  sometimes the Nobel gets it right as with Claude Simon and I guess we can be happy that Patrick Modiano  got it recently—better him than any of the awful American prospects, Roth Delillo, Oates..who else…


Book review: 'Fiasco' by Imre Kertész
The second book of the trilogy about a young boy who survives Nazi concentration camps.
June 14, 2011|By Thomas McGonigle | Special to the Los Angeles Times

THIS WAS ALL THE SPACE I WAS ALLOWED AND IT WAS STILL MUCH SHORTENED…

In 1944, a 14-year-old boy, future novelist Imre Kertész, was rounded up while on an excursion in the countryside near Budapest and sent to Auschwitz. And then to Buchenwald. Surviving the camps and returning to Budapest, he was asked, simply, by his surviving family and friends, "Where have you been?"
In his work, Kertész reflects on how quickly he discovered that no one really wanted to know what he had experienced. And yet, Kertész's entire literary life has been an attempt at answering that simple question in the trilogy of novels, "Fatelessness," "Fiasco" and "Kaddish for an Unborn Child" — an attempt that earned him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002. His other books describe in particular detail his dreary survival under the communism in Hungary.
Finally published in an English translation, "Fiasco" is actually the middle book of the trilogy and describes, in the opening third, the fictionalized experiences Kertész must have had in writing "Fatelessness" — having it rejected by a publisher as being unsuitable for publication. "As I now see clearly, to write a novel means to write for others — among others, for those who reject one," he muses. The later parts of "Fiasco" follow a writer very much like Kertész who is going about his life in the tediously circumscribed environment of communist Hungary.
         Although "Fiasco" is outwardly a little off-putting — in Kertész's style, the reader encounters parenthesis upon parenthesis — the writer also succinctly explains how he could write about his awful experiences as a child that he described in "Fatelessness" and still remain faithful to his 14-year-old self's search for adventure and beauty amid the horror of the concentration camps.
Now, in translator Tim Wilkinson's handling, "Fiasco" completes the trilogy for English readers, a trilogy that is one of the best renderings of what it must have been like to survive a Nazi murder camp. As Kertész writes in "Fiasco," he could not avoid a responsibility "to transmit, in my own way, according to my own lights; to transmit the material that was possible for me, my own material, myself.… however, there was one thing that, perhaps naturally enough, I did not think of: we are never capable of interpreting for ourselves. I was taken to Auschwitz not by the train in the novel but by a real one."

POST PREFACE


Probably this is all a self-indictment for… knowing, I am about to give birth astride a grave in Beckett’s phrase… but then every book is that.

1 comment:

Chris Coffman said...

Trying to consolidate your book recommendations in hopes of finding some in the city tomorrow, "Quiginard search brings up lots of your pages but sadly no actual Quiginard works but this has lots you recommended except Bitov and some other stuff that looks interesting (particularly the Kertesz being translated - I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau this winter and asked the tour guide about Kertesz and I wasn't sure where Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" was composed and performed - I believe Kertesz stayed only briefly in those camps and was shipped elsewhere for most of his detention - I thought the other two were outstanding and Fatelessness among the best first novels ever though if I had to pick one "Land of Green Plums" was, I thought probably the best thing I have read written in ... I don't know how long I don't think it's Faulkner or Joyce Borges and possibly Soft Machine or Nova Express) Mueller freaked out when that Chinese writer won thr Noble , the tour guide knew of them but not much else - but interestingly he knew quite a lot about the presidential plane that crashed on the way to Putin acknowledging Katyn forest - I don't need to say what I and all of Poland immediately assumed, but the news followed up explaining it was basically an error due to the president badgering the pilot - they've never gotten the plane back and the media account is highly dubious and It is totally out of character for Putin to admit fault for Russia's massacre of
Polish intellectuals, but in character to do that and kill their president...