This next part of the book is quite long but fast by virtue of its odd formatting. It’s a single narrative block which delivers the speech of a pirate broadcast that segues into an odd story set in a dense forest. By the end i think we’ve developed some of the ideas raised in the last section in a more abstract way, especially regarding the ways our social/economic climate keeps us isolated from each other, and the possibilities for communication or establishing some kind of connectedness.
The sting of salt in the sea, or on the breeze. The salt in the kitchen, in sweat, in tears, seminal fluids. This fabulous debut novel was recommended to me by a college friend. She regretfully informed me that it’s a cis male-centered narrative, but its treatment of gay and colonial experience puts it leagues ahead of the normie material ive been going to lately, as far as that sort of thing goes (i definitely need more recs from her in the future; her reading palate is a lot more decolonized than mine).
i was enthusiastic bc it’s an historical novel that involves Vietnam and Gertrude Stein, or GertrudeStein as she goes in the text, and Paris in the 30s. It turned out to be an incredibly sumptuous weaving of good food, intense intimacy, loss and longing. It was the kind of prose where certain paragraphs could work on their own as a poem — the membranes between the words and their meanings become porous. Albert Camus once remarked on the novel as being philosophy conveyed thru images. In this book the nonlinear narrative and ruminative tone bring all of its themes into a congealed whole.
So a lot of this blog is gonna come off as raving, as THE BOOK OF SALT offered for me a lot of really exciting possibilities for contemporary historical fiction. It taps into frontier historical concepts, and its style moves away somewhat from transparent naturalism while not being an Ultra-Difficult PoMo text. It’s also great if you’re interested in a same-sex romance novel without any sex, yet exploding with eros. It’s in the language.
So according to the CNF essay canon, this short and sweet piece by the scribe of grade school treasure CHARLOTTE’S WEB is THE essay of the 1940s. The author describes cherished memories of visiting a lake in Maine with his dad, and then later returning with his own son. The blurb on the webpage doesn’t do much to sell it at first, calling it
a nostalgia piece about fathers and sons, often serving as a prompt for a what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation essay.
But there is something creepy and sinister working through the text. As i think about it, i cant settle on right model to get at what im feeling. Is it a wholesome on the surface with the skeeviness kept hidden? Or maybe a center-margin sort of thing, that is, while the body of the work is about safety and eternity and the glorious summers of youth, at the margins is encroaching destruction and death.
Delillo’s writing is hard for me to get my head around. like, i dont know what precisely im making out of it, but i do know im enjoying myself a great deal. Underworld is looming in the back of my mind along with all the other tantalizing USen contemporary pomo bricks, namely Infinite Jest, The Instructions, Against the Day, and William Gaddis. They are such tempting monsters and i want to get through them someday. eventually. massive length, be it pages or running time, is really fascinating to me. I like the way one text known for its marathon length will influence people’s notions of the rest of the author’s work. Folx who know about Seven Samurai‘s epic 3.5 hours fear than any given Kurosawa flick will be a bladder-buster. Likewise, when i told a relative i was digging through some novels by Delillo, they immediately imagined, because of Underworld, a pair of tomes of some 5,000 pages each. in actuality both Mao II and Libra are quite lean.
another thing im aware of with these novels: im starting to forget them already. this is an observation confirmed by other folx in the online communities in which i lurk. Bill Gray and company in Mao II is already slipping away, whereas i read Michael Chabon’s Kavalier and Clay last summer and those characters are vividly and fondly remembered. this forget-ability is not necessarily a complaint. Libra is definitely eliding certain narrative pleasures (such as stable individuals with realistic psychology) as part of a really careful consideration of history, our reaction to it, and the processes of interpretation.
This blog got neglected this month. My last semester hasn’t been demanding but I still let it take over most of my bandwidth. Another thing is that I’ve been reading a lot of stuff from normative folx, and their writing inhabits a white, heternormative and male-focused space, so I’m less keen to write my responses to them. Don’t get me wrong: Albert Camus and Don Delillo are great, and I won’t say you shouldn’t read them or their ilk.
I’ve been lousy with taking good notes or copying down important quotations with my reading, so instead I’ll just sketch out my impressions from memory.