27 October 2008

The miracle of reading

There have been petty complaints that David Markson has written the same book one too many times, but The Last Novel is a revelation. He could do this sort of thing forever and each time it would be new again. There are hundreds of worlds within this collection of carefully chosen lines. I always come away from his work with a vibrant sense of the endless possibilities of life and literature.

Turning from the last page back to the first launched me adrift in silent contemplation...because it's not only clever, but probing and compassionate as well.

Here are a few bits from the many on various aspects of reading:
     The imagination will not perform until it has been flooded by a vast torrent of reading.
     Announced Petronius.

     You have to read fifteen hundred books in order to write one.
     Flaubert put it.

     The report that to keep him from sitting with a book for sixteen hours a day, Edmund Wilson's parents bought him a baseball uniform. Which he happily put on--and sat in with a book for sixteen hours a day.

     Anyone who would employ the word diarrheic to describe a book as exactingly crafted in every line as Ulysses has either never read eleven consecutive words or possesses the literary perception of a rutabaga.
     Ulysses. Diarrheic, unquote. Dale Peck.

     Somewhat similarly, Roddy Doyle. A complete waste of time--Finnegans Wake.
     Though in his instance at least acknowledging that he had read only three pages.

     Novalis's Heinrich von Ofterdingen.
     The last one that Borges asked to hear before his death.

     I must ever have some Dulcinea in my head--it harmonises the soul.
     Said Laurence Sterne.


Brook said...

I am hi-fiving Roddy Doyle right now, AND borrowing the other reviewer's use of the word "Diarrheic" for the book he surely meant to apply it to...

amcorrea said...

Brook, I forgive you. You know not what you say.

I dare you to read half a page of Finnegans Wake and not be awed by the numerous ideas and meanings that you find. (It helps me understand how "In the beginning was the Word...")

But you definitely got a rise out of me, so congratulations on that!

Brook said...

sorry, don't mean to provoke a rise (I respect you too much to be carelessly flinging my opinion-trash at you), but I have given FW just a page more of a try than that (couldn't quite make it as far as ol' Roddy did though), and the only idea that popped into my head was how I will never find the time to try and understand this book in my life. Very very rarely do I get so irritated trying to read a book that I want to throw it against the wall, but that one did it to me (Kerouac's On The Road was another that went airbourne in my hands, though I did unfortunately finish that one). And I've even read (and enjoyed!) Bob Dylan's Tarantula, so I don't know why the irritation at FW. Loved Portrait, am looking forward to one day digging into Ulysses (even a cursory glance at that one says it is rich rich rich), but FW doesn't even make my top 1000 books I'd like to read before I die. of course, at one point in my life I would have considered Coltrane's later works as unlistenable trash, so perhaps one day I'll look back on my current opinion of FW as stupid ignorance, but until then, if you happen to see me in a bookstore giving it another look, you might want to duck...

amcorrea said...

No worries, Brook! (Sarcasm can be really hard to pull off online.)

I honestly commend you for cracking it open. And to tell you the truth, I haven't read it either. Just some parts here and there. It's incredibly mindboggling--so many meanings packed into these words (flexible and pliant). Verbal gymnastics.

Umberto Eco talks about how Joyce himself translated it into French and Italian (!!). In looking at the Italian, Eco identifies the linguistic jokes that Joyce kept and the ways he invented other means for acheiving certain effects. Unbelievable.