See, when you get to be 30 you realize some things

We went to Ireland for a week and I ran smack into the following truth about myself. I have always held myself up, proudly, as the type of person who would fly to London at a moment's notice, travel around the world if money or time allowed, learn multiple languages, etc. Now, with my French skills limited to dog commands, I've admitted something: I don't like cities. I mean, I love cities, but learning a new one, negotiating directions and museum hours and pub etiquette in the rain while trying desperately not to look like a pathetic American, takes much, much, much too much energy. Dublin, small and grey and expensive, humbled me. Dublin!


New/old friends: which is worth more on the black market?

Two things happened this week:

A very new friend, made at a conference last month, called to ask if she could fly up to Boston to hang out with us over spring break. What could be any better than meeting someone willing to subject herself to a small apartment, one wife, one pot head brother, one overly affectionate pooch, and two cats, one of whom cries in the night for no reason? I tried to warn new friend that for us a night out means a well-timed Netflix delivery and thai food. Get this: she still bought the ticket.

A very old friend, one of the three remaining who knew me in adolescence (and lived to tell the tale), called to invite us to her wedding in LA in August. She flew to mine on short notice two years ago. Why? Because sometimes love lasts a lifetime, readers. Especially in the case of a dancer/actress and teacher/librarian with nothing in common but the cast of Oklahoma!, circa 1993.



When you're me, you pay close attention to The New York Times best books list. Why? Well, you're a snob who never finished a PhD, became a writer, or had sex with someone who did, that's why. This year, however, the NYT did me wrong in the form of Veronica.

I freely admit that I complain a lot about the books I read, mostly out of spleen. This book, however, is the real deal. Utter crap. Circuitous, masturbatory, navel-gazing former-model with hepatitus shit. I walked into work the other day and said, "I'm reading a book that I hate." My co-worker replied that she, too, was reading a book she hated. The book? Veronica.


The last sad dirty vestige of your youth

You know how when you were twenty and you started reading The New Yorker? Maybe you fantasized about your future career as a reporter/essayist/poet/Anthony Lane? Maybe you thought about writing a kick ass letter to the editor, who would be so bowled over by your wit that s/he would fly you to New York to share an office with Sasha Frere-Jones?

sigh. Even the letters are fake.


Hucksters, or, non-fiction is the new fiction

JT Leroy might not even exist. Never trust a child prostitute turned novelist.

James Frey probably made up a lot about his horrible life. Take that, Oprah.


History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I think that the novel is an inflexible medium. As much as writers seem to yearn to find new ways to show language on a page, to create multiple perspectives, to fuck with punctuation and syntax, I hold that the novel wants to tell a story, to move from beginning to end. Otherwise, reading begins to feel something like watching a pooly cut film.*

Krauss is married to Jonathan Safran Foer, and wealthy young New York writing couples are obnoxious. Now, after reading her novel, I'm closer to bored with the whole thing. The concept is solid: man writes a novel about his true love. War separates him from both the art and the girl. The book resurfaces, published. How? Why? The problem lies in Krauss's decision to create multiple eccentric narrators, scene hogs who tell their stories in very different ways. I started to dread the shift between perspectives, feeling a little like John Cusack in Being John Malcovich ending up on the freeway. Other stylistic irritations include a series of pages containing only a single paragraph or sentence. I understand that space signifies distance, Nicole, but it's such a tired trick.

One last thing: "But" is not a sentence. Stop doing that.

One more last thing: I understand that this report smacks a little of Victorianism. That's funny considering I am plenty bored by many of the long, classic examples of the genre (except Dickens. I love Dickens. And French novels are the best. Madame Bovary and The Red and Black deserve to be read.) Anyway, what I've come to sneeringly refer to as "concept novels" take all the joy out of language becuase they try too hard. See any novel by Jeanette Winterson.

* Exceptions exist, of course, and I could roll out all the big dogs of high modernism. Joyce and Woolf make it work, and I love them for it.


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

So, it's a clone novel.

I write this sentence as if "clone novel" represents a genre of note, the mere mention of which sets a classroom of graduate students to nodding. I have nothing against clones, Philip K. Dick, or conspiracy theorists and moral compasses the world over. I do, however, get irritated by anything I consider to be a cheap literary conceit. In this case, Ishiguro doesn't reveal that the narrator working through her adolescence is a clone. The word doesn't appear until two-thirds of the book has been read. You could imagine, I think, that you were reading Prep or something like it until vaguaries like "student," "donor" and "programme, " once explained, take on a new, horrible meaning. After that point, reading this novel harks back to how I felt when I watched episodes of V. as a child.

It's a good, well-written read, but I wish the gloves had come off earlier in the game. After all, this brave new word business is where the money is, right?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.