Bonus post: Five books for the new year
1. 10th Grade, Joe Weisberg
2. The Horned Man, James Lasdun
3. A Billion for Boris, Mary Rodgers
4. Tlooth, Harry Mathews
5. Fisher's Hornpipe, Todd McEwen
1. 10th Grade, Joe Weisberg
Q: Wong Kar-wai. Wong Kar-wai. All day with your Wong Kar-wai. Is that all you ever talk/think/write about?
10. The Hanging Gardens
Trollope's novel RACHEL RAY came up a couple months ago at a brunch—an elaborate story told by our friend M., involving in-laws and Bookfinder and Fire Island. We didn't know RACHEL RAY from CAN YOU FORGIVE HER?, and immediately our thoughts went to bestselling cookbook author and diminutive Food Network deity Rachael Ray. (Diminutive next to Emeril, at least.)
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE’s Maggie and Tony sublimate their desire by writing martial arts serials. I like thinking of HERO as the rapturous result, with its elegant alibis marshaled in the form of a brain-tingling regicide plot against the king who (as Borges notes) both built the Great Wall and burned all the books. Hit man Jet Li—like Odysseus to the Cyclops, like McKinley’s assassin—is nameless, nobody, no man. So too is Takeshi Kaneshiro, traceless as the “Wind,” to Zhang Ziyi’s Mei in HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS—a small-scale companion piece to HERO, in which the carpet-pulling identities are the deadly filigree on a tale less about the agonies of empire than simply in the mood for love.
OK—fine! Five more books for you five-book-at-a-time readers!
The novelist Joseph McElroy (ACTRESS IN THE HOUSE, WOMEN AND MEN) has long been working on a novel with the great title VOIR DIRE, a term familiar to anyone who's reported to jury duty. But what exactly does it mean? Literally, of course, "to see to say." During the little information session that kicks things off on your first morning at the courthouse, you'll learn that it means "To see them say"—an opportunity for the lawyers to ask questions and agree on the juror selection.
From the Brown Notebook (26i01):
I read this morning in William Boyd's upcoming story collection, FASCINATION:
This is the point in which the readership, already hovering at nil, potentially dives into the magical world of negative, maybe even imaginary, numbers.
Weihenmayer said that on several occasions he was able to find his wife, who was standing still in an outdoor park, but he admitted that he also once confused her with a tree. Another time, he walked down a sidewalk and almost went off a bridge.
Five more books, to induce mild melancholia:
...you are guaranteed to like.
To pick five books from your shelf, to read for the next year. (Backstory? Oh, OK: You're being sent to the Sakhalin Islands as part of a diabolical student exchange program—you filled out all this paperwork months ago, half drunk, and didn't know what you were agreeing to.)
The brown notebook contains general observations, a few brief diaristic episodes, dreams, and would-be novelistic formulations. But mostly it consists of notes on reading—quotes from assorted books I may never see again, as well as from two writers who served as unlikely inspiration for me back then: Edward Payson Vining, author of AN INGLORIOUS COLUMBUS (dedicated to the theory that a Buddhist monk from Afghanistan journeyed to the new world in the fifth century A.D.) and other works, whom I no longer read; and Harry Stephen Keeler, prolific Chicago writer of "webwork" mysteries, whose oeuvre continues to taunt and entertain me. Along with curious passages, diligently copied out, one finds my reflections on these two authors. (I would eventually write an article on Vining, and have written several on Keeler.)
The Anatomy of Melancholy
Brief physical description of the brown notebook: raw cardboard covers, maybe a millimeter thick, say 4" x 6", bound with 13 double-spirals; "30vii0-28i1" black-penned minusculely on the front; with two blue "PAR AVION/AIR MAIL" stickers on the front and one on the back, which I used to obscure the fact that the notebook is a GlaxoWellcome tchotchke for Wellbutrin or something. Inside, a glossy chart, "Key to Scoring the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale," followed by 99 leaves—198 pages—with 19 lines a page.
I like the idea of classical wisdom that exists today only because the wisdom-dispenser's acolytes took notes—the original manuscript does not survive, or the w.d. never wrote anything down to begin with. Cf. Confucius and—is it Plato or Aristotle? Aristotle, I think. His students took good notes.
On July 30, 2000, I created a list of books purchased at Book Ark, a great subterranean store on West 81st Street. Years later, we would move nearby, only to see that it was closing. They were selling everything at discount. They were even selling the shelving. I believe my last purchase was a Japanese novel, Inoue's THE COUNTERFEITER.
"The drive to sleep originates deep within the brain and is as powerful as the drive to eat or breathe."
"The Great Leader Kim Il Sung Crosses the Amrok River With the Lofty Aim of Liberating the Country"
"Magnification to nothingness occurs or tends to occur in all cults; unequivocally we observe it in the case of Shakespeare. [. . . ] Hugo compared him to the ocean, the possible forms of which were infinite."
I contemplated publishing portions of my novel in progress, but this seemed like another bad idea.