Sunday, August 21, 2005

Lunar follies

I did a bit of book-buying this weekend. I spent too much time looking over and eventually passing on a volume of Edmund Wilson's journals. Out of the volumes titled after decades—The Twenties, The Thirties, The Forties, The Fifties—I have three...but I can never remember which ones! This store had all of them, but I didn't want to shell out mazuma for something I already had.

The haul was a bit more obscure than usual.

1. The Proof, by Agota Kristof
2. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, by Sue Townsend
3. A Nest of Ninnies, by James Schuyler and John Ashbery
4. The Adaptable Man, by Janet Frame
5. Mrs. Caldwell Speaks to Her Son, by Camilo José Cela
6. All Souls, by Javier Marias
7. Notes From a Bottle Found on the Beack at Carmel, by Evan S. Connell
8. Don Bueno, by Zulfikar Ghose

I bought #1 because I admire Kristof's The Notebook, to which this is something of a sequel/continuation; #2 I feel might have been recommended to me (by whom?); #3 I read a while ago and have fond memories of and so why not own it; #4 I have no idea why I bought it—the name rings a bell (I think she died last year—a New Zealand writer of an experimental bent; this book looks totally unread, as if the reader had bought it in a fit of confidence, flipped through a couple pages, and said the hell with it); #5 just had an intriguing title (and a short-chapter structure that reminded me of Machado de Assis's books); #6 because the first page looked good; #7 because I recall Lewis Lapham liked it; and #8 because Ghose was B.S. Johnson's very close friend before he, Ghose, moved to Texas to take an academic position.

The Adrian Mole is really good. This weekend I mostly read Bret Easton Ellis's new novel, Lunar Park. It's wonderfully funny (and increasingly spooky)—Ellis has a seamless comic style here that's very much to my liking.

This exchange, between "Bret" and his young stepdaughter, Sarah, was quite interesting ("Jayne" is Bret's wife):

"I know the alphabet," she stated proudly. "A B C D E F—"
"Honey, Bret has a big headache. I'm gonna take your word on this one."
"—G H I J K L M N—"
"You can identify the sounds letters make. Sweetie, that's really excellent. Jayne?"
"—O P Q R S T U V—"
"Jayne, would you please giver her a sugar-free doughnut or something?" I touched my head to indicate migraine approaching. "Really."
"And I know what a rhombus is!" Sarah shouted gleefully.
"Fabulous."
"And a hexagon!"
"Okay, but take pity on me just now, munchkin."
"And a trapezoid!"
"Honey, Daddy's grouchy and sleepy and about to throw up so couldn't you keep it down a little?"

Readers of Lee Tandy Schwartzman's Crippled Detectives may find themselves thinking about Chapter Twenty, in which an abecedarian boast morphs into shape-talk.

4 Comments:

Blogger HeyZeus! said...

Javier Marias - is he the Chilean author who died a year or two ago? I think the NYT had an article about how his books are coming out in English.

I'm reading Geek Love right now, incidentally, and I rather like it. Apropos to be reading it on my birthday, as I am a big geek (although not so much of a freak) anyway.

-GH

1:53 AM  
Blogger Moss Jervins said...

Ah, you're thinking of Robert Bolaño. Marias is very much alive—Spanish author of DARK BACK OF TIME et al.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Jenny D said...

Miscellaneous thoughts: I LOVE "Geek Love," definitely a favorite novel; and I met Katherine Dunn once and she was the most excellent person too. I liked Adrian Mole when I read it a long time ago, but haven't looked at it again recently; Bridget Jones certainly wouldn't have been possible without it, though. Janet Frame: interesting writer. There's a good film called "An Angel at My Table" (or something like that) based on her life, check it out...

12:48 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

From Robert Birnbaum's interview with George Saunders:


GS: [...] I was working with Lane Smith on that Gappers book and he said, “You should try to write a—

RB:—try to write an adult book.”

GS: Yeah, “Try to write a book in which all the characters are abstract shapes.” So I said OK. So I started messing around with that. Trying to think of a world that would take place on this sheet of paper, then I started to get into this geography of what countries are shaped like. [...]

11:26 AM  

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