Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lettuce and Its Precursors — "Stone" Reader

1. This appeared on the back of an ad supplement ("Spain Gourmetour"—eh?) in the Times. A truly Borgesian bottle label would feature an illustration of . . . the bottle, on which could be discerned a much smaller but otherwise faithful illustrated label, and so on. (The reflection of the veggies is a nice, vaguely Borgesian touch, I suppose.)

2. This Chinese novel, Qin Jiang, sounds interesting. Mention is made of Borges, and of the classic Chinese epic The Dream of Red Mansions (great title!), a/k/a The Story of the Stone. I made several attempts to read it (it's four or five volumes long, and I believe it was left incomplete—the Man Without Qualities of old Chinese lit?) back in the glorious ’90s, when I would go through phrases where I'd "treat" myself to a book every week—I think I wound up collecting the first three volumes (or else I, II, and IV?).

3. Unrelated, but the new Believer is out, and—oh, I know I said this last time, but it's really, really good. There's the Lipsyte/Houellebecq road trip; Rolf Potts on "The Tourist Who Influenced the Terrorists"; Anne Trubeck's fine take on writer's museums . . . and much more! I read a good deal of it yesterday—in Dunkin Donuts, then on the 1 train, then on the M4, a bus that miraculously corresponded to the peculiar route I needed to take (crosstown, then down the East Side) to my next destination. And I said a "Right on" as I read Nick Hornby's take on what I'm assuming was that odd New Republic piece which morphed into a favorable review of David Mitchell's Black Swan Green. Here's the first graf of the Hornby:

“What we need,” one of those scary critics who write for the serious magazines said recently, “is more straight talking about bad books.” Well, of course we do. It’s hard to think of anything we need more, in fact. Because then, surely, people would stop reading bad books, and writers would stop writing them, and the only books that anyone read or wrote would be the ones that the scary critics in the serious magazines liked, and the world would be a happier place, unless you happen to enjoy reading the books that the scary critics don’t like—in which case the world would be an unhappier place for you. Tough.

4. At The Royal Scam, Dizzyhead Drew is blogging up a storm! (Is it true you pronounce the name of this blog with an emphasis on the second syllable?)


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