Thursday, August 07, 2008

A new 'Outfit' — The Eyes of Mao — Cubicle Opera

I. A welcome distraction: Three Richard Stark novels, just out from U. Chicago Press. Without planning to, I started with the third one, The Outfit—maybe not a good idea, but the first chapter grabbed me and has not yet let go! You will read this so fast you won't need a bookmark. (Note to self: Save that line for future review?)

Bonus: Part of The Outfit takes place in Buffalo; the wife of the Outfit head lives here. (Did Westlake know Queen City native Lawrence Block already, back in the early ’60s?)

Dzyd Levi (who works for the press) directs me to an interview he and a colleague conducted with Westlake (who wrote the Stark books pseudonymously). Sample gem:
I’ve always been a catholic reader, but also a bit of a sponge, taking on characteristics of what I’m reading, if I’m not careful. If I read too much Anthony Powell, my sentences gradually become longer and longer and less and less gainly.
(Only Westlake I've read previously: God Save the Mark.)

II. Dzyd Rachel has another ponder-worthy piece up at the Poetry Foundation, this time on Mao's verse. Sample goodie:
Although Mao dismissed intellectuals as dumb and disloyal—only those whose feet are “smeared with cow-dung,” he announced, are capable of true art—he could never quite wean himself from the joys of his scholarly existence. He was always neurotic and insecure about his own intellectual abilities, even in comparing himself to his own secretaries. According to one of Mao’s biographers, Jung Chang, Mao slept on a large bed partially covered in piles of books a half foot high, so that when he woke up he could immediately roll over and begin reading. When his vision faltered in old age, he ordered the construction of two factories to print books with characters large enough for his eyes.
III. Nice PD review in Philadelphia City Paper! "This absence of novelized work makes a book that restricts itself to the 9-to-5, like Ed Park's cubicle opera Personal Days shine all the more. Park points out that those dead, stressed hours make up a separate reality..."

IV. Speaking of work novels and Stark, I'll link again to Levi's post on how the Stark novels are work books...There's a scene toward the end of The Outfit that's amazing not because of its violence (as are many of the brutal scenes herein) but because we could be listening to a consultant filling the boss in regarding sloppy management: "The organization is getting too highly organized."

V. More PD news, from our correspondent on the Continent, Dzyd Christine:
No PD sightings in Europe so far (I thought it would be fun to send you one, but alas), but when chatting with the ladies at Shakespeare's in Paris yesterday I asked if they had it, and they said they used to have a few, but if it was good they'd order more. I assured them it is, and they did (!). Very sweet.

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