I first read Pynchon when I was twenty-two, I think, between a B.A. and an M.A. The only reason I read him, too, was because I’d hit up a professor I trusted for a list of books I’d need to have read if I didn’t want to get laughed out of grad school. She of course gave me an excellent list — Nabokov, Heller, etc — but, when guiding me through the highs and the lows of all these titles, that professor stopped at Gravity’s Rainbow, said I wanted to stay far away from that one, as it had 500 characters and a storyline for each. Which, I mean, I’d just inhaled all of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky I could, and had a bachelor’s in philosophy in my pocket. So I accepted the challenge, went to the library, dug up a Gravity’s Rainbow and went swirling down into it, taking notes and making marginalia as I went, like I always do (more below), but doing it this time on a slip of paper, as I was going to have to turn this book back in. Years down the road, I’d of course pick up my own copies of GR, and, for a while even, remember which version my little slip of notes went with. But it’s gone now, so I don’t have any record of my first (and, so far, only) read of GR. The experience, though: it did twist my head, lose me, make me grin and leave me laughing, wanting more. So I found V., The Crying of Lot 49 — and this one I have read I don’t know how-many-times — then fell deeper into that hole, hit Vineland and the short stories and every scrap of Pynchonalia I could find, by, about, whatever. I was hooked, a convert, an acolyte. But. To know something about me that first summer I read Pynchon: all I knew then, I think, were sentences. I mean, I’d stumble onto a decent story-ending every now and again, or a nice hook, a nice shuffle between scenes or whatever, but by and large I was having some big romantic affair with language; I read Cormac McCarthy not for the stories, but, first, the vocabulary, and, second, the prose rhythm. And of course Pynchon’s sentences, while not quite as stacked as McCarthy’s when he’s really rolling, still, there’s a different, maybe even more permanent kind of magic there. Because he moves things back and forth at . . . I’ve yet to figure it out, I guess. But it’s a level just above the words.
Category Archives: bookish
Looks like, in pre-celebration for TURISTAS1, Demon Theory pulled two reviews this week:
Cool places each, though the reviews are kind of opposites of each other.
Anyway, it’s none other than Mike Bracken on the Toxic Universe one. Which, I mean — for my first novel, I remember telling somebody that it would only be complete when I knew that Gerald Vizenor had read it. And then, bam, it was suddenly complete before it was even published: FC2 had somehow got Vizenor to blurb it. About the coolest thing in the world.
and his freezer’s now spilling over with elk. which is to say dancing days are here again, all that.
and, because all this can’t seem to organize itself any other way, a list:
Bleak. Unremitting. Is to the road trip book what THE HILLS HAVE EYES was to the family vacation movie. And as far as post-apocalyptic stuff goes, Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD makes you see what a happy fantasy A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ was, how tame DR. BLOODMONEY was. That that road in THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER was gold brick.
Anyway, though this is a non-review like all the others, still, some steering if you’ll take it: read THE ROAD in five hours or less, all in one sitting. That way you don’t have to be sad and/or suicidal for the whole afternoon. Not that it doesn’t stick with you, but, just to sanitize your mind, you can try to poke holes in your memory of it anyway: if the wheelbarrow turns back into a cart for no real reason, does that make this all not real? if the apostrophes aren’t perfectly consistent, does that make THE ROAD a more constructed thing? Not really, no. It is fun to try to resist it, though, this book. To say it’s all just set-up — that, in a landscape this dark, even a spark seen from miles away can be enough to melt your heart once and forever. That it’s all about that spark, really.
everyone dreams the dream
but we are it
It’s like a word problem: If two ribbons, one gold one green, approach each other at a rate of eight pages at a time in a three hundred and sixty page book, will they ever meet? Because of course one-eighty isn’t a multiple of eight — you’re either four short or four over. Which kind of makes it a double-true middle, yeah, and, as you get closer and closer to it, can tell it’s going to be a hinge, a whirlpool, a peak, it gets hard not to cheat and page ahead. But wait if you can — it’s a weird tension to have a in book, right? Waiting to get to the exact middle? That’s ONLY REVOLUTIONS for you, though: all the conventional trappings of reading, the things we take for granted, don’t even acknowledge anymore, haven’t since never, Danielewski takes them away and then reimagines the book for us. Not ‘story’ or ‘narrative,’ but that simple up/down=>linear thing that we maybe all assumed was just the way things were, and should be.
Just thinking about what I said in that last post, about how I don’t do reviews because I’m pretty sure I’d set my standards impossibly high, just so I could shoot down every book in my path. That may be a little too broad a statement, though — I don’t mean to suggest that all reviews that burn a book are similarly motivated. Granted, some reviewers just have bad attitudes (Tobias Wolff, of course, in “Bullet to the Brain,” shoots one of them in the head, while John Updike, in “Bech Noir,” chooses to just push them in front of trains, serial fashion), but, too, it is the critics’ job to take those literary bullets meant for us, yeah? Kakutani and them, they’re the bodyguards, I mean. Maybe overzealous sometimes, sure, but always articulate anyway. And, I mean, if you’re Anne Rice, you can always just log in, fight the reviews.
Well, I mean, yeah, because he’s got titles like THE LUST LIZARD OF MELANCHOLY COVE and PRACTICAL DEMONKEEPING. These are what originally got me peeling his books up from the shelves back whenever ago. Years already, I guess. Too, though, I’ve yet to read a CMoore book that hasn’t made me smile, and then impressed me too, somehow. Like this, from A DIRTY JOB, which I just finished ten minutes ago:
Just finished Charles McCarry’s OLD BOYS, which, like the rest of the Paul Christopher series, just absolutely blew me away. The guy’s not just a good storyteller, he hammers his prose, too. Usually you get one or the other.
A sample line:
She had the wary unwavering eyes of a woman who knew how attractive she was but wanted no sign from me that I might have noticed this too.
I’m not sure or even suspicious that it gets any better than that. After reading it, too–and this was just because I didn’t want the experience to be over, so was trying to wring the book for every last word–I finally got around to the back cover. Elmore Leonard, Peter Benchley, Norman Mailer, etc. First, though, right at the top, one of the best blurbs I’ve ever seen:
never at a loss for stuff to read. if I could just shoehorn one more syllable in there, it’d scan pretty cool, I think. what little I know or can take a stab at talking lines. anyway, yesterday afternoon’s library haul (this doesn’t count the ninety-plus I already have checked out, on my shelf, which I call The Annex). was going to type them all in for that Books You’ve Bought But Haven’t Read Yet (or something) thread over at the Velvet, but good grief: that’d be a task. yet, of course, I wanted to show off my good taste. and also my lack of education. how I’ve dodged that SQUADRON SUPREME this long, who knows. and, really, that DEAD WEST, I read it last night–Indians, Old West, zombies: everything good–and am already many pages into both my minimum required hours of sleep and CJ Box’s IN PLAIN SIGHT (there’s a relationship there, yes). anyway, didn’t put my big/pretty/new (used) OLD BOYS up there because it doesn’t have either an LC or dewey decimal number on it. and, really, what I keep finding myself reading lately at odd moments is Rodney Jones’ SALVATION BLUES. Has lines in it like this:
Finished copies exist, are real, are in the mail now. If I had the skills, I’d rework some of those gas-shortage pics from the late seventies, of all the cars lined up, only I’d put a big DEMON THEORY in place of the pump. or maybe pirate one of those Body Axe commercials, re-edit it to showcase DT >>>which, yeah, as you can see, Logan over at the Velvet just rigged up. very cool. rigged this one up too.