Partial Recall

Attempting to remember the books I've read, without looking at them.
Fin

That’s it. I am now trying to read my way through A la recherce du temps perdu in French, a project that will absorb me for some time. I have read Swann’s Way (Du côté de chez Swann) in English already, and have made some decent progress with A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs in French. Perhaps I will occasionally put passages here.

Of course realistically I’ll probably need to switch back to English at some point, or else it will take me years to do this. But it’s worth trying.

Fin

That’s it. I am now trying to read my way through A la recherce du temps perdu in French, a project that will absorb me for some time. I have read Swann’s Way (Du côté de chez Swann) in English already, and have made some decent progress with A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs in French. Perhaps I will occasionally put passages here.

Of course realistically I’ll probably need to switch back to English at some point, or else it will take me years to do this. But it’s worth trying.

Invisible Dragon & Air Guitar [Image source]
I enjoyed reading these though I fear I have nothing intelligent to say about them.

In all honesty I don’t quite remember the argument of Invisible Dragon (about Beauty) and I suspect I probably didn’t follow it as I was reading. I remember enjoying a lot Hickey’s piece on feminine vs. masculine works of art; the way that one invites the viewer, & the other confronts him. That’s probably a poor gloss, oh well. Amusing story: I remember reading the piece on Mapplethorpe while riding the [train] to work, unsuspecting, & suddenly on the Kindle screen there is a graphic photo of a man inserting his finger into the tip of his penis; I quickly put the book away in embarrassment. Later I made N. do the same thing on the subway, perhaps to the other graphic photo of someone forearm-deep into another person’s anus.

Air Guitar was similar in that I only vaguely recall the argument & probably didn’t follow it that well (especially when Hickey becomes more abstract & technical sounding) but still enjoyed it. I remember liking the chapter on Flaubert, & a fictional autobiography of Hank Williams. The chapter on Liberace also entertaining. Communities of desire. The way that a work’s meaning in a theoretical sense has trumped the enjoyment & pleasure brought about by a physical object.

Invisible Dragon & Air Guitar [Image source]
I enjoyed reading these though I fear I have nothing intelligent to say about them.

In all honesty I don’t quite remember the argument of Invisible Dragon (about Beauty) and I suspect I probably didn’t follow it as I was reading. I remember enjoying a lot Hickey’s piece on feminine vs. masculine works of art; the way that one invites the viewer, & the other confronts him. That’s probably a poor gloss, oh well. Amusing story: I remember reading the piece on Mapplethorpe while riding the [train] to work, unsuspecting, & suddenly on the Kindle screen there is a graphic photo of a man inserting his finger into the tip of his penis; I quickly put the book away in embarrassment. Later I made N. do the same thing on the subway, perhaps to the other graphic photo of someone forearm-deep into another person’s anus.

Air Guitar was similar in that I only vaguely recall the argument & probably didn’t follow it that well (especially when Hickey becomes more abstract & technical sounding) but still enjoyed it. I remember liking the chapter on Flaubert, & a fictional autobiography of Hank Williams. The chapter on Liberace also entertaining. Communities of desire. The way that a work’s meaning in a theoretical sense has trumped the enjoyment & pleasure brought about by a physical object.

Canti [Image source]
Brilliant. Fucking brilliant.

I had long ago read about this translation by Jonathan Galassi (who, I later found out, is president of FSG and rather a fat-cat), and seen a somewhat negative review on Quarterly Conversation. I decided instead (at that time) to try the Heath-Stubbs one, which had been recommended elsewhere. But frankly it’s not very good. The criticism of Galassi in the QC article seems accurate — that occasionally it’s too plain, too often more like a student trot than a literary translation. Yet I felt that I could see something of the real Leopardi behind it. And the notes are excellent.

At first I had some difficulty appreciating Leopardi, but it clicked for me at ‘Brutus’, which is the sixth piece I believe. Later in the volume, after the Canti proper, one finds a a piece that Leopardi translated by the ancient Greek poet Semonides. A very pessimistic take on life; it would have served as a good introduction to the Canti, to show how Leopardi modeled some of his writings after it. Curiously the volume ends with a piece of prose (probably taken from the Zibaldone) that is quite jarring and does not fit with the rest at all; although I don’t remember it too well, I remember thinking that the penultimate piece was much better and would have concluded the volume more fittingly.

Canti [Image source]
Brilliant. Fucking brilliant.

I had long ago read about this translation by Jonathan Galassi (who, I later found out, is president of FSG and rather a fat-cat), and seen a somewhat negative review on Quarterly Conversation. I decided instead (at that time) to try the Heath-Stubbs one, which had been recommended elsewhere. But frankly it’s not very good. The criticism of Galassi in the QC article seems accurate — that occasionally it’s too plain, too often more like a student trot than a literary translation. Yet I felt that I could see something of the real Leopardi behind it. And the notes are excellent.

At first I had some difficulty appreciating Leopardi, but it clicked for me at ‘Brutus’, which is the sixth piece I believe. Later in the volume, after the Canti proper, one finds a a piece that Leopardi translated by the ancient Greek poet Semonides. A very pessimistic take on life; it would have served as a good introduction to the Canti, to show how Leopardi modeled some of his writings after it. Curiously the volume ends with a piece of prose (probably taken from the Zibaldone) that is quite jarring and does not fit with the rest at all; although I don’t remember it too well, I remember thinking that the penultimate piece was much better and would have concluded the volume more fittingly.

Tenth of December [Image source]
I read this in the space of a few days, while in [a country], just before the wedding. In fact I believe that I finished it on the afternoon of the wedding (which happened at night).

As with the Patrick Melrose novels, there seemed to be a big publicity push just before the release of this collection of stories. I had heard of Saunders already and was curious to read him, so this seemed a fitting place to start. Some of the stories I found interesting, and I appreciate his ability to create distinctive, colloquial voices, but in the end I was underwhelmed. Perhaps there was simply too much hype for me. I found it sometimes formulaic — he puts you in the middle of someone’s thoughts, in a situation where you gradually begin to realize that something is wrong, and have to wait for the little clues to tell you what is happening. ‘Semplica Girl Diary’ being a typical example; I don’t mean to disparage that particular story, it’s good, and has rightly received quite a bit of attention in other reviews.

The trend is becoming clearer to me, that contemporary literature almost always disappoints me in some way.

Tenth of December [Image source]
I read this in the space of a few days, while in [a country], just before the wedding. In fact I believe that I finished it on the afternoon of the wedding (which happened at night).

As with the Patrick Melrose novels, there seemed to be a big publicity push just before the release of this collection of stories. I had heard of Saunders already and was curious to read him, so this seemed a fitting place to start. Some of the stories I found interesting, and I appreciate his ability to create distinctive, colloquial voices, but in the end I was underwhelmed. Perhaps there was simply too much hype for me. I found it sometimes formulaic — he puts you in the middle of someone’s thoughts, in a situation where you gradually begin to realize that something is wrong, and have to wait for the little clues to tell you what is happening. ‘Semplica Girl Diary’ being a typical example; I don’t mean to disparage that particular story, it’s good, and has rightly received quite a bit of attention in other reviews.

The trend is becoming clearer to me, that contemporary literature almost always disappoints me in some way.

Autobiography of Red [Image source]
To be honest I was a little disappointed by this book. When I started the other day, reading the introduction at [a bistro], I thought that Carson had completely invented Stesichoros & his fragments on Geryon, as a pastiche of the fragments of Greek poetry that have survived. Then when I started reading the main text, & saw that it was set in the near-present but w/ fantastic elements (Geryon’s wings), I thought that she had written something that was like Pale Fire in structure — an invented poem followed by a narrative piece only tangentially related to the poem. But it turns out that Stesichoros was real & so are the fragments, albeit translated freely by Carson. I found the main text a little boring & difficult to focus on. I suspect that for me it suffers by association w/ Keep the Lights On, a very over-rated movie about a homosexual relationship between an artist & a drug addict. We saw it last year after it had won a lot of praise.

I know that I’m probably missing something interesting about the work. About the use of language & the hybrid prose/poetry. Something about the volcanic imagery. Those were actually the most interesting parts, the fantastic parts, about Geryon’s monstrous nature (well, not really monstrous) & the volcanoes. I suppose I just found it a slight story on which to hang so much style. As usual I found the early parts about his childhood more interesting; like Joyce again.

Autobiography of Red [Image source]
To be honest I was a little disappointed by this book. When I started the other day, reading the introduction at [a bistro], I thought that Carson had completely invented Stesichoros & his fragments on Geryon, as a pastiche of the fragments of Greek poetry that have survived. Then when I started reading the main text, & saw that it was set in the near-present but w/ fantastic elements (Geryon’s wings), I thought that she had written something that was like Pale Fire in structure — an invented poem followed by a narrative piece only tangentially related to the poem. But it turns out that Stesichoros was real & so are the fragments, albeit translated freely by Carson. I found the main text a little boring & difficult to focus on. I suspect that for me it suffers by association w/ Keep the Lights On, a very over-rated movie about a homosexual relationship between an artist & a drug addict. We saw it last year after it had won a lot of praise.

I know that I’m probably missing something interesting about the work. About the use of language & the hybrid prose/poetry. Something about the volcanic imagery. Those were actually the most interesting parts, the fantastic parts, about Geryon’s monstrous nature (well, not really monstrous) & the volcanoes. I suppose I just found it a slight story on which to hang so much style. As usual I found the early parts about his childhood more interesting; like Joyce again.