Thursday, March 15, 2007

Against the Blog: 4-2

I'll finish this if it kills me. And it just might.

Who is back in Vienna? Cyprian is back in Vienna.

Who does he meet there? He meets Yashmeen Halfcourt there.

How is she doing? She is somewhat shaken by world events and by possible conspiracies and whatnot in her own life.

Who do they meet with? They meet with Ratty McHugh.

What do they talk about? They talk about all sorts of geopolitical business that it is difficult for me to adequately summarize.

What do they do then? They go to a café.

What sexual act does she perform on him at the café? She gets him off under the table with her foot.

What does Cyprian experience? Sexual confusion.

What does he do next? He returns to Venice, when he was summoned.

How does Derrick Theign react to the thing with Yashmeen? He reacts in an enraged manner, as this somehow ruins years of work.

Is it somehow useful to write these entries in catechism format? It is not useful so's you'd notice.



Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Perhaps for your next summary, you could adopt the style of Chapter 14. Now that would be postmodern.

- SK

5:48 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

"Cattle of the Sun," right? Yeah, if you wanted to accuse Joyce of meaningless self-indulgence (god forbid), that would be a good place to start. I remember that one as being almost totally mysterious to me. I need to reread that book when I have a spare minute or two.

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Well, I personally enjoyed that chapter. The meaningless one, in my opinion, was chapter 15, the 100-page-long "play" one. I never got a feeling of self-congratulatory smugness from Ulysses, so I'm not really in a mood to accuse Joyce. All the same, it seems that those stylistic innovations, though perhaps important at the time, really haven't dated that well. In my opinion, if you're going to attempt to write something original now, in this age of all-pervasive self-promotion, you should use a very sparse, simple style, as bereft of affectation as possible. But that's just me.

11:15 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

Man, I loved "Sirens." Crazy in a fun way. My understanding is that--somehow--they (who? they.) put on a theatrical version with Zero Mostel as Bloom. That would've been something to see.

I feel as though if you really want to be original, you should come up with something that nobody's even THOUGHT of yet, so everyone's like, whoa. Dude. Good luck with that.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

But if you do that, won't you just be attempting to manipulate your audience by flattering their desire to be "with it"? That's hardly original.

I don't know, I thought all the weird Freudian stuff was really laboured. Hey look, Bloom is timid and sexually repressed; let's show this by having an aggressively masculine woman whip a feminized version of him. Understatement plz kthx. I think that, in that particular chapter, all the stylization is just a cover for the fact that, the underlying characterization is actually pretty simplistic -- mostly because the allegory is inherently an oversimplification of things that are irrational and thus not subject to an easy description. And, wacky though it may have been, it went on forever.

If I have a literary hero anymore these days, I guess it would be Kawabata. Explains a lot, I guess.

- SK

3:14 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

Maybe, but minimalism is hardly original either. And there are lots of ways to go with the stylistic wildness. Certainly a writer like Salman Rushdie can use it to good effect without it seeming gratuitous (not that he always does, but he CAN).

As for Ulysses, I just wanna have fun. I had fun with the goofy play; not so much with the barrage of parodies of mostly-now-obscure authors.

I don't love Kawabata. I always get the impression that something significant is being lost in translation. And he's awfully cold. Not that I've read that much of him.

12:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Well, I guess my point wasn't that minimalism was "original" (since the Japanese and others already did it lots of times), but that it's due for a revival in a time when the culture is full of blatant, flamboyant self-promotion. 'Cause everything "new" is just the well-forgotten "old," and all that.

I don't know -- when I first read Ulysses, I liked it a lot, mostly because I thought, "Whoa? You can write like that? Dude!" I wrote a glowing amazon review of it to that general effect. And I even still sort of believe what I wrote. I still enjoy some chapters, like 12, 16, 18, where it seems to me like the style strongly accentuates the emotions and mentality of the characters.

But all that really only goes so far, in my opinion. The problem with piling on layers of allegory is that you start to define your characters in terms of their allegorical significance, which inevitably causes them to be thinly drawn. The reason why I rolled my eyes a bit at "Sirens" was because I thought that all the Freudian symbolism was a really crude, glib explanation for Bloom's character. I know it was supposed to be crude, but just because something is deliberately bad doesn't make it any less bad. And soon enough, in literature and other forms of art, "deliberate badness" very quickly became a cheap crutch.

What I like about Kawabata is exactly that he never even tries to provide any kind of allegorical or psychological explanation for his characters' actions. This may also be what causes him to seem cold, but I think there's a bit more of reality in his use of individual emotional memory than in intellectualized allegory. But that's just my opinion, and not a very well-argued one, at that.

- SK

12:50 PM  

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