Thursday, February 16, 2017

Youval Shimoni, A Room (1999, I think)

1999 seems like the most reliable date, but the actual translated book says 2006, so I dunno.  Probably a mistake.

This is the first Hebrew novel I’ve ever read (as far as I can remember).  I was looking forward to the translation since before it was published, in 2016; it promised to be the kind of long, postmodern thing that I enjoy--so much so that when it came out, I got a copy and took it all the way to Jakarta with me.  It may well be the only one of its kind in Indonesia. I’m not sure if it’s actually been compared to Gravity’s Rainbow and The Recognitions, but all the reviews say “it has been compared to Gravity’s Rainbow and The Recognitions,” so probably some guy somewhere did.  Sure; seems plausible. 
Read more »

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

B.S. Johnson, Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry (1973)

I do not think it merely an unfortunate coincidence that Bryan Stanley Johnson (1933-1973)--British novelist, playwright, poet, critic, and filmmaker--went by "B.S."  On the evidence of this novel, he was very concerned with whether fiction has truth value or whether it is, indeed, bullshit.

I'd been wanting to read Johnson for some time. He moved in the same literary circles as Ann Quin, the novelist I was somewhat disappointed by last year (horrible to relate, but just months after she drowned herself, he slit his wrists, at the age of forty).  "You didn't like her, so why would you go on to read a similar novelist?" you ask.  Well, I don't actually KNOW they're similar, and more to the point, I just can't resist an experimental novelist. I certainly never had any plans to read ALL his novels if I didn't like this one (he wrote seven, one published posthumously).

Read more »

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel (1940)

See?  Something shorter.  BAM.  This little book had been on my radar for a long time—a piece of fantastic fiction by an Argentine writer who was also a friend and collaborator with Borges, who provides an introduction here, in which he provides what would probably be the best pull-quote in the history of publishing:

To classify it as perfect is neither an imprecision nor a hyperbole.
--Jorges Luis Borges

I mean, damn.

It really is very good.  It’s written in the form of a diary by a fugitive who finds himself on a strange island: it’s deserted, but there’s a hotel, a swimming pool, and a museum.  There’s also a group of tourists living it up.  The narrator tries to avoid them, and sometimes to interact with them, but it’s pretty quickly apparent that they can’t see or otherwise perceive him.  Among them is a woman named Faustina on whom he conceives a crush, as well as, yes, a man named Morel (and I’m embarrassed that the introduction had to point out to me that this is an obvious allusion to Dr. Moreau).

There’s really little else you can say without spoiling things—and while I don’t think knowing its secrets would ruin it exactly, I’m still loath to say anything else about it, because I think it deserves to be experienced more or less cold.  It’s possible that the fantastic elements will be somewhat less shocking than they would’ve been at the time of its publication, but it remains mysterious, frightening, and profound in turn; and given how short it is, there’s no reason not to experience it for yourself.  It’s Casares’ most well-known work, but he had a long career, and I’m kinda keen on reading more of his material.