Tuesday, January 28, 2020

the last book I ever read (Virginie Despentes's Vernon Subutex 1: A Novel, excerpt two)

from Vernon Subutex 1: A Novel by Virginie Despentes (translated by Frank Wynne):

That day in December 2002, they had been lining up to buy smoked salmon because Bertrand was spending Christmas with a Norwegian girl he wanted to impress with his culinary sophistication. He had convinced himself that smoked salmon could be bought in this shop in the fifth arrondissement and nowhere else. Having trekked here on the Métro, they were waiting to be served. The line snaked out onto the sidewalk, it would be a forty-minute wait at least. Vernon had gone off to buy cigarettes, and it was on the radio in the bar-tabac that he heard the news that Strummer was dead. He had gone back to Bertrand. No way, you’re shitting me! You think I’d joke about something like that? Bertrand had turned pale, though he still waited and bought his salmon and two bottles of vodka. They had walked back through the second arrondissement singing “Lost in the Supermarket” and remembering the time they had seen Strummer play a solo gig together. Vernon had only gone to keep Bertrand company, but once he got there, an unexpected surge of emotion made him waver, he had pressed his shoulder against his friend and felt tears well in his eyes. He had never said a word about this, but on the day Joe Strummer died, he had confessed and Bertrand had said, Yeah, I know, I saw, but I didn’t want to bust your balls about it. Strummer … fuck! Who’s left worth talking about?



Monday, January 27, 2020

the last book I ever read (Virginie Despentes's Vernon Subutex 1: A Novel, excerpt one)

from Vernon Subutex 1: A Novel by Virginie Despentes (translated by Frank Wynne):

The first thing to go was his unemployment benefit. By post he received a copy of the report written by his adviser. He got along well with her. They had been meeting regularly for almost three years in the cramped cubicle where she killed odd houseplants. Thirtyish, bubbly, fake redhead, plump, well stacked, Madame Bodard liked to talk about her two sons, she worried about them a lot, regularly took them to see a pediatrician in the hope that he would diagnose some form of hyperactivity disorder that might justify sedating them. But the doctor told her they were in fine form and set her packing. Madame Bodard told Vernon how she had been to see AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses with her parents when she was young. Now she was preferred to listen to Camille and Benjamin Biolay and Vernon abstained from making any offensive remarks. They had talked at great length about his case: between the ages of twenty and forty-five, he had been a record dealer. These days, his chances of finding work were slimmer than if he had been a coal miner. Madame Bodard had suggested retraining. Together they had perused the various courses open to him—AFPA, GRETA, CFA—and they parted on good terms, agreeing to meet again to reassess the situation. Three years later, his application to study for a diploma in administration had not been accepted. From his point of view, he felt he had done everything he needed to do, he had become an expert in applications and prepared them with extraordinary efficiency. Over time, he had come to feel that his job was to bum around on the internet looking for vacancies that corresponded to his profile, then send off résumés so that they could spend back proof of his rejection. Who would want to train someone who pushing fifty? He had managed to dredge up a work placement in a concert venue out in the suburbs and another in an art-house cinema—but aside from going out occasionally, keeping abreast of the network problems on the RER and meeting people, it mostly left him with a dreary sense of waste.



Saturday, January 25, 2020

the last book I ever read (J. D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, excerpt six)

from Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by J. D. Salinger:

I’m thinking about this last paragraph. That is, about the amount of personal admiration that has gone into it. To what extent, I wonder, may one be allowed to admire one’s brother’s hands without raising a few modern eyebrows? In my youth, Father William, my heterosexuality (discounting a few, shall I say, not always quite voluntary slow periods) was often rather common gossip in some of my old Study Groups. Yet I now find myself recalling, perhaps just a wee bit too vividly, that Sofya Tolstoy, in one of her, I don’t doubt, well-provoked marital piques, accused the father of her thirteen children, the elderly man who continued to inconvenience her every night of her married life, of homosexual leanings. I think, on the whole, Sofya Tolstoy was a remarkably unbrilliant woman—and my atoms, moreover, are arranged to make me constitutionally inclined to believe that where there’s smoke there’s usually strawberry Jello, seldom fire—but I do very emphatically believe there is an enormous amount of the androgynous in any all-or-nothing prose writer, or even a would-be one. I think that if he titters at male writers who wear invisible skirts he does so at his eternal peril. I’ll say no more on the subject. This is precisely the sort of confidence that can be easily and juicily Abused. It’s a wonder we’re not worse cowards in print than we already are.



Friday, January 24, 2020

the last book I ever read (J. D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, excerpt five)

from Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by J. D. Salinger:

Since I’m having a little trouble speaking for myself, I decided this morning, in class (rather staring the while, I’m afraid, at Miss Valdemar’s incredibly snug pedal pushers), that the really courteous thing to do would be to let one of my parents have the first word here, and where better to start than with the Primeval Mother? The risks involved, through, are overwhelming. If sentiment doesn’t ultimately make fibbers of some people, their natural abominable memories almost certainly will. With Bessies, for instance, one of the main things about Seymour was his tallness. In her mind she sees him as an uncommonly rangy, Texan type, forever ducking his head as he came into rooms. The fact is, he was five ten and a half—a short tall man by modern, multi-vitamin standards. Which was fine with him. He had no love whatever for height. I wondered for a while, when the twins went over six feet, whether he was going to send them condolence cards. I think if he were alive today he’d be all smiles that Zooey, being an actor, grew up small. He, S., was a very firm believer in low centers of gravity for real actors.



Thursday, January 23, 2020

the last book I ever read (J. D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, excerpt four)

from Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by J. D. Salinger:

If, any time between 1919 and 1948, you came into a crowded room where Seymour and I were present, there would possibly be only one way, but it would be foolproof, of knowing that he and I were brothers. That would be by the noses and chins. The chins, of course, I can breezily dismiss in a minute by saying we almost didn’t have any. Noses, however, we emphatically had, and they were close to being identical: two great, fleshy, drooping, trompe-like affairs that were different from every other nose in the family except, all too vividly, that of dear old Great Grandfather Zozo, whose own nose, ballooning out from an early daguerreotype, used to alarm me considerably as a small boy. (Come to think of it, Seymour, who never made, shall I say, anatomical jokes, once rather surprised me by wondering whether our noses—his, mine, Great Grandfather Zozo’s—posed the same bedtime dilemma that certain beards do, meaning did we sleep with them outside or inside the covers.) There’s a risk, though, of sounding too airy about this. I’d like to make it very clear—offensively so, if need be—that they were definitely not romantic Cyrano protuberances. (Which is a dangerous subject on all counts, I think, in this brave new psychoanalytical world, where almost everybody as a matter of course knows which came first, Cyrano’s nose or his wisecracks, and where there’s a widespread, international clinical hush for all the big-nosed chaps who are undeniably tongue-tied.) It hink the only difference worth mentioning in the general breadth, length, and contours of our two noses was that there was a very notable bend, I’m obliged to say, to the right, an extra lopsidedness, at the bridge of Seymour’s nose. Seymour always suspected that it made my nose patrician by comparison. The “bend” was acquired when someone in the family was rather dreamily making practice swings with a baseball bat in the hall of our old apartment on Riverside Drive. His nose was never set after the mishap.

Hurrah. The nose is over. I’m going to bed.



Wednesday, January 22, 2020

the last book I ever read (J. D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, excerpt three)

from Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by J. D. Salinger:

Mrs. Silsburn said nothing, and I didn’t look at her to see just how seriously she’d been affronted by the Matron of Honor’s remark. I remember, though, that I was impressed, in a peculiar sense, with the Matron of Honor’s tone of apology for her little slip about “crazy aunts and uncles.” It had been a genuine apology, but not an embarrassed and, still better, not an obsequious one, and for a moment I had a feeling that, for all her stagy indignation and showy grit, there was something bayonetlike about her, something not altogether unadmirable. (I’ll grant, quickly and readily, that my opinion in this instance has a very limited value. I often feel a rather excessive pull toward people who don’t overapologize.) The point is, however, that right then, for the first time, a small wave of prejudice against the missing groom passed over me, a just perceptible little whitecap of censure for his unexplained absenteeism.