Wednesday, July 11, 2007

they say reading's on the decline

(no, I don't really know who "they" is either) and it's certainly true of the vacation. of course, when you do all your reading on the beach and the weather costs you a couple of days the number of optically devoured pages will likely decrease. then you have to throw in (down? out?) a couple of false starts on books whose covers were more appealing than their introductory chapters.

I veered away from Hungarian fiction long enough to make it through Crystal Zevon's compiled oral history of her late ex-husband I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon (thanks Will Blythe for loaning it out - good stuff - give it four stars), then made it back for Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon (also recommended with a four astral bodies out of five) before finishing the week with Peter Esterhazy's The Book of Hrabal (not so much - maybe dos de cinco). which did have its (odd) moments, including a too little, too late saxophone lesson given by Charlie Parker and received by "the Lord" (that last sentence might be considered foreshadowing, though I'm thinking "the Lord" won't be reappearing any time soon).

a Hrabal excerpt:

“Sometimes, when the writer did not speak all day and just sat in the room, Anna did not dare look in, for he would make the most awful faces, snarling and that sort of thing. He even chewed his nails, which Anna detested, it was a bit much, from a man of forty. (But at least this was action; Hungarians hold action in high regard, meaning exclusively physical labour, so that a thinker thinking, or a writer writing does not necessarily merit attention, unless said thinker or writer happens to plant trees as community work, let’s say – now that would be action. In which case the benefit to literature would be the shade the tree provided for the reader . . . ) At times he gnawed the end of his pen, like some rodent. The writer clung to his pens with superstitious tenacity. He used to have a Parker, which he handled so much that he just about dented it; he lost it on a commuter train. (For Anna, ‘Parker’ had another meaning: she thought of the great Charlie, the ‘Bird’ . . . I might add that Charlie Parker lost several saxophones in the subway.)”


  1. Rob, I noted your review of Glenn Mercer's album in the VV. Took some issue with your idea that we have nothing in common save THE GOOD EARTH. As I recollect it, we also both like TUSK. And baseball. You will just have to live with it.

  2. ah, you caught me in my own self-deprecating web.
    and I remembered SY's Sister more than Tusk, but I'll certainly accept the commonality - esp. if you can help get me out of my 33 1/3 Tusk jam.
    hope all's well.