Friday, March 6, 2015

the last book I ever read (Rabih Alameddine's An Unnecessary Woman, excerpt eight)

from 2014 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine:

I consider it a shame that most contemporary American writing seems informed more by Hemingway, the hero of adolescent boys of all ages and genders, than by the sui generis genius of letters, Faulkner. A phalanx of books about boredom in the Midwest is lauded (where the Midwest lies is a source of constant puzzlement to me, somewhere near Iowa, I presume), as are books about unexplored angst in New Jersey or couples unable to communicate in Connecticut. It was Camus who asserted that American novelists are the only ones who think they need not be intellectuals.

One of the things I have in common with the incredible Faulkner is that he didn’t like having his reading interrupted. He was dismissed from his job as a post office clerk at a university (a position his father obtained for him) because professors complained that the only way they could get their letters was by rummaging through the garbage cans, where unopened mailbags all too often ended up. He is said to have told his father that he wasn’t prepared to keep getting up to wait on customers at the window and to be beholden to “any son-of-a-bitch who had two cents to buy a stamp.”

I didn’t like having my reading interrupted when I worked either, but I was beholden to every son of a bitch and his mother who walked into the bookstore, whether or not they had two cents to buy a book. I couldn’t afford any complaints. Most days I had few customers, and I spent my time sitting behind my desk reading. I was conscientious. I did earn my measly salary.

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