Twelfth Post: Jonathans

Maybe I should change my name to Jonathan:

Franzen
Safran Foer
Lethem

Each have written some of the best novels I’ve read in recent years. It’s something to think about.

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Eleventh Post: The Emporer’s Children

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Just finished The Emporer’s Children by Claire Messud. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book with that many words that I did not know. Am I forgetting words? Or are they inventing more and not telling me?

I’m still thinking about this one. Dialogue in this book was interesting. A character could speak two sentences, and in between those two sentences Messud would insert a page of internal dialogue, yet it seemed entirely believable that the internal dialogue would have happened in a split-second, like it does in real life. The mind can work incredibly fast, and she was able to capture that in her writing.

The characters weren’t exactly likeable–to me–but they were sympathetic. I wanted to know what happened to them, even if I did not care about them.

The book really heated up about two-thirds of the way through, with “July.” That’s when things started happening to people. It took that long in the book to elucidate the complicated relationships between all the characters as well as establish New York as a strong setting.

Each mini chapter was from a different character’s point of view, and the book was written in third-person limited (I think that’s what it’s called). I’m sure this was incredibly hard to do, yet it seemed natural in reading, and in fact helped move the narrative along. I found myself, as a reader, wanting to start the next chapter to see what point of view it was from. It was often refreshing to hear from someone new.

Those are my thoughts for now. More later, after I ponder some more. But I liked this book very much; I was impressed and a bit daunted by it.

Tenth Post: I Finished the Article

This, too:

It wasn’t until after graduation, while he was selling clothing in a rock-music store in Los Angeles, that Bock really discovered fiction, and he began a crash course in contemporary writing, following a trail of blurbs. If someone on the jacket recommended a book Bock liked, then he would immediately read the recommender’s books. Rick Moody’s “Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven” made a huge impression, and so did David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.” Those writers lead to William Vollmann and Richard Powers and Jonathan Franzen and in turn to older writers like John Barth, Don DeLillo, Raymond Carver and to some of Bock’s near-contemporaries: Mary Gaitskill, George Saunders, A. M. Homes. “I discovered there was all this good stuff out there,” he said, “and as I began to try to write, it completely changed the way I thought about character and how I was going to address the city I grew up in.”

Ninth Post: “A little old for a first-time novelist”

I haven’t even finished the article yet, but yes!:

What distinguishes the book from most debut efforts is the grandness of its ambition. It’s a first novel that wants to read like the work of someone at the peak of his career, and it has an almost Dickensian amplitude — overamplitude, some critics may say — of subplot and detail; it’s one of those novels that strive to be much more than the sum of their parts, and in which the writing is not always averse to showing off a little.

Eighth Post: Bobby Fischer

…was found dead in Iceland.

Iceland? How did Bobby Fischer end up in Iceland. There’s got to be a story in there somewhere. If only I wasn’t too lazy to find it.

Anyway, for reference, here’s an article.

Seventh Post: Catching Up (Sort of)

Well. I’m not exactly off to a good start. Also, is January 1 too early in the year to begin experiencing regret?

I have several “cultural experiences” to post on, which I will list here for my own self-reference:

What Is the What by Dave Eggers. Finally finished it.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Finished it, too.
Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. Actually finished it before the others.
I Am Legend, the movie.
Heidi Chronicles, the play
The Bourne Ultimatum, the movie. Twice.

There are likely others, too. For instance, I’m currently listening to the newish Dinosaur Jr. record (a term I use quite loosely, because I downloaded it), and it’s great. So there might be something there.

Sixth Post: Syriana

Watched Syriana for the first time today. As I’d heard, it’s a complicated movie, but I followed enough. Here’s what I got out of it: levels. If you followed its intracacies, it probably made for a very rich experience. But even if you did not, it was still compelling. I think this is likely because of the complex characters, especially the ones played by George Clooney and Matt Damon. You wanted to learn more about them, find out what drove them, so you wanted to keep watching. None of the characters were grotesques. All had likeable traits, or at least offered the viewer the ability to somewhat identify with them.

And while the plot was indeed hard to follow, it was a plot with serious themes, so you wanted to pay attention. If the story was only about, say, mixed-up romantic relationships on the Upper East Side, then I would have moved on. In fact, there are things about the plot that I could apply to my work (if I actually had a “work”)–the complex motives of the nation-state and its power players.