Time for a change?
Recently Lev Grossman explained how he chooses books to review. “I review books,” he proclaimed, “if they do something I’ve never seen done before; or if I fall in love with them; or if they shock me or piss me off or otherwise won’t leave me alone; if they alter the way my brain works; if I can’t stop thinking about them; if for whatever reason I absolutely have to tell people about them.”
Scott Esposito appropriately enough questions how candid Grossman is being, pointing out that his sinecure at Time necessarily constrains Grossman to “a very limited range of choices.” As Scott reminds us, “in most cases he’s functioning as an adjunct of a publisher’s marketing department, essentially adding whatever institutional and personal authority he has to the marketing push for a book that has almost certainly been acclaimed 10 times over by ‘reviewers’ that are similarly empowered.”
This month the Big Other Book Club is reading Travesty by John Hawkes. Everyone is welcome to write a post about Travesty or Hawkes. It is 132 pages and out of the handful of books of his I’ve read, the most accessible.
John Hawkes’ short novel Travesty presents a monologue of a person driving an automobile who plans to deliberately crash the car into a farmhouse because his wife and daughter are lovers of his friend Henri. Henri and his daughter are with him. The collision is expected to occur within 100 minutes. – Conte (below)
A few resources:
Design and Debris: John Hawkes’s Travesty, Chaos Theory, and the Swerve by Joseph M. Conte
All That Remains: On the Fiction of John Hawkes by Daniel Green – it looks at Travesty, as well as The Lime Twig and Second Skin
Start Suffering – my appreciation of Hawkes, focused on The Lime Twig, with links to other sources
I would imagine that a certain amount of anxiety accompanies any attempt to write about William Gass and his work, a lifework where every sentence has been carefully tooled, poetically, no, lovingly rendered; where a distinct refusal to settle for a messy glibness, to trot around ideas like some propped up and thoroughly beaten and long dead horse, tinctures everything he thinks on the page; where critical acumen and lyricism are not mutually exclusive entities; where words are arranged architectonically to form houses, homes full of rooms of one’s own; the very attempt to comment on this lifework waylaid by the lacustrine sentences under scrutiny—yes, Gass’s sentences are lakes and therefore mirrors—those sentences also saying, as Apollo’s archaic torso said, that you must change your life; the scrutinizer, now somehow transformed into a jeweler, relieved because he or she has been freed from merely determining authenticity and can now disappear within a collection of multifaceted gems. But to say that anxiety “accompanies” this attempt to write about William Gass and his work is to mislead, or, rather, misrepresent, because, for one, it suggests that this psycho-physiological state can be personified and somehow invited along like some holy ghost hovering over the hitherandthithering waters of my mind, this idea of a supposed instantiation of a word inviting all kinds of thoughts, thoughts about metaphor, and various cocktails of same, which Gass has certainly explored throughout his critical and creative work, those two c-words never mutually exclusive in Gass’s oeuvre since his essays and his fictions toy with whatever expected conventions, blur those often arbitrary and perhaps even ultimately imaginary genre borders. Yes, writing about Gass is anxiety-producing—you feel a certain, shall we say, anxiety of influence, especially when you realize that he’s often been wherever you are long before you have and has, to interpolate our beloved Stevens, seen the there that’s there, the everything that is not there and the everything that is, and while there has seen with a clarity you would just be lucky to recognize you don’t have, that recognition perhaps finally allowing you to finally begin to see, see in the way that Rilke’s Malte struggles to see, that is, to finally see the forest and the trees and the green grass growing all around and around, the green grass growing all around.