Month: April 2011

2011 Book #23: The Moviegoer

percy-moviegoer.jpgI read The Moviegoer when I was in high school, and I hated it, though I knew I should have liked it. For years, I’ve claimed not to be a fan of Southern lit in general – with exceptions like A Confederacy of Dunces and, more recently, Faulkner. I’m not sure why I don’t like it. Maybe it’s because I hear the words in my head with a heavy southern drawl.

Anyway, months ago, I decided to give The Moviegoer a second try, and I finally got around to it. I remembered almost nothing about it, but I had a feeling I’d like it more now. The protagonist is exactly my age, 29 and about to turn 30, and he has a lot of the general life issues that I have, so I can totally empathize with him. Here’s an example:

Today is my thirtieth birthday and I sit on the ocean wave in the schoolyard and wait for Kate and think of nothing. Now in the thirty-first year of my dark pilgrimage on this earth and knowing less than I ever knew before, having learned only to recognize merde when I see it, having inherited no more from my father than a good nose for merde, for every species of shit that flies – my only talent – smelling merde from every quarter, living in fact in the very century of merde, the great shithouse of scientific humanism where needs are satisfied, everyone becomes an anyone, a warm and creative person, and prospers like a dung beetle, and one hundred percent of people are humanists and ninety-eight percent believe in God, and men are dead, dead, dead; and the malaise has settled like a fall-out and what people really fear is not that the bomb will fall but that the bomb will not fall – on this my thirtieth birthday, I know nothing and there is nothing to do but fall prey to desire.

The problem with The Moviegoer is that it bored me. I wasn’t bored to put it down, but I wasn’t excited to read it, either. Maybe it’s the drawl drifting through my head – I don’t know – but I just couldn’t get into it. Walker Percy just isn’t my kind of writer.

On a more interesting note, I’ve now read as many books this year as I did in all of 2010. I was on quite a bender, but then I started messing with the Thesis Monster again, and Palmer got me hooked on Warcraft, which is much more fun than you might think it would be. I’ll still hit the big 5-0, just you wait. I’m glad I got ahead in January and February.

2011 Book #22: Americana

This is the third time I’ve read Americana. I really need to work on the Thesis Monster, and it had been a year since I’d read the book, so I figured rereading it would be a good start. I loved it the first two times: it was probably my favorite DeLillo book (hovering there with White Noise). This time, though, I was bored out of my mind. Michael Douglas narrated it in my head (a la Wonder Boys), and he just droned on and on.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my love affair with Don DeLillo is permanently over. The turning point is when I was researching the Thesis Monster and realized that he just writes the same book over and over: some dude with postmodern angst is running away from identity-creating media to find his own identity. Okay, that’s not exactly the case with all of DeLillo’s novels, but they’re all basically about the same thing.

So much for the DeLillo Binge.

As much as I didn’t enjoy Americana this time around, there are things about DeLillo that I still do love. His language is beautiful. If I could make myself sit down and write a novel, I’d want it to sound like his.

Literature is what we passed and left behind, that more than men and cactus. For years I had been held fast by the great unwinding mystery of this deep sink of land, the thick paragraphs and imposing photos, the galop of panting adjectives, prairie truth and the clean kills of eagles, the desert shawled in Navaho paints, images of surreal cinema, of ventricles tied to pumps. Chaco masonry and the slung guitar, of church organ lungs and the slate of empires, of coral in this strange place, suggesting a reliquary sea, and of the blessed semblance of God on the faces of superstitious mountains. Whether the novels and songs usurped the land, or took something true from it, is not so much the issue as this: that what I was engaged in was merely a literary venture, an attempt to find pattern and motive, to make of something wild a squeamish thesis on the essence of the nation’s soul. To formulate. To seek links. But the wind burned across the creekbeds, barely moving the soil, and there was nothing to announce to myself in the way of historic revelation.

DeLillo’s style is beautiful. It’s just that I’ve become as jaded as the characters in his novels. David Bell would have no interest in reading Americana.
So. On to the Thesis Monster. Now, as reconnected with the novel as I can be, I have no excuse not to write. My outline is done: all I have to do is fill in the blanks between quotes. Because that’s what the Thesis Monster is: a series of quotes. The postmodern problem.
I’ve made a schedule of sorts. On weekday mornings, I work on the Thesis Monster, and that’s that. I’ve never been good for much after lunch, so the afternoon is mine. If I can be productive in the mornings, it’ll be done soon, and I’ll never have to look at it again. I’ll also be done with academia, which is another – much scarier – issue. But I have some time left.

This afternoon, I’ll ride my bike up to Palmer‘s, water some plants, and try to tackle The Moviegoer. I hated it when I read it at least ten years ago, but I change my opinions of books pretty frequently. The weather is nice, and I’m looking forward to propping my feet up and giving Walker Percy a second chance.

In other news, the Shreveport Library Book Sale was last Saturday. I usually don’t buy much of anything since everything is so disorganized and it’s so crowded. Here’s what I got this time:

I discovered once I got home that I already had The Poisonwood Bible, so I donated my copy to Charlotte. I haven’t read any of them.

2011 Book #21: The Year of the Flood

year-flood.jpgThe Year of the Flood isn’t really a sequel to Oryx and Crake like I expected it to be. The two novels’ events happen at the same time: the plots and characters are interwoven. The Year of the Flood is narrated by two of these characters, Toby and Ren. They’re both part of an environmentalist group called God’s Gardeners. The novel jumps around in time between Year One, when the God’s Gardeners first organize, and Year Twenty-Five, when the Waterless Flood knocks out most humans. The Waterless Flood is the virus Crake intentionally spreads in the first novel. Then Things Happen, as they did in Oryx and Crake. We hear a bit more about what happens at the end of the first novel, though not much. Many of the characters in The Year of the Flood are minor characters in Oryx and Crake, and vice-versa, which makes it interesting.

I think I liked The Year of the Flood more than Oryx and Crake, though that one was good, too. I gave this one four stars on Goodreads because, unlike Oryx, it’s really preachy. Explicitly so, even. The way Atwood does it, though, isn’t annoying, at least for the most part. Adam One, founder of the God’s Gardeners, gives sermons of sorts, followed by poems Atwood says were inspired by William Blake‘s poetry. You can listen to some of them here. They’re super-corny.

I explained my past with Margaret Atwood in my Oryx and Crake post, so I won’t talk about it again. These books, though, have reminded me of how much I enjoy her stories and her writing style, so I’ll revisit her novels soon, though only after some DeLillo because I’ve given myself a stern talking-to about the Thesis Monster situation, and I have to get to work.

2011 Book #20: The Blue Sword

bluesword.jpgThe Blue Sword seems much longer than it is. It’s a kids’ book that doesn’t read like a kids’ book. In fact, I’m kind of confused about why it’s even in the juvenile section of the library rather than, at least, the young adult section. Maybe it was the style that made me read it so slowly. Surprising longness aside, I really liked it. Robin McKinley is good at creating a whole world in a relatively short space.

The novel is about a girl from a normal-ish world who is thrust into a magical one in which she must learn to function and thrive. Corlath, king of the Hillfolk and guided by some kind of hereditary magic, kidnaps the girl, Harry, and takes her into the hills, which are threatened by the Northerners, who aren’t quite human. Turns out Harry is good at riding horses and fighting, and she has some of the magic, too. They eventually fight the Northerners. Things are more complicated than that, of course.

I read The Blue Sword because it’s one of Palmer‘s favorite kid-books, and, though he doesn’t seem to be too fond of them anymore (Harry Potter is a kids’ novel!), I see how he liked this one. It’s really engrossing. It’s one of those I’ll confuse with a movie. There was some confusion as to which Robin McKinley novel was actually his favorite. There’s a prequel to this one called The Hero and the Crown, but it was written after this one. It was supposedly going to be a whole series, but I guess that didn’t pan out. She talks a bit about it on her webpage:

The bottom line is, it isn’t my choice. You don’t write stories like you might build a bookcase. You don’t get up in the morning, decide that you’re going to put seven chapters together to make a novel, whip out your tape measure and decide how many words, order the paper by the square foot from the office supply shop, sit down and start stamping the pages with black ink in a quantifiable pattern, and polish off the rough edges with a sander at the end. It’s not up to you. You write what you are given to write, and you just go on hoping you will go on receiving those gifts. Damar hasn’t seen fit to oblige me to write about it lately.


All of this, of course, seems like corny crap to me. It’s funny how a photo of an author will immediately bias me for or against him or her. Robin McKinley reminds me of one of my high school teachers. It’s actually kind of creepy. She also loooooves horses. The author blurb on the back flap of the first edition of The Blue Sword says that “Robin McKinley lives at present on a horse farm in eastern Massachusetts where she divides her time between the fascinating occupants of the barn in the mornings and the tyranny of her typewriter in the afternoons.” She totally wrote that herself. What matters, though, is that I enjoyed her novel, and I’ll be reading the next one in the near future. I like to put a couple unrelated books between ones in a series.

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