Thoughts for Thursday - Randomness

My secret thought, exposed on a public web site. This is what keeps me up at night (and far away from my keyboard):

The physical act of writing a book may not be difficult, but there's a big difference between smacking away at a keyboard and writing something that anyone who doesn't really love you wants to read. -- from The Shocking Truth About the Slush Pile


Question: If a blog post is posted and nobody reads it, does it make a sound?


Am I the last person to know about this site? Cool.


Summer unofficially starts this weekend. The most "summery" book I remember reading was called Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly. Since it's a teenage love story written in the Fifties, I can't believe it's still in print (I can't believe people would find it relevant!). So I ordered myself a used copy, just for nostalgia's sake. If only I had an apple tree to read in, with a tall glass of lemonade ...


Do people really read at the beach? I think it's a marketing myth. Sort of like hair conditioner that can actually make your hair look shiny and not greasy. I always found the beach far too glarey for reading, what with the sun reflecting off every surface: sand, sea, lavishly-oiled bodies. Then you get all hot and sweaty and the pages stick to your hands and then the wind ruffles the pages too much and then when you try to hold them down with your hot, sweaty hands you get sand in the bookspine. And then you lose your place after watching the young men play shirtless beach volleyball, and then you realize you have a blazing headache, the kind you get from too much sun and not enough water and squinting and laying on a hard surface too long and sucking in your stomach to make it look somewhat flattering in front of the shirtless volleyball players.


But I digress.

Everyone enjoy a safe, happy Memorial Day weekend (even if you're not in the States). And, if you get a minute, let me know what your favorite summer reading involves.


What is wrong with the modern novel?

What is wrong with modern literary novel, asks Julian Gough in the May 2007 Prospect.

Even if you don't think anything is wrong, this article delivers some interesting food for thought for readers and writers alike.

His basic premise is that Western culture undervalues the comic novel -- and he makes some pretty sweeping statements in doing it. But, if you can get past the hyperbolic nature of certain statements, Gough pokes at some sacred cows, right in the rump, with a sharp little pencil point:

The literary novel, by accepting the embrace of the universities, has moved inside the establishment and lost contact with what made it vital. It has, as a result, also lost the mass audience enjoyed by Twain and Dickens. The literary novel—born in Cervantes's prison cell, continued in cellars, bars and rented rooms by Dostoevsky, Joyce and Beckett—is now being written from on high. Not the useful height of the gods, with its sharp, gods'-eye view of all human classes, all human folly, but the distancing, merely human height of the ruling elite, just too high up to see what's happening on the street below.

And another jab:

With its cartoon event-rate, a classic series of The Simpsons has more ideas over a broader cultural range than any novel written the same year. The speed, the density of information, the range of reference; the quantity, quality and rich humanity of the jokes—they make almost all contemporary novels seem slow, dour, monotonous and almost empty of ideas.

And he really is bracing when he ruminates about the nature of the novel:

The novel, when done right—when done to the best of the novelist's abilities, talent at full stretch—is always greater than the novelist. It is more intelligent. It is more vast. It can change your entire internal world. Of course, so can a scientific truth. So can a religious experience. So can some drugs. So can a sublime event in nature. But the novel operates on that high level. Sitting there, alone, quite still, you laugh, you murmur, you cry, and you can come out of it with a new worldview, in a new reality. It's a controlled breakdown, or breakthrough. It's dangerous.

The novel cannot submit to authority. It is written against official language, against officialdom, and against whatever fixed form the novel has begun to take—it is always dying, and always being born.

Now, that speaks to me.


Bye, Proust; hello, Cervantes!

Red-letter day: I finished the second volume of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. While In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower wasn't as satisfying overall as Swann's Way, it did provide the patented Proust moments of awe, as well as some genuine chuckles.

I also am almost finished with a New in the Stacks read: The Beautiful Cigar Girl by Daniel Stashower. Part biography, part murder mystery, this nonfiction read details the convergence of a scandalous murder with Edgar Allan Poe's life. The murder inspired a work called "The Mystery of Marie Roget." I had no idea that Poe was orphaned then raised in a wealthy family, whose patriarch cut him off when he was a young man. Interesting, quick read...and whets my appetite for Poe. May have to find a way to work him into the Horror Story Short Challenge in October!

Now, with a clear conscience, I move onto Cervantes and Don Quixote! This is going to be a doubly satisfying challenge, insofar that I get to read a great novel AND it sort of preps me for a trip to Spain I am taking in November. Two whole weeks of vacation, from Barcelona to Madrid, with a very likely stop in Morocco. Hola!