Euny Hong suggests keeping your big goals to yourself.
“… every time you talk about an unfinished project with someone, you are tricking your brain into thinking you’ve done some of the work. Talking about writing a book gives you the same mental fatigue and satisfaction that you’d get from actually writing for an hour.”
“Mementos that Bird has kept for years hold the past inside them, making it tangible and permanent: clippings of Mickey’s hair, peels of the first orange they shared, a bloody tissue. They stir nostalgia but reopen its wounds, like scabs asking to be tugged back so they can bleed.” (from Sarah Gerard’s NYT review of “Bird” by Noy Holland)
On page 59: a lovely sentence that seems like a found senryū …
A swell of things:
“It is here, in Holland’s subtly radiant details … that “Bird” shines brightest, since they so aptly mirror what’s happening beneath the domestic surface.” (another snippet from Sarah Gerard’s review)
This novel sings like
poetry; I’m obliged to
read between the lines.
(19 May 2016)
“The writing is hallucinatory, musical and intimate.” (Sarah Gerard)
Holland, Noy. 2015. Bird. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press.
For my daughter, Arabella.
What lies behind me still remains ahead of me. (László Krasznahorkai, in Satantango)
From time to time, unexpected things pop up on the “new titles” shelves at the Wellington Central Library. Satantango (written by László Krasznahorkai) was first published in 1985, but the translation by George Szirtes from the Hungarian did not appear until 2012; even so, I would not have expected it to be accorded “new title” status – but one day, there it was. At first glance, the matte black cover looked as if it had been stitched with long white tacking stitches (such as a tailor might use), but then I wondered if perhaps, given its title, it had been inscribed with magical glyphs. (There’s a cover image with the Amazon listing.)
Intrigued, I took the book home, but somehow didn’t manage to get through more than a few pages before it was due to be returned. When I went back to borrow it again the following day, someone else had beaten me to it. (And, at that time, all the library’s copies of this author’s other titles were also out on loan.)
“Satantango … now regarded as a classic, is a monster of a novel: compact, cleverly constructed, often exhilarating, and possessed of a distinctive, compelling vision – but a monster nevertheless. It is brutal, relentless and so amazingly bleak that it’s often quite funny.” (Theo Tait in a review for The Guardian, Wednesday 9 May 2012)
Krasznahorkai’s translator George Szirtes calls his work a “slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type”, and says his sentences take you down “loops and dark alleyways – like wandering in and out of cellars”. At one point the wind moves through the trees like a “helpless hand searching through a dusty book for some vanished main clause”; the reader feels something comparable. (Theo Tait)
In 1994, Hungarian director Béla Tarr released Sátántangó, a film based on the novel. Shot in black-and-white, it runs for over seven hours. The critic Susan Sontag described Sátántangó as “Devastating, enthralling for every minute of its seven hours. I’d be glad to see it every year for the rest of my life.” (Wikipedia article, Sátántangó)
Both the book and the film are structured in twelve sections – although these are not necessarily in chronological order. (The structure of the tango, I am told, is six forward moves followed by six back.)
And now I’ve been reading it again … but I still haven’t finished it. (It has been returned, and I’ll need to go back for it … again.)
“The imagination never stops working but we’re not one jot nearer the truth,” remarks Irimiás at one point.
Krasznahorkai, László. 1985. Satantango. Translated from the Hungarian [translation copyright © 2012 George Szirtes]. New York: New Directions. [p133]
The first day of December, the first Sunday in Advent, the first day of our southern hemisphere summer. And the first day after the end of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
My participation in NaNoWriMo had me commit to writing – during the month of November – 50,000 words towards my new novel, the working title of which is “You Wouldn’t Dare!”
The truth is that I wrote about half of what I’d committed to. And about half of what I wrote might ultimately find itself inside the novel.
To me, the three big benefits of being involved were: 1/ the discipline of writing every day, 2/ training myself to write down anything and everything that came to mind, and 3/ I discovered things I wanted to write but didn’t dare write.
It was the middle of winter when the Sky Rialto poster (above) was pasted on the building next to where I live. I have now gained a new layer of understanding of those words. The sequence in which a story is told need not conform to any chronology. The sequence in which the story was written will certainly not do so.
A day or two ago, I saw something I’d never expected to see: a young man riding a skateboard … using his crutches to propel himself along. And it instantly put me back in touch with something I’d scribbled down the day before, whilst reading a novel called Ru:
“He had stopped time by continuing to enjoy himself, to live until the end in the lightness of a young man.” (Kim Thúy)
I am not a young man … and thus no longer immortal. Whenever the pain from the osteoarthritis gets bad, I have a mantra: “My feet kiss the earth.” It helps.
But I’ve taught myself something that helps even more: whenever I find myself bracing my knees and hobbling along stiff-legged, I have learned to relax my joints and saunter instead. I’m not saying every step is pain-free, but it sure feels better. And I whisper my mantra. And I smile.
Thúy, Kim. 2009 [Copyright © 2009 Éditions Libre Expression]. English translation Copyright © 2012 Sheila Fischman. Ru. New York: Bloomsbury.
The skateboard wallpaper image comes from: http://www.wallpaper4me.com/wallpaper/Royal/
My title is a parody of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a 1984 postmodern novel by Milan Kundera. The story takes place mainly in Prague in the late 1960s and 1970s. It explores the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society during the Communist period, from the Prague Spring to the Soviet Union’s August 1968 invasion and its aftermath.” (adapted from the Wikipedia article)
There’s no trickery
here – no obfuscation.
(You might not get that.)
I’m doing just what
we all do: all our own words
have private meanings;
there’s no language
we can share – speech divides us
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’
How do I know all this? Harry wrote it all down, and I read about it later. Every moment of the trip and much more besides. Isn’t that what writers do? It isn’t real until it’s on the page. Although I didn’t know all the details until years after. – “Walter” (the narrator) on p108 of Charles Dubow’s novel, “Indiscretion”
Told through the omniscient eyes of Maddy’s childhood friend Walter, Indiscretion is a juicy, page turning novel with writing that is sophisticated and lyrical. (Goodreads review)
PS: Harry’s affair (the “indiscretion” of the title) is exposed about halfway through the book … and that’s the point I had reached when I posted this piece.
Charles Dubow has me hooked, and I’ll be keen to find out what happens in the second half.
In the meantime, I’m giving a lot of thought to the technicalities of the narrative devices novelists use. Dubow seems somewhat uncomfortable with the device he’s employed – “the omniscient eyes of Maddy’s childhood friend Walter” – and I have been distracted by his frequent reminders and explanations.
PPS (25 July 2013): Finished reading “Indiscretion” several days ago, and overall was satisfied with the book.
On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. ~ One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye. (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in Le Petit Prince)