I finished it, and though parts of it made me think and feel and were interesting, overall I was mostly bored and impatient with it.
I enjoyed the close-view narration style of The Stranger a lot more, and maybe if I’d gone into it more expecting a sort of dry historical style account for most of it, I’d have liked it more. The last third of the book did have a lot of good stuff to it though.
On to new things!
I sent The Observer on it’s first journey to an agency. They give a 12 week window for response. So, now to try not to think about it for the next months…
Rejections are easier and easier to deal with, it’s the waiting that is hard. Because the longer they take, the more hopeful you become. Then the inevitable no is all the more painful when it finally arrives. Though, now that I’ve sent out my own share of rejections at Lucent Dreaming, I know that sometimes they just take a while to get to, and read, and think about. There’s just no getting around that wait time, is there? Unless you’re a really awesome place like Clarkesworld, then it’s only a few days or less.
It really is terrible, though… the waiting… the waiting… the torment of hope…
The Plague has been getting more interesting. One part I enjoyed was, as the characters are now all quarantined inside the town, and death is all around, one character is sitting in his house trying to write a book, and rewriting the same sentence for days and weeks, trying to find just the right words. He’s asking his friends for advice, agonizing over it, switching out words for similar ones, and then putting them back, and so on. All while hundreds of people are dying all around him every day.
But we’re all dying, right? Even if these characters survive the plague, they’ll just die five or ten or twenty years later. So why not spend your time fussing over the first sentence of a book you’ll never write?
Life is strange…
Every time I finish a particularly difficult book, be it bad, or odd, or just confusing, I take a break with a Nabokov novel. They are always so clear and crisp and enjoyable, it’s like drinking a nice glass of cool water after a tiring time in the sun.
This time I’m reading the Luzhin Defense, the story of an anti-social, obsessive chess player who goes mad. As all Nabokov novels I’ve so far read, it is just a joy, and the prose is so delicious, my brain thanks me in much the way in thanks me for a good meal. And it always makes me smile, with little bits like this for example:
Little Luzhin would go away, trailing his satchel over the carpet; Luzhin senior would lean his elbow on the desk, where he was writing one of his usual stories in blue exercise books (a whim which, perhaps, some future biographer would appreciate), and listen to the monologue in the neighboring dining room, to his wife’s voice persuading the silence to drink a cup of cocoa.
Can you not just see that so clearly… the over optimistic father, the pouty child and coddling mother… all in just a few sentences.
Something about the way he writes is just very enjoyable and smilingly good for me…
What did I just read? I’m not quite sure.
At the end it became slightly intelligible that the POV character was of some higher or lower form of consciousness, and had a brain procedure performed on him. So that sheds a bit of light on the bizarre and confusing way this story was told.
One way to describe it is as a stream of consciousness of someone who is mentally unstable.
Some of the descriptions and ideas are quite beautiful and thoughtful, but they take a bit of work and thinking to figure out what the heck is being described sometimes.
Definitely not a book you can read without some effort, but I found the trouble to be worth it in the end.
I’ve started reading The Plague, by Albert Camus since I liked The Stranger so much, and …. sigh. It’s the same problem I had with Madame Bovary and to a lesser extent, Swan’s Way. There are no characters, and just descriptions of things happening in a very passive, drawn back way. I don’t know if this is a different translator than The Stranger, or what, but it’s a completely different style and not engaging at all.
It’s a fairly short novel, so I’m going to stick with it, but I’m getting all kinds of ‘what not to do’ ideas for my own writing while reading this…
I’m about 20% through it, so it still has time to get better. I keep waiting for it to ‘zoom in’ and start the story, but it might not ever do this. We’ll see…
Why have I never read Faulkner before? This was a great story of a terrible family full of selfish people, told in many different voices from at least a dozen points of view.
Faulkner claims that he wrote the novel from midnight to 4:00 AM over the course of six weeks and that he did not change a word of it. This is a little fact I’ve thought of now and then for a long time, even though I’ve never read Faulkner before. I find that idea amazing, if true.
This book told a lot in what it didn’t tell. Mainly , the character’s complete lack of consideration for their recently dead mother. Only the youngest character, Vardaman, even seemed to think of her at all. Jewel made a daring rescue of her body from the fire, but his POV chapters still didn’t have much thought about her, and no one really seemed to mourn at all. They all had their own things on their minds.
I find their perceptions of each other interesting, too. All the family seems to perceive Darl as the ‘slow’ or ‘off’ one, but his chapters are the most lucid and eloquently written ones.
The end of the novel pretty much sums up the entire book in a single event in the final pages. Brilliantly written, and I’ll have to get some more Faulkner in my life very soon.