Books Acquired, Sometime Last Week (I Don’t Know, Maybe on Thursday or Friday)

Books, Literature, Writers

I picked up a bevy of books at my favorite bookstore sometime last week ; can’t remember the day, exactly. Anyway, some of these selections come from reader recommendations re: nonconventional lit.

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I ordered David Markson’s novel Wittgenstein’s Mistress, which I’ve been meaning to read for yonks but had never found used. Horrible, horrible cover

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Bernhard’s Correction: Thomas Bernhard came recommended by a number of readers in the aforelinkedto post; dipping into Correction immediately recalled Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn for some reason.

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George Saunders: another reader recommendation. I actually read Pastoralia this week. I love short stories. Anyway, full review forthcoming. Short version: good stuff, but DFW casts a pretty big shadow.

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Georges Perec was another reader rec, but it was his novel Life: A User’s Manual that kept popping up. I found Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, his collection of essays and other stray bits, by sheer chance. I think I was looking for something by De Sade, actually. Anyway, I love, love, love this book—it kinda reminds me of Bolaño’s Between the Parentheses or even the Vollmann reader Expelled from Eden—the kind of book I see myself dipping into again and again, a little mini-labyrinth of ideas.

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I also picked up Faulkner’s last novel, The Reivers; been wanting to read it for a long time now. I’ll try to get it in over the Christmas break.

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14 thoughts on “Books Acquired, Sometime Last Week (I Don’t Know, Maybe on Thursday or Friday)

  1. George Saunders is really excellent. His first collection. Civilwarland In Bad Decline, is really, really great. I don’t know if I agree that he’s heavily influenced by Wallace. I mean, I can kind of see it, but I might argue that he’s pretty heavily influenced by the postmodernists in general rather than just DFW.

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    1. Hey, Brooks,

      I’m sure you’re absolutely right—they are clearly of a generation and would’ve read the same stuff; also, CivilWarLand was published the same year as Infinite Jest. The spirit of my comment was meant to be more along the lines of: “I see so many parallels here to DFW’s [who I read first] rhythms and voices.” More of a comment on the reader than the author, but I see how it sounds in the context above. I like Pastoralia and will look for CivilWarLand.

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  2. Whittgenstein’s Mistress is one of the best things I’ve ever read. I have similar feelings about the cover. It just couldn’t be less appealing… I have to assume that Markson wanted it that way because I’ve never seen a different edition. Even just a B&W photograph of an empty street would be 50x better.

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  3. I found that Rings of Saturn reminded me of Bernhard’s Gargoyles. Granted, I read them only a month apart, so the possibility that their proximity in my reading was responsible for my comparing the two had occurred to me.

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  4. Sebald, in his Bookworm interview with Michael Silverblatt, admitted the great debt he owed to Bernhard. At any rate, ‘Correction’ is an excellent novel and a fine start, although I think ‘Old Masters’ would have been a better place to begin.

    I reiterate my recommendation of César Aira. He’s excellent. Though their approaches are different, I think if you love Bolaño you’ll love Aira too.

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  5. Beginning at Correction served me just wonderfully. I read 5 or 6 more directly afterwards and I’ve two more sitting on my shelves (well, technically in a box, as I’m in the market for a new bookcase). Bernhard ends up feeling dangerous, the obsessiveness of his narrators usually comes with a subject’s obsession, and you get drawn into it all.

    If you think Rings of Saturn is called to mind by Correction, have you tried out Austerlitz? It’s basically where Sebald wen, “Okay, fine, I am wicked influenced by Tom B.”

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    1. Yeah, flicking through the book reminded me of Austerlitz—no paragraph breaks! I liked Austerlitz, but I thought the other novels I read by Sebald were more enjoyable (particularly Rings and Vertigo).

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  6. Many writers have been directly influenced by Thomas Bernhard, including Sebald and William Gaddis. The latter’s Agapē Agape is very much in the Bernhard vein, even mentioning some of the characters from TB’s novels (like Wertheimer from The Loser; another Bernhard character is mentioned in one of David Markson’s “notecard” novels). Gaddis had a revelation, late in life, upon finding and reading Bernhard, calling him “…my Cicero for all future engagements.” Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage derives much of its narrative overdrive from a “borrowed” Bernhard style (which Dyer freely admits in the book). Bernhard über alles!

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      1. Markson’s list of fictional suicides (in Reader’s Block) includes Roithamer, the protagonist from Correction. The relationship between Bernhard, Gaddis and Markson is really strong; wonder if there are any essays out there exploring this connection. (Confession: though I love Markson, I did not finish Wittgenstein’s Mistress, partly because I wanted to have something of Markson’s left unread, and partly because I was entranced by his “notecard quartet” of novels and left WM for later). Oh, and I love that Perec book!
        ~ Roman (@Zenjew on Twitter)

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