thunderIt was like…
like a wild animal
ribs like fishbones
like thin red leeches
they drank like dogs
It was like a sermon
true as a spirit level
like a string in a maze
He was bald as a stone
like rival bands of apes
silently as a bird alighting
mute as a tailor’s dummy
men or creatures like them
they buried their stool like cats
like effigies for to frighten birds
Yonder sun is like the eye of God
They rode either side like escorts
dark falls here like a thunderclap
The men looked like mud effigies.
like an army asleep on the march
their chins in the sand like lizards
like some naked species of lemur
something like a pound of powder
like a man beset with bees or madness
black waters all alight like cities adrift
like beings for whom the sun hungered
great steady sucking sounds like a cow
fingers spiderlike among the bolls of cotton
the fires on the plain faded like an evil dream
abdomens like the tracks of gigantic millipedes
leather wings like dark satanic hummingbirds
us behind him like the disciples of a new faith
he come along and raised me up like Lazarus.
jerking and lurching like a deputation of spastics
holding the coins cupped in her hands like a bird
the mules clambering along the ledges like goats
they labored on sideways over the sand like crabs
shambling past the fires like a balden groundsloth
whores call to him from the dark like souls in want
Men whose speech sounds like the grunting of apes
A hardlooking woman with a wiry body like a man’s.
They were shambling along the road like dumb things
our mother the earth as he said was round like an egg
The watchers looked like forms excavated from a bog.
is voice passed from him like a gift that was also needed
the old man sitting in the shrubbery solitary as a gnome
the parasol dipping in the wind like a great black flower
in his sleep he struggled and muttered like a dreaming dog
dragging themselves across the lot like seals or other things
an old anchorite nested away in the sod like a groundsloth
blackened and shriveled in the mud like an enormous spider
the kid behind him on the mule like something he’d captured
he had codified his threats to the one word kill like a crazed chant
the squatting houses were made of hides ranged like curious dorys
little cloven hoof-prints in the stone clever as a little doe in her going
a watered figure like the markings of some alien and antique serpent
The shadows of the smallest stones lay like pencil lines across the sand
the top of the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great red phallus
the tent began to sway and buckle and like a huge and wounded medusa
he comes down at night like some fairybook beast to fight with the sailors
the blackened rings of the burnedout fires lay in the road like bomb-craters
Buzzards shuffled off through the chaff and plaster like enormous yardfowl
he naked bodies with their wounds like the victims of surgical experimentation
a deeper run of color like blood seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise
Then he waded out into the river like some wholly wretched baptismal candidate.
the barman labored over the floor toward him like a man on his way to some chore
He looked like a great clay voodoo doll made animate and the kid looked like another.
the burnt tree stood vertically in the still dawn like a slender stylus marking the hour
he looks like a raggedyman wandered from some garden where he’d used to frighten birds
the bloody stump of the shaft jutted from his thigh like a peg for hanging implements upon
The wagons drew so dry they slouched from side to side like dogs and the sand was grinding them
They crossed a vast dry lake with rows of dead volcanoes ranged beyond it like the works of enormous insects. Continue reading “(Probably not) All of the similes in Blood Meridian”
Did you see Vulture’s “100 Great Works of Dystopian Fiction” list? I saw it this morning, and on the whole it ain’t half bad, despite including way too many novels from the past 10 years. Lists are stupid and maybe we already live in a dystopia, but our dystopia could be way way worse and lists are stupid fun…so—my stupid thoughts on this stupid fun list. (They organized it chronologically, by the bye)—-
Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift, 1726: Good starting place, although I’m sure you could reach farther back if you wanted—Revelations, Blake, Milton, etc.
The Last Man, Mary Shelley, 1826: Never read it. The listmakers seem to have skipped Voltaire’s Candide (1759).
Erewhon, Samuel Butler, 1872: Hey, did you know that Erewhon is actually Nowhere backwards? Ooooh…far out. I really don’t remember it but I read it in school. I’m sure I would’ve thrown it on the list.
The Time Machine, H.G. Wells, 1895: Great track. Some of the best required reading ever.
“The Machine Stops,” E.M. Forster, 1909: Never read it/never heard of it.
We, Yvegny Zamyatin, 1924: The list reminded me I need to reread this one—I read it twice—in my teens and in my twenties. Good stuff. (Also reminds me that I would’ve added something by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky to the list—like his collection Memories of the Future).
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, 1932: This is the guy. I mean, I think Huxley got it right here, y’know? Not that a dystopian novel needs to predict, but…anyway. I actually had a student come by during office hours just to visit, and she asked for a novel recommendation, and I gave her BNW after she told me 1984 was the last great book she’d read. If I recall correctly, the Vulture list only has one duplicate author (Margaret Atwood), but I’d also add Huxley’s often-overlooked novel Ape and Essence.
It Can’t Happen Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis, 1935: I think this is one of those ones where I know the basic plot, themes, etc., but I’m pretty sure I didn’t read it.
Swastika Night, Katharine Burdekin, 1937: An entry that I’ll admit I’ve never heard of, the sort of thing that shows the value in stupid silly fun lists. I’ll search it out.
1984, George Orwell, 1949: I guess this one is the big dawg, but I never want to reread it (unlike Huxley’s stuff). Maybe I’m missing the humor in it. Maybe the most important novel of the 20th century, whatever that means. Continue reading “Notes on Vulture’s “100 Great Works of Dystopian Fiction” list”
Have you seen that New York Times list of “The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century” that Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott put together? I haven’t seen about half of the films on the list, but there are definitely some good ones on there. (But damn, like, Million Dollar Baby? Really? And I’ll never get why people think Munich is a good film).
Anyway, here’s a list I put together in about five minutes of 25 films missing from their list. I did limit myself to one entry by a director for some silly reason–otherwise I’d end up with a bunch of films by three people on here. I’m sure I missed hundreds of other films. But, hey, it’s all in the name of stupid fun.
I’m in the middle of Paul Bowles’s stories right now, and loving the weird sinister menace of it all. I’ll probably take a crack at some of his novels this year too (The Sheltering Sky next? I’ll need to pick them up).
Senges’s The Major Refutation is also on deck.
Not pictured, because it’s not out yet, is Leonora Carrington’s The Complete Stories (forthcoming in the spring from Dorothy); I’m really looking forward to this one. The NYRB is also publishing Carrington’s memoir Down Below, which looks really cool. I’ve only read the collection The Oval Lady (and that through samizdat means), so I’m happy to see Carrington’s words in print.
Also not pictured because its forthcoming (from Two Lines Press) is Atlantic Hotel by João Gilberto Noll (translated by Adam Morris). I’m anxious to read more from Noll after digging his novella Quiet Creature on the Corner.
Back to the stack in the picture: I loved Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo and The Freelance Pallbearers (which strikes me as a really under-remarked upon novel), and I plan on getting to Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down at some point this year.
I’ve had a few false starts with Arno Schmidt’s The Egghead Republic, but maybe I can knock it out in a weekend.
I’ve taken multiple cracks at the novels by Gray, Murdoch, and Hawkes in the stack…so we’ll see.
I read Leon Forrest’s There Is a Tree More Ancient Than Eden in a blur; I’d like to reread it and the other Forrest novel I picked up last month, Two Wings to Veil My Face.
I’ve read enough Pynchon now to make a better effort with Vineland…but again, we’ll see (I’m actually kind of jonesing to reread Against the Day).
(And oh I didn’t make a list like this in 2016, but I was 4 for 8 in the one I did in 2015).
The Telling, Ursula K. Le Guin
Four Ways to Forgiveness, Ursula K. Le Guin
J R, William Gaddis*
The Inheritors, William Golding
American Candide, Mahendra Singh
Crossing the Sea with Syrians on the Exodus to Europe, William Bauer
Collected Stories, William Faulkner
A Temple of Texts, William H. Gass
Cow Country, Adrian Jones Pearson
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
Extinction, Ashley Dawson
My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
The Story of a New Name, Elena Ferrante
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante
The Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante
Quiet Creature on the Corner, João Gilberto Noll
The Last Gas Station and Other Stories, Tom Clark
The Weight of Things, Marianne Fritz
The Transmigration of Bodies, Yuri Herrera
Miserable Miracle, Henri Michaux
The Franchiser, Stanley Elkin
Hell, Henri Barbusse
White Mythology, W.D. Clarke
The Dick Gibson Show, Stanley Elkin
The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal
Marketa Lazarova, Vladislav Vančura
A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin
Hildafolk series, Luke Pearson
The Leopard, Giuseppe di Lampedusa
There Is a Tree More Ancient Than Eden, Leon Forrest
Bear, Marian Engel
Jacob Bladders and the State of the Art, Roman Muradov
Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon*
The Absolute Gravedigger, Vítězslav Nezval
Beyond the Blurb, Daniel Green
Last Evenings on Earth, Roberto Bolaño*
The Missing Books, Scott Esposito
Woodcutters, Thomas Bernhard
Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, Philip K. Dick
* indicates a reread
William F. Buckley
William S. Burroughs
John Clellon Holmes
The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
Dockwood, Jon McNaught
A German Picturesque, Jason Schwartz
Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon
Two Serious Ladies, Jane Bowles
Flee, Evan Dara
Birchfield Close, Jon McNaught
Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrera
Infinite Fictions, David Winters
Syrian Notebooks, Jonathan Littell
Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon
Can’t and Won’t, Lydia Davis
Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
Gaha: Babes of the Abyss, Jon Frankel
The Spectators, Victor Hussenot
Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
The Wallcreeper, Nell Zink
Cess, Gordon Lish
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
High Rise, J.G. Ballard
Millennium People, J.G. Ballard
Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
Updating the reviews page to this blog today (a chore! a bore!) I realized just how many books I’d read this year and failed to write about…so far, anyway. The list above is probably incomplete, and only includes books I read cover-to-cover (or in a few cases audited on mp3)—so stuff like essays by William Gass and collections like Vollmann’s Last Stories and William T. Vollmann: A Critical Companion (etc.) I left off. And yes, I’m aware that the list is heavy on white guys.
“Sixteen Don’ts for Poets” by Arthur Guiterman
“Don’t think of yourself as a poet, and don’t dress the part.
“Don’t classify yourself as a member of any special school or group.
“Don’t call your quarters a garret or a studio.
“Don’t frequent exclusively the company of writers.
“Don’t complain of lack of appreciation. (In the long run no really good published work can escape appreciation.)
“Don’t think you are entitled to any special rights, privileges, and immunities as a literary person, or have any more reason to consider your possible lack of fame a grievance against the world than has any shipping-clerk or traveling-salesman.
“Don’t speak of poetic license or believe that there is any such thing.
“Don’t tolerate in your own work any flaws in rhythm, rhyme, melody, or grammar.
“Don’t use ‘e’er’ for ‘ever,’ ‘o’er’ for ‘over,’ ‘whenas’ or ‘what time’ for ‘when,’ or any of the ‘poetical’ commonplaces of the past.
“Don’t say ‘did go’ for ‘went,’ even if you need an extra syllable.
“Don’t omit articles or prepositions for the sake of the rhythm.
“Don’t have your book published at your own expense by any house that makes a practice of publishing at the author’s expense.
“Don’t write poems about unborn babies.
“Don’t—don’t write hymns to the great god Pan. He is dead; let him rest in peace!
“Don’t write what everybody else is writing.”
(Read the entire essay after the jump)
David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel Infinite Jest poses rhetorical, formal, and verbal challenges that will confound many readers new to the text. The abundance of (or excess of) guides and commentaries on the novel can perhaps have the adverse and unintentional consequence of making readers new to Infinite Jest believe that they can’t “get it” without help. Much of the online analyses and resources for Infinite Jest are created by and targeted to readers who have finished or are rereading the novel. While I’ve read many insightful and enlightening commentaries on the novel over the years (and, in particular, over the past six weeks rereading IJ), my intuition remains that the superabundance of analysis may have the paradoxical effect of actually impeding readers new to the text. With this in mind, I’d suggest that first-time readers need only a dictionary and some patience.
(Still: Two online resources that might be useful are “Several More and Less Helpful Things for the Person Reading Infinite Jest,” which offers a glossary and a few other unobtrusive documents, and “Infinite Jest: A Scene-by-Scene Guide,”which is not a guide at all, but rather a brief series of synopses of each scene in the novel, organized by page number and year; my sense is that this guide would be helpful to readers attempting to delineate the novel’s nonlinear chronology—however, I’d advise against peeking ahead).
The big advantage (and pleasure) of rereading Infinite Jest is that the rereader may come to understand the plot anew; IJ is richer and denser the second go around, its themes showing brighter as its formal construction clarifies. The rereader is free to attend to the imagery and motifs of the novel more intensely than a first-time reader, who must suss out a byzantine plot propelled by a plethora of characters. Readers new to IJ may find it helpful to attend from the outset to some of the novel’s repeated images, words, and phrases. Tracking motifs will help to clarify not only the novel’s themes and “messages,” but also its plot. I’ve listed just a few of these motifs below, leaving out the obvious ones like entertainment, drugs, tennis (and, more generally, sports and games), and death. The list is in no way definitive or analytic, nor do I present it as an expert; rather, it’s my hope that this short list might help a reader or two get more out of a first reading.