The Birdcage Archives

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Black Swan Green

Hello Gentle Reader

(Seeing as it is leap year, and the extra day of February, I thought I'd post a blog on this day to mark the special event.)

Youth and adolescence. Even childhood. Looking back at them, there never really was a place for it, even back then. When one is there, one is quickly trying to flee from it. One is quickly trying to achieve adulthood. In adolescence, there comes those moments, where one dips their toes in the pools of what it means to be in the adult world. Cigarette’s, beer and other assortment of alcohol. First kisses, first orgasm, first ‘other,’ hair. The bodily changes and developments. Its a quintessential time. Though in the end its still a four walled prison. It’s a panopticon of a complex. One is being observed and yet they are not entirely aware that they are being observed. Its like being placed in a petri dish. Being observed and watched. Always being poked and prodded. Changes happened right, left and center. Yet you dare not speak about the awkward ‘developments,’ that are happening to your body. Then comes the even more awkward body talk that some parents have, or that some doctors take it upon themselves. It never has escaped my ears, that when a few young woman or girls had got their first period, they immediately ran to their doctor. Who explained that what had happened was not some mortal wound or some morbidly death like function that was going to kill them and that they were going to survive. It was all natural. Part of one of the many and lovely changes that happens to a young person’s body. Some even go as far, as trying to reference it with a flower. They simply say that they are like a flower getting ready to bloom. If that’s the case, then all those pretty flowers, deserve the reward from being so ugly and from suffering the awkwardness of development itself. The pimples. The greasy face. Everything it was all quite a disgusting site to look at. Yet life just goes on as normal.

Then come the differences in the family structure. If anyone has an older sibling, then the awkward or strange changes, are quite something to observe. That is, it is before you yourself are placed in the petri dish to be observed, like some amoebae. Its quite a site to see. Yet life itself is always quite a site to see.

“Black Swan Green,” by David Mitchell is different then his other novels like “Cloud Atlas,” or even “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.” “Cloud Atlas,” was full of metaphysical action and adventure. It was both otherworldly and worldly. Historical and futuristic. It, itself was the epiphany and the greatest example of a paradox. From the sea faring journal, to the testament and interview of a genetically cloned slave who works in a McDonaldesque fast food restaurant in some Asian country in the near future, to a man who has an accidental spill in a old folks home, to the Hawaiian islands after the end of the world. To a journalist who wishes to stop the plot of nuclear disaster. It’s full of adventure and it is full of the otherworldly place that his characters inhabit.

“The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” itself is a historical fiction, on the isolated place of Japan and its continual isolation, and its reclusive inhabitants, who everything that is not one of them as a outsider, and will never be welcomed into their own depths of their own culture. Its an interesting and metaphysical tale with certain odds and ends of the supernatural that take place within the novel itself. Cannibalism and the act of immortality itself is one of them; that and the fact that monks rape nuns. Its all rather skin crawling sensation.
Yet “Black Swan Green,” is entirely different. It’s pastoresque in many ways. The setting is Worcestershire and the Malvern countryside. It concerns a stammering thirteen-year old boy by the name of Jason Taylor; who like his creator is a man whose first and surname could equally be two first names; and also grew up in Worcestershire and the Malvern countryside. Even more peculiar is the fact that both David Mitchell the author and Jason Taylor both suffering from a stammer. Is it peculiar that I suspect that both David Mitchell and his character Jason Taylor are born in the same month of January? But those are the only noted autobiographical elements that both the character and the creator share with each other. At least from my knowledge. It is interesting that David Mitchell’s fourth book is usually the debut book of many wanna-be authors. Yet on a personal note, it’s nice that David Mitchell, decided to save this little gem for his fourth book. It’s a different taste and a different flavour then “Cloud Atlas.” It certainly shows the authors versatility with style as well as with language and the characters way of speaking.

I think it is rather appropriate to describe David Mitchell as a ventriloquist author. A man who can write in different styles, and different subject matter, with his own obvious writing idiosyncrasies – honestly we still need to know that he is the author; yet he can still pull it off rather well. Sometimes, it can be a bit much. From “Cloud Atlas,” from the section or novella titled:

“Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After,” was well written in its speech but at the same time, it was annoying. Many times I thought to myself, what kind of primitive prime ape talks like this. Kind of makes one wonder, how fast we can resort to our own “natural,” behaviors when everything is gone. When technology is gone, when everything is gone. It’s still an interesting though.

What can be most interesting though, is that David Mitchell’s a accomplished ventriloquist of an author. Pitch perfect at it. Its ironic at times, that he himself has a stammer problem – a speech disorder more or less. Perhaps this speech disorder, allows David Mitchell, to really comprehend the different aspects of speech and how people speak. Speech itself becomes something more of a finger print after a while, or an iris of a person. Unique solely to the person. Because of David Mitchell’s unique speech problem, it may allow him to have a closer understanding to speech, and to words and letters themselves, because he himself would have to feel everyone quickly in his mind before, deciding to use them.

“Black Swan Green,” allows for some interesting prospects into the mind of a thirteen year old, through the thirteen chapters that chronicle a year in his life. Each chapter reads not like an episode but stories that happen in the month of that action. Throughout the year, one learns to see some of the really interesting characters that come and go throughout, the year. There is Julia Jason Taylor’s older sister, who at first is quite a big sister, often referring to her younger brother as the ‘Thing.’ There are his parents, his father a man who in my opinion w hose entire life has fall on broken dreams. He is some corporate goonie for some large grocery chain called “Greenland,” (not the country) and his entire life revoles around that company that demands so much of him. Throughout the years that he himself lived in the village of Black Swan Green, he admits to his son that he has meant to take his children to the Goose Fair, an’ yet work always appeared to have gotten in the way. There is his mother, isn’t she an interesting character. She herself, like most wives has a feeling of competition, with others in ‘suburbia,’ to have a nice garden, and a beautiful kitchen. Then there is Uncle Brian and Aunt Alice and there three kids Alex, Hugo and Nigel. Nigel a smart mathematically inclined child. Hugo an athletic person, who also has a bit of a charming facade on the surface, towers adults, but in the end is just a hedonistic and often strange little one as well. A crooner or casa nova with girls, in his school, and often seen as a cool guy. Then there is Alex, a computer geek – before computer geeks were even in existence.

There come others as well, who appear in the novel. Some of whom are connected to other novels by David Mitchell. Eva van Crommelynck is the daughter of the composer of the sextet of “Cloud Atlas,” as does Gwendolyn Bendincks from “Cloud Atlas,” also makes an appearance. As unfriendly and cruel with a smile and a chatty mouth of teeth.

Yet there are other parts of this novel that are just as interesting as the rest of the work. The entire place of Worcestershire becomes quite a place of interest and wonder. There is a house isolated in the woods, that is inhabited by some senile old witch. A ghost boy who skates on the lake of ice in the winter. Who could forget the wonders of the gypsies’ who have parked themselves in the quarry for a camp, that caused quite the panic. “Greeland,” (not the country) begins to resemble Bluebeard’s chamber. Yet real time or past real time, events take place like the Falkland’s War, but that is a brief mention as well – and does not stir as much in the concept of excitement, but something that just happened in the period that the book is set in.
What David Mitchell writes about though is a grounded novel of youth, coming of age, secrets (Jason Taylor is Eliot Bolivar a poet), family – its a novel of first everything from kisses with a girl, cigarette’s, and standing up for oneself. Its full of wise aphorisms like the nature of boys and their social workings:

“It's all ranks, being a boy, like the army.”

Among many other oddly philosophical musings that a young man could come up with. But it’s a splendid novel. A novel that is reminiscent of everyone’s childhood in some way or another. Whether or not your childhood was urban or rural – there are those moments that everyone first experiences, and they themselves become universal.

David Mitchell once again delivers with another enjoyable novel.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

Thursday 23 February 2012

The Short Story Review No. X

“A Pet Dog’s Safe Birthing,” by Yasunari Kawabata Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-sixty eight – From “Palm-of-the-Hand Stories.”

Animals – pets, they were all around me in my younger days. The family always had a pet dog. It started with a chocolate cocker spaniel, and then a blonde one – who by memory we picked because, she was the cute little puppy cowering underneath the table, not wanting to come out and play and have attention like her brothers and sisters. Then in the same period we had that blonde cocker spaniel we came into contact with a Siberian husky crossed with something else. People do not like when they say a husky is chaos on four paws. A few years later, we got two cats. One had to go away because we did not get him neutered, and he kept spraying. The other one was given to us, and he was fully neutered, not to mention fat and lazy. In the same period a few years later, after the blonde cocker spaniels, death, we got another cocker spaniel. A black little one, whose shy and asocial attitude, is something that we all laugh at. Eventually the husky died a few years after the black cocker spaniel came into her life. However in their short time, together they certainly were partners in their chaotic crimes together. A few years later, a feisty almost non-compliment and manic grey cat had entered our lives. He tormented the older fat and lazy cat and even put a bit a bit of spring back in his step. Then something happened to the older cat, he disappeared, and the mystery is still unresolved and not the most pleasant conversation to have. Now there is still the slightly mellowed manic cat, and a very fat and a very lazy cat who is more interested in food and sleep then exploring the outdoors like the other one. But there have always been animals in my lives. They were the lullabies at night that lulled me to sleep, as they barked without reason or warning in the middle of those cold winter nights. The cows of nearby farmer’s fields were something to look at, and be amazed at when I was younger. The great horned owl that haunted the town one summer when I was younger. Not to mention the countless other animals that have passed through my life. The stray cats, which wander the streets like vagrants, but rather then ask for scraps for food they, glare angrily from their posts, or from the chinks in which they hide. The unseen coyotes in the farmer’s fields, their howls in the autumn and in the winter, were something that could make your hair stand up on end. Those shapeless predators were my first thought of fear, and what lurks outside the safety of the light of the town. The river not far from where I grew up, offered another natural place where in the right moments nature could be briefly be spotted. There was that time that, I saw a beaver’s dam. There was the time that the husky came running back to us one time around, when she lost a fight with a porcupine. These experiences have all been wonderful and haunting to me. I’ve never really thought about how fortunate I was to see, what I have, and have been blessed with nature, and all its splendid beauties and animals it has allowed me to see.

I’ve never been (depending on how you look at it) blessed or cursed with the fact of having to witness a dogs birthing. However, they are complicated matters, from what I have heard. But with birth of any kind, I have learned over the years, they can be very complicated. Yasunari Kawabata’s stories, tell us about the preciousness of life – all life including animals; and opens up with the more rotten parts of life, where during the childbirth the animal has died, or the kittens or the pups die as well. It’s rotten luck or chance. I know people who have gotten so distraught over the matter, do their best to console their pets. They tell me they lay the poor dead pup down for the mom to nudge, and kiss, and say her final goodbye to the pup. It’s a terrible scene full of melancholy and futility. A feeling of what was the point in the end? Yet one looks at the bright side in the end, and they can visibly see that there are however many pups still alive.

Yasunari Kawabata writes with this story, the difficult births and the miracles of the safe births. The sweetness of the small meows that breathe life into the room and sing joy throughout the house. Then of course when they are puppies they have personality and are very playful, and we are quicker to forgive those nasty little puppy teeth that they use so free willingly. Then they grow older, and mature and mellow, and become great companions, for walks, and for late night movies, and for waking you up in the morning to inform you that it is time to let them go outside.

This story rang true to the heart of my pet lover side. Though the discussion and anatomical descriptions of birth were less then appeasing. It would have been nicer if there were less of those. Never seen a birth, never want to – be it human or animal; and I never was a medicine student and do not plan on it either. Yet it is a story for anyone who has loved a dog from the moment they were puppies to the moments, that they are the cantankerous old peculiar beast who has earned their life and their laziness as they have gotten older.

“The Monologue of Isabel Watching it Rain in Macondo,” by Gabriel García Márquez the Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-eighty two – From “Leaf Storm: and Other Stories.”

When I first read the title of this story I knew, I wanted to read it so bad. But I restrained myself. I knew first and foremost that there are other stories that need to be read before that. Though back in December, on a snowy night, and after a frustrating day’s work of dealing with the Christmas shoppers stressed out to the max with their annoyances of the season itself, I decided to do something. On a whim. Laying on the sofa, the dull light bulbs in over head, sending their glow all around the room, I picked “Leaf Storm: and Other Stories,” by Gabriel García Márquez the Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-eighty two and read it and my usual quick scanning pace. At first I didn’t even feel like I had read it at all, and placed it back on my pile of short story collections, and just lay on the sofa, watching television. The people moving from frame to frame, they held meaningless conversations to me. I took my glasses off, covered up in a blanket and closed my eyes. At that moment I felt like that poor cow in the story trapped in the mud. Its head hung in shame, and weighted down by the embarrassment of the rain falling over head, only causing for more build to build up, and the texture of the place to become more a sticky glue. The weight of the day’s events had weighed heavy on me. The fact of the matter was, that the people, themselves were the Indian’s throwing sticks at me – the cow. I could not give a reasonable answer why the book was not released yet. I did understand that yes it was Christmas, but no I could not change the fact of the reality, that the book was not released yet.

That was the first time, that I can name personally that the restrained that I had placed upon myself, were broken. Today though was the first time since that day, which the story has been read by my eyes again. It took hold though this time. First and foremost, the concept of magical realisms time distortion can be seen. In this story time is not a solidly built structure. It’s more like water or mud or the runny clay of the story. It flows, it moves, and sometimes you get stuck in it. Isbel herself gets lost in time. She begins to recount how and when the rain started. But eventually her concept of time – and even her grasp on reality begins to drift away, and wash away like the water down the street or had become drowned like the trees or the flowers in the story. Such an example can be seen when Isbel is awakened by her mother’s voice from some deep thoughts when her mother tells her that she is going to catch pneumonia. It is then does she first realize that the house has flooded.

“…I heard my mother’s voice warning me from her room that I might catch pneumonia. Only then did I realize that the water was up to my ankles, that the house was flooded, the floor covered by a think surface of viscous, dead water.”

Gabriel García Márquez is also known for his visual writing capabilities; which allows for a great sense of imagery to take place, in his wonderfully phantasmagoric hallucinations, that are Gabriel García Márquez’s stories. Touch, intuitions, the senses of smell, taste, sight and hearing are all brought for by his stories. It does not matter if they have any connection with the characters, at all, but there is that sense that they are part of the imagery of the background. The earthly smell of the soft soil or clay, like a toothless gaping mouth can suck your foot in; or the cleansing smell of the rain, pouring down on the earth, rich with moisture and nutrients to the parched lips of the ground.

“At noon the reverberation of the earth stopped and a smell of turned earth, of awakened and renovated vegetation mingled with the cool and healthful odour of the rain in the rosemary.”

The distortion of time, the dream like qualities, and then all of a sudden the cliff hanger, might drive some readers crazy. Other might wonder if Isbel was an ever a sound narrator in the first place. Did she ever appear all that reliable? Her sense of reality was fading, and she did appear lost at times in herself. Then again, fantasy and reality in a Márquez piece of work go hand in hand. She certainly does fall into awkward situations. Talking with her husband who is not there, when she turns around, or the last bit where she remarks that she is dead. One begins to question if she is alive or if she has ever been sound of mind, and was ever at all a reliable narrator. The question is true, and valid, but it is up to the reader to decide if she is or is not. Though any psychoanalyst or psychologist would certainly say that she is not in her right mind.

“Waiting for Winter,” by Antonio Tabucchi – From “Little Misunderstandings of No Importance.”

In his authors note Antonio Tabucchi shows himself as a very modest author whose modesty and appears practically on the verge of shyness. He remarks himself, that he wished Henry James wrote “Waiting for Winter.” Guilty and in need to confess, I shall admit that, the stories of Henry James, have never been read by these eyes. It does not matter though if Henry James wrote this story or if it were Antonio Tabucchi; who has ended up in the end to write this story. Even though these eyes have yet to take in Henry James, and this mind has not processed the words, and what is to be formed from his writing, Antonio Tabucchi does not need to fear, or be so modest or shy about the success of this story that he has given the reader – or at least the pleasure of this reader.

“Waiting for Winter,” is the tale of a widow who recounts and describes the later hours of her husband’s death, and his death – a man of letters. The entire story is what, seems to be forming as a truth with this collection, is that all the stories here have the small misunderstandings of no importance in them, and yet these slight changes or misunderstandings, are what make the difference in these stories. They change life in just the smallest of ways. Yet the story itself as also remarked in the note about ambiguity and obscurity can also be seen.

The best way to look at this story – and in theory all of Antonio Tabucchi’s stories; is that they are ice bergs. What one reads, is just the tip of the ice berg. The rest is a unfulfilled world of meaning, just waiting to be discovered, by the reader, upon holding ones breath and taking a dive into the chilly waters below, to discover the beauty and magnificence of the subtle meaning of the writer.

An accomplished story of a widow though, who does her best to accept the fact that her husband is dead, and also deal with the commodity that her death leaves behind, for her to pick up the pieces. There’s the discussion of his journal to be published. Perhaps his poetry? Further reflection may lead to it best to publish his plays; and yet his journal does appear to be the most appropriate to publish now after his death. As people in their mourning over the man of letters, they will surely pick up the journal and hold it close, and pretend or act like they know the man they have lost. A man they hold dear in their hearts. The kind of man though they may not have known personally, well was known enough that at times he felt like one could sit down and have coffee with him – or the shadowy ghost of himself. The entire business though of his death, and acting upon it, as a new marketing plans to market the book after his death, all appear to have no one else’s feelings or emotional state in mind, other than their own desire to make money. The widow herself though is the epiphany of strength throughout the entire funeral procession, and the business that seems to creep up on her as she tries and does her best, to deal with the entire matters at hand.

My apologies at hand for this review appear so awkward, and feeling a bit forced. Its early morning, of coffee and yawns from a terrible night sleep. The story itself was read last night, and now it appears to have escaped my minds grasp this early morning.

Memory serves correct in this case. Everything word was carefully mulled over. The texture, the sound, the feel, the taste, everything was carefully considered in its choice, before being used. A ten page story does not have time to waste around filling the edges with a bit of filler and fat. Antonio Tabucchi’s story is lean and avoids all filler and fat. Focusing simply and easily on the first and foremost on the character, and the atmosphere and avoiding all melodramatic sentimentalism or melodramatic writing. For no reason at all the main character does not break down and start weeping. The widow at all does not all of a sudden cry out and ask herself why now, or why has it happened to her. He remarks on the nauseating flowers, and the nausea of the entire situation, but all funerals are a funereal and sombre nightmares or dreams, that one cannot happen but feel that this is just not happening.

The only issue that I found was not in the writing of Antonio Tabucchi but just a small mistake most likely done on the translator’s part. The mistake was when the German man was speaking, briefly it was noted he had spoken in German at the beginning, and then briefly it was noted that he spoke in French, and then it was changed back to German. But it is simply a misunderstanding on a minutiae detail and is a misunderstanding of simple no importance.

“(Summer) A Saturday of Sun, Sand, and Sleep,” by Italo Calvino – From “Marcovaldo or The Seasons in The City”

If there has ever been a literary fictional character that has the worst luck, and admires (and also wishes to harvest nature) it most certainly must be the black comedic, Marcovaldo whose misadventures and get rich quick schemes, always fail, and usually in a comedic sense they allow for a sardonic smile on the readers face.

Yet there are complexities with Italo Calvino’s little tales here. They are short, but not quick to the point, nor are they moral fables, teaching us a lesson in ethics and doing the right thing in life, or the golden rule or anything like that really. In these stories, one can clearly see the war being waged on the natural between, the urban and the rural. With this story in particular Italo Calvino describes the (folk medicine) sand treatment that Marcovaldo’s doctor had prescribed to him. Bringing his feisty and rambunctious children along to the beach he has them burry him in the sand. However the beach is populated by the urban and industrial equipment of construction works. Cranes, dump trucks, bulldozers and all sorts of other equipment sit along the beach, beginning the new landscaping and proving once again that mankind and progress engine of the urban world, cannot be held back at all. But Marcovaldo could easily prove that such thought process, is never going to work. Had he not learned from the mushrooms, how deceitful nature could be? The attack of the wasps taught him that nature’s sting is more painful and mighty then that of a prick of a sword.

Yet this makes me wonder after reading a few of Italo Calvino’s stories from this collection “Marcovaldo or The Seasons in The City,” what is Italo Calvin’s purpose with this set of collection. Obviously he has crafted some stories of entertainment, but what is his true meaning or purpose behind these stories. Is Italo Calvino in a sardonic and comedic way remarking on the absurdities of city life? Italo Calvino does not appear to have any sympathies for his character, yet he uses him as an awkward ambassador, of the man whose life is more enjoyed or brought forth in the greatest of lights, by being with nature. Farming, or working at a vineyard or anything that deals with nature itself. Yet the main character finds himself, in the stank oil and grease smell of a industrial workshop. A place of smoke, fire, sparks, tools, and the cacophonous sound of metal scrapping against metal.

Yet even if Marcovaldo, is an ambassador of the natural world and the urban world he is not very good at it. He shows his own selfishness, when trying to harvest woodcock and ends up with an underfed grey pigeon trapped to the roof. Not to mention this go around when he attempts at doing something for his health, and decides to get some sand treatment, he ends up drifting away and catapulting into a river of people; who like himself went to escape the hot Saturday sun.

To call Marcovaldo a poor pitiful proletarian would not be right. His suffering is not something, which eventually leads him to some self-righteous act of changing the social order. No Marcovaldo may share some traits of the proletarian class, but he himself, does not seek or have the idolized communist ideals. He’s the poor man unable to enjoy nature to its fullest, like others. Instead he must find nature in other areas. Though nature often in a sardonic act of irritation often takes its vengeance out on him for disrupting or getting to close or being overtly selfish in all matters that do not pertain to him at all.

If anything Italo Calvino has created some interesting entertaining stories, which do not lament the crippling and overpowering of nature and the natural world, but shows how both the urban world that can both live side by side peacefully and yet like warring neighbours they take small jabs at each other whenever have they chance, and it is in those jabs that Italo Calvino finds humour and entertainment.

“In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” by Amy Hempel – From “The Collected Stories,” by Amy Hempel – Section: “Reasons to Live.”

There is no anthology that Amy Hempel has been placed in that, “In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” was the chosen ambassador to represent her work. There is very little to say about this story introductory wise. It’s one of the most anthologized stories of the last quarter of the twentieth century. It was one of Amy Hempel’s first stories, written during her time as a student of Gordon Lish; and if memory serves correct as well, the shaping of the story came around from an assignment. The assignment was to write about their worst secret. The following product of that assignment is Amy Hempel’s famous story: “In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried.” It sounds rather trite, and riddled with the melodramatic cliché’s of the ‘troubled artist, finds inspiration in their greatest pain and agony of the past.’ However I shall assure you otherwise. As trite as it sounds and most likely is on how the story came to be, it is not some mediocre melodramatic and bathetic story at all.

It is emotionally charging of a tale for sure. What makes it an emotional charging story is exactly what makes one think it’s a written cliché! The fact is however, knowing this is a painful moment, and very personal moment for the author makes it a emotional charged story, filled with the language of grief.

It is a story that rings true to the core to all of us as readers, and as human beings who have emotional lives, and feel those feelings, for what they are. The entire spectrum is open to us all. Happiness, mellowness, sadness, anger, grief – the richness of it all, is for everyone to enjoy. Part of the emotions and the emotional attachment that grows between character and reader, is something that most authors intend to give their work more of an emotional impact. However, stories are not always given that luxury of having a larger format for the reader and the character to connect and to bond with each other, over a period of time, that the book takes place. Stories are much different. They do not have the luxury of giving the reader, time to bond and to connect with the characters, like a novel or a book series would allow. However stories can offer a fragment’s of the characters life.

The write of a story needs to make very important choices, before writing the story. The focus of the story is one of them, how to get that emotional gain or if they want to completely ignore it and try something different, and how to achieve the end goal. The intended effect, that lasting impression that will last with the reader. Some stories start in the middle and move backwards briefly then finish it up by moving forwards. Others focus on a specific and precise moment. They focus on the emotional landscape of the characters and then work the epiphany of the characters, and leave the rest for the reader to make sense of. Other use minute details, in a seemingly random order, but what happens after careful scrutiny and patience, is a puzzle of words, and moments or fragments that lead up to tell the story. Others use, relative subjects and themes and subject matter that allow for us to sympathize and empathize with the characters. Such subject matter can be from anything – from the consumerist shallow petty moments like finding that perfect dress for the prom; to the moments that one is faced with some very difficult decisions, such as the realization of our own mortality and the mortality of those around us. This is what Amy Hempel has done with “In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” dealing with the grief and the human situations in which we are all forced to deal with: the loss of siblings, parents, grandparents, family members, children and friends all unexpectedly or not. It is a situation we are all forced to deal with or will have to confront sometime during our life time.

Ms. Amy Hempel caught the feeling of the hospital perfectly, and the necessary and etiquette induced reaction that one must accommodate the one who is ill and or dying but more importantly it is attempt to normalize the situation and or completely refuse the existence of the situation all together. However throughout it all though Amy Hempel does not try and steer the reader’s emotions. She writes with a cold subjective stand point, and yet it is an emotional story based on our individual responses to the story itself. Hempel writes about the loss of youth and uses very simple sentences to pack that punch: “men we used to think we wanted to sleep with.” Among other comments. However the real clincher is that little dark secret that each of us hopes we won’t become us in such a situation. “In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” is not just about the dying friend, and what one does for them and that it’s just not enough; it’s about not wanting to have done enough for the dying. That sense, that this is not ones concern anymore, or never was in the first place. It is an incredibly personal story, and deals with something that most readers can relate to on one level or another.

“Freehand,” by Ersi Sotiropoulos – “From Landscape with Dog,”

This is the first story – or to be more accurate and precise, the first time I have ever read anything by the Greek author Ersi Sotiropoulos. Thinking about Greece now brings to mind, a country that has now paying its dues for its lack of resources, and its life of credit. The languish lifestyle, that they lived, has now come to an end. The government is on the needle end of toppling over. Suicide in the last report that had met my eyes had risen to forty percent and violence and has increased to a full complete one-hundred percent. The pristine country that once left me with such awe now fills me with despair and fear. Where once the great human Greek gods sat perched on Mount Olympus, and the philosophical and political thinking of Athens, not to mention the brute strength of Sparta, had eagerly been something that my curious childhood mind devoured now has become some warped nightmare. Sometimes, while sitting on the sofa or laying in bed, I think to myself, which the country is going to fall into the Mediterranean Sea. That it’s going to just be sucked up in to the depths of the sea, because of the weight of the uncertainty of the country’s future, that the only reasonable or humane motion the gods could do is just let it be swallowed in the estuary gob of the sea.
Ersi Sotiropoulos is an avant-garde writer – though in my opinion one of the most readable avant-garde writers that I have had the pleasure of reading. She was born in nineteen-fifty three, and studied philosophy and cultural anthropology in Florence Italy, and went on to work at the Greek embassy in Rome Italy.

“Freehand,” is a subtle story. It is not adequate to call the story strange or peculiar in any means. It is just a wonderful story, which is filled with that quiet hum of life itself. The Greece (I assume Greek) that is presented in this story is much different than the current and present state of the country. It is a story that concerns some philosophical questions and two people who love each other. It’s full of mundane events and that special order and practical way of life. There are there are the characters own personalities, who clash and mingle. Their souls intertwine with each other and yet the sutures that tie them together often unlace themselves as well.

Through naked prose and simplicity of writing, with great imagery – some many lines stand out. Lingering on the very edges of my mind form the story; the writer has accomplished to show a great depth of writing in just a few pages and vivid and grand images.

There are moments, of philosophical musings, in these naked prose. The musings of the face of being the mirror of the soul. Yet when a man who is only known by his name Giacometti, begins to draw a face, it always turns out looking like a skull. Is it easy to just push that aside as just simple imagery with no real importance. Poetics with no driving force, behind it – yet like the cow itself who exists not because one see’s it but exists because it exists whether or not you see it or not.

The conclusion of the story if one could call it a conclusion at all – feels more like a dead end, or a epiphany or a sense of understanding, but beneath it all the story is far from over – even though the words end, there is still a feeling that story continues. Maybe it does, in other ways then what we as a reader know it does or not. It is not an abrupt ending nor does it just end in a petering out way either. It just ends. The words just stop at the perfect ending image. That is it and that is all.

“Her voice was colo[u]rless, with a tinge of disappointment.”

That is just one of the lines, which leaves one with the impression, of the story. A small indent, left on the skin. A lasting tingle of ticklish pleasure, as someone who has just traced ones naval gently with their finger nail. Those small moments of pleasure, make the skin of one’s body prickle with goose flesh, and yet it still feels warm, with the nostalgia.

The prose of Ersi Sotiropoulos is reminiscent of the Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, in his paintings. This story especially left that indent upon me, of a quiet viewing of those paintings.

This blog is dedicated to my friend Samuel

Thursday 9 February 2012

The Sound of the Mountain

Hello Gentle Reader

I have read so many Japanese authors. From Yukio Mishima to Natsuo Kirino – with Haruki Murakami in between the two; and also gave Kenzaburo Oe, a try as well. Each author writes about the Japanese country. Two have seen the World Wars, and another one – along with the two that saw the World Wars, had witnessed the disgrace and fall of the Japanese Empire. Each one describes the Japan that they know. When I read “Real World,” by Natsuo Kirino I had discovered the Japan that I know was the present day one. The one of the cramming for school exams, to the point you’re about ready to pass out, or you start coughing up blood, and you overdose on caffeine. There are the polluting warnings everywhere – warning that the air contains a high amount of particles, in the air that could cause respiratory system damage. What was shown in the general sense of the work by Natsuo Kirino was apathy. There was that sense that nothing good was coming out of working hard, and that all you had in life was that you had to work hard and that was it. The moment that you were born you were groomed to be whatever it is that was decided for you. And the only way to get there was by working hard and cramming. Haruki Murakami’s work was and usually is rather surreal. The world that his characters inhabit is like our own and yet different. Something is amiss – aloof; the mundane is more extraordinary then the extraordinary itself. There is a general sense of alienation. The characters are cut off from the world around them. The people that walk by are little more than shadows, in an absolute void. Yet throughout this alienation and isolation, there are extraordinary moments. Talking cats, leeches that rain from the sky, a well that can swallow your dreams, television sets that can take you from reality and into the televised alternative dimension – and yet in the end (as a friend described it) everyone goes home, listens to jazz music and eats ramen noodles. The Japan of Kenzaburo Oe, is rather different. It’s an ambiguous and enigmatic place. It is a place that does not make sense. Oe’s fiction is rather personalized to the point of (forgive me for I am about to sin) being selfish. His writing about his son Hikari is often personalized and often repeat themselves in every novel that he writes, where a handicapped or brain damaged child – usually a son; comes up. In this respect Kenzaburo Oe, is exercising himself in these stories – often called ‘the idiot boy,’ stories. His first and award winning novel “Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids,” deal with his childhood home, and the barbaric nature of the human race – kind of like William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies.” Yet the Japan that Kenzaburo Oe, writes about shows his own ambivalent attitude towards his own country. Yukio Mishima’s country is however far different then the left and liberal leanings that Kenzaburo Oe’s are – both Mishima and Oe are on the different sides of the political scale; that is just know by most readers of these two authors or by people who have an interest in Japanese literature. Yukio Mishima’s Japan was much different. It is a world that had been disgraced following the defeat of World War II, and the kind of loss of purpose that followed Japans defeat in World War II. Yukio Mishima’s writing is characterized by a sense of nihilistic feeling and disgust for the honour of Japan, and the infection of westernization that is influencing his country – however Yukio Mishima a descendant of a samurai family, believed in the power and divinity of the empire. However in the end Yukio Mishima left his country he beloved and committed ritual suicide, when his coup had failed.

Yasunari Kawabata is different than all of the other above authors. He began writing before the Second World War. He has not seen what Japan has become today. He does not have an imbecile child. His politics where never really shown in his writing. Yasunari Kawabata has written about a traditional and beautiful Japan. A Japan that is participating in the world, as a whole in the twentieth century, however is still strictly its own country. It participants in the Imperial Age, and is a world player. However it is strictly its own country. However throughout time there can certainly be a different shift in his work. He gradually begins to incorporate certain elements of history – which at the time were most likely contemporary events. If one looks at “Snow Country,” by Yasunari Kawabata, and then at “The Sound of the Mountain,” there are small subtle changes in how certain details are presented. For one, in “Snow Country,” there (from my memory) was no real discussion of the war even hint of ‘the war.’ There was no discussion of American soldiers or any tourists whatsoever. However with “The Sound of the Mountain,” there do come these changes. There are American soldiers on a train, a westerner on the train who cannot speak Japanese. Yet throughout the novel Yasunari Kawabata keeps them all at a distance. They are just details. They have no real characterization and are not painted with any political brush. They are simply described as if they were a tree or a flower – meaningless and just part of the scenery. But this change does not affect the novel; it certainly shows the changing landscape of Japan after their defeat. However as if a twist of irony, it was during this time that Japan began exporting its culture – those monster movies, cartoons and Japanese styled comic books have becoming something of an interest throughout the years; in this time as well with Japan being opened up and able to export their culture novelists like Yasunari Kawabata (the Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-sixty eight and first Japanese Nobel Prize winner in Literature) and Yukio Mishima (a protégé of sorts to Yasunari Kawabata) to become literary pheromone’s outside their country – which probably led to Yasunari Kawabata being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Personally speaking, it is not really right to call “The Sound of the Mountain,” a family chronicle. The events of the novel do center on an aging patriarch Shingo and his family and his views of the events that happen through on out. A master of the psychological novel, and exploring the psyche of his characters through the external world around them, and providing the external world with metaphors of their own thoughts and perspectives. A good example would be when Shingo walks around by the sunflowers, and they remind him of heads, and he wishes he could just dismember his own head from his body and take it for a cleaning – the main character is having memory lapses, as well as experience or rather hearing strange noises that only he can hear; such as the rumbling of the mountain that awakes him in the night and he decides is a omen of death.

Shingo’s daily routines do not change, but he begins to question his relationship with everyone in his family. His daughter Fusako is divorced from her husband (her parents had arranged that marriage). It in itself turns out to be a failure. His son Shuichi is having an affair with another woman. He and his wife Kikuko have yet to produce a child. Shingo begins to wonder if his poor behaviour as a father and not being a loving husband has played a part in his family’s dysfunction. Shingo loved his wife’s Yasuko’s younger sister. However she died as a young woman, and so it could be summarized that Shingo had settled with the second best, with Yasuko. Even Kikuko causes some erotic feelings to arise inside of Shingo. It can plainly be seen as well, in how he treats her, almost fatherly. Kikuko also showers, Shingo with love, and takes care of him and helps around the house.

The novel is much different than “Snow Country,” in many ways. Yet each one shares similarities. “Snow Country,” started off as a short story and eventually became a novel. “The Sound of the Mountain,” the chapters appear like short stories – little satellites or moons orbiting around the larger novel itself. Each one adding a different characteristic to the novel itself.

It is a wonderful novel, written in the grace and the beauty that I have learned to love and respect of Yasunari Kawabata. But it is also ambiguous and lucid. That is just something though that one expects to find when reading Yasunari Kawabata – he was part of the art movement with Riichi Yokomitsu, and other writers, titled Shinkankakuha which has been translated as “neo-impressionism,” but that is incorrect of what it actually was. It’s really more about “new sensations(list).” It is modernist, and Kawabata uses very poetic and lyrical prose full of metaphors and dreams to really move a story that may or not be there at all. However he probed the mind of his characters, and showed the external world as a world just like the internal world of their psyches.

“The Sound of the Mountain,” is a very mature work. It has all of the typical writing styles of Yasunari Kawabata; but also shows him miniaturizing life moments in brief chapters. There is the psychological probing, a sense of melancholy and a desire of nostalgia and there certainly are some regrets as well. Everyday Shingo is faced with his own mistakes – the mistakes of his son and his daughter. His son’s infidelity, his daughters divorce – and the despair that his daughter-in-law feels towards her husband and his affair. Even worst though is when his son asks him the question itself that Shingo himself wrestles with:

‘“I’ve been thinking a little,” muttered Shuichi. “About Father’s life.”
“About my life?”
“Oh, nothing very definite. But if I had to summarize my speculations, I suppose they would go something like this: has Father been a success or a failure?”’

There will be no denying it, if anything Shingo had failed miserably with his children’s lives, and being at the age of sixty-two there is very little he could do rectify the mistakes that he has done. These are the guilt’s that he himself is forced to live with. He also realizes that his own mortality is coming up to its expiry date.

This novel is a powerful meditation on family, life, aging, death/dying. Though the images and the perceptions of the mountain, the birds flying, one of Teru’s puppies, the insects and the sounds they produce in the summer evenings, the cherry tree in the back garden, or even the two pine tree’s he see’s every morning on his way to work – they all provide new sensations and meanings and images for Shingo. Each one mapping his own psyche and his musings of family, ageing, mortality, companionship, and love.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

P.S. Gentle Reader: the previous blog "Unforunate News," should have been published Wednesday February 8th of 2012 but unforunatly I had it saved, as a draft. I apologize for the confusion.

Unfortunate News

Hello Gentle Reader

It has recently come to my attention that the Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-ninety six, Wislawa Szymborska had passed away on February 1st of 2012. A lifelong smoker, she passed away peacefully in her sleep, from lung cancer. It is a heavy blow to the culture of Poland, as the most beloved Poet of the country has passed away. May her grieving family and friends, remember the great poet, who had made such a difference in her country, and had written such memorable poems.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

Monday 6 February 2012


Hello Gentle Reader

Have you ever watched the television – which is a redundant and stupid question that has no grounds; and carefully watched rather closely at the lips of the people? Have you watched their lips – the voice is there, and its moving towards their lips; yet the words that you hear just do not fit with the lips that are moving right around on the face. The way they say their ‘O’s,’ just do not fit with their lips. They look they’re about to say a ‘B,’ or an ‘A,’ or some other word but not the ‘O,’ of the word that they just said. When they say ‘Oh,’ it looks like they are saying ‘Ah,’ but not ‘Oh.’ That sense of misplacement, or not being quite instep or in tune with oneself, or the work in which they are doing – this is how it could best be described of the current trend in American Literature. At least according to a few people – who may or may not be of any importance to anyone, but the few people around them.

Alexander Nazaryan is a writer and accordingly to the internet, a teacher as well. He has published articles in places like “The New York Times,” “Village Voice,” “Salon,” and “The New Republic,” and is currently completing a novel titled “Golden Youth,” about Russian organized crime in Brooklyn. He wrote an article, for “Salon,” in two thousand and eleven – last year actually – not even a year ago, just a few months ago really – it was written on October third of two thousand and eleven – three days before the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced and was awarded to the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. It was about the insularity and narcissistic writing of American writers of today’s age, which is best characterized for its absorbance in mass culture and nostalgia for its writing.

Alexander Nazaryan states quite profoundly in his article, that the entitled sense of whining that America deserves a Nobel Prize in Literature since two thousand and eight, when Horace Engdahl called America’s literature too “insular and isolated,” and had profoundly stated that Europe is “the centre of the literary world,” and the constant self-pity that they have not won a Nobel Prize for Literature since nineteen-ninety three is not justified in the least bit. However Alexander Nazaryan also pointed out that, the outrage over the Prize’s political statements with winners like (2004) Elfriede Jelinek and (2005) Harold Pinter, were not justified either, in their liberal left leanings in the George W. Bush era of American history. However he still defends the Swedish Academy for not awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature, in recent years to an American author. The last American born male to win the Nobel Prize for Literature was in nineteen-sixty two to John Steinbeck – and to a male American author was back in nineteen-eight seven to Joseph Brodsky whose real tradition of writing was the experience of writing of the emerge of a Soviet Union dissident.

However the author of the article, does state though, that America is to blame for their own inability to deserve the Nobel Prize for Literature. There is no author in the current time or age, which is writing outside of the Cold War Era, twentieth century tradition or nineteen-century tradition. There is no need for gun slinging westerns, the family chronicle of the drama, or the hermetic precincts of Jewish rivalry. The late David Foster Wallace, probably the only author that may or may not have had a chance in his would be later years, to win the Prize, had predicated with precedence the current crisis that is facing American literature, in his review of John Updike’s novel “Towards the End of Time,” David Foster Wallace states the problem of postwar American Literature with the following statement that can be generally acquired to all great male American writers (Thomas Pychon, Philip Roth, and Don DeLillo):

“The very world around them, as beautifully as they see and describe it, seems to exist for them only insofar as it evokes impressions and associations and emotions inside the self.”

In other words this great American tradition of writing purely about what one knows is all one can do and most importantly write about. If one puts it that way Fran Lebowitz puts up the best argument against it for writing about what you know period. People have far too much self-esteem these days and these same people are all writing about what they know. What they know is not of particular interest to anyone.

For example I could write a five hundred to seven hundred page novel about what I know – which is the following. It would be a fictional memoir, about a boy who has a normal childhood, grows to be a teenager and has all the teenage problems that come with puberty and low self-esteem or rather low esteem for others. The coming to adulthood and the working of menial jobs, and then a stable job and then the recession, the menial jobs again, hardship that befalls from it, and then the subsequent death. I’ll write about all the relationships, fill the prose with some stream of consciousness writing, some interior monologues, some dry humour and with lush descriptions of the world and the emotional landscape of the world.

That is neither a book worth reading, nor is it a book worth writing. What impact was that book to have on someone throughout the world? What importance would such a book have on someone in Germany, Japan, France, the UK or South Africa have in such a book – what importance would it have on someone in Canada?

This concept of write what you know (which I have championed at times, also makes me a hypocrite). However some authors make this work for them. Herta Muller the Nobel Laureate of Literature in two thousand and nine, writes about her experience of the communist dictatorship in Romania run and headed by Nicolae Ceauşescu and overshadowed by the Soviet Union. It’s a frank discussion of the terrible regime and the deaths, the darkness, and the shadows of the past that have haunted her – a collective grief from her father’s SS days, to her own decision to write against the dictatorship and the harassment that had come from refusing to work with the secret police. How is this different then Philip Roth’s work or Thomas Pychon – it discusses history and the politics of an era and participates in the dialogue of world literature in a political format.

Other authors like William S Borroughs, Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway – they have experienced something. Whatever it maybe they had seen the world at large – they had travelled, participated in war, watched the civil war, went on the hunt for drugs, road tripped – these were all aspects of their lives, that they had experienced and knew how to write about what they knew, but what they knew was not insular, it was not narcissistic and self-absorbed. It participated in the world as a dialogue and literature and books being the words.

That is what the Nobel Prize for Literature is – it is the first step in the world participating in the dialogue of world literature, and the books of the Nobel Laureates are the underlined and distinguished ambassadors, who are using literature as the words, and are making the dialogue as the world of literature happen. Yet America acts as if it is an island stranded by itself in a sea of nothing, and that its voice, is the only voice that matters. However America can change that, and then deserve the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Right now American literature is a recycling past cultures and fashion trends, and becoming nothing then self-absorbed in this repetitive use of times, and the same themes used over and over again, in just saying the same old message. America needs to move past the nineteenth century, twentieth century and come into the twenty first century and explore and make new voices, and innovate.

Sehnsucht is a German word that is best described by C.S. Lewis (an author I have little respect for) as a: “insatiable longing,” for something that one is not quite sure what. The word Sehnsucht is best described for current theme in American literature – it is longing and lamenting about the time that has been past, and wishes to emulate the writing of past masters. Yet it has all been said and all been done before. The family saga, the Jewish immigrant narrative, the Cold War paranoia novel, the pop culture pastiche of other works, has passed. It is time for the work to move on and become something new. Something that opens another door like the previous authors had done.

Hopefully America will stop making the shape of their mouth as if to say a ‘O,’ and out comes an ‘A,’ – as if they work their work starts lining up properly again. There work becomes something new, and better. The time of America’s Sehnsucht for the past, and past works, is over. America needs to stand up and write more than just about what they know. Put the mirror down and look out the window.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

(If you are interested in reading the original article by Alexander Nazaryan please click on the following link:

Thank-you again Gentle Reader.)

Thursday 2 February 2012

There but for the

Hello Gentle Reader

There are people, in all our lives – perhaps to be more specific: there are people, in all our childhoods that touch us. They are usually older – we look up to them. They appear to be from a different world; they usually are. Yet there is still something about them. Something different. Something that just cannot be quite pinned or pointed out in any specific matter. Though through the years, they have become little faded photographs. Around the edges are a bit discoloured – like someone was dipping them in tea or coffee, like it were a biscuit. The faces, have faded – they have deteriorated slightly into the obscure world of pixilation; causing the photo to become grainy and old. This is what memory is like the father you go back, thinking about such things. However the emotions are just as raw and still feel real. Whoever it was – it was a friend’s older brother or a friend; when I was learning to roller skate, there was a bit of a hill that slowly curved and I was having issues turning with the slow curving and narrowing sidewalk and the brother quickly skated up and allowed me to fall into him as we were falling – I’ll never forget that odd feeling of trepidation and awkward relief at being caught. Reading the last few pages of Ali Smith’s latest novel “There but for the,” had let loose those feelings, and those memories, all simmered to the surface again as Brooke and Miles Garth, talked. The way they talked at ease with each other. The wonderful cleverness they had enjoyed each other’s company was just something that reminded me of those odd moments.

Ali Smith’s new novel had caused quite the controversy. Its snub from the Booker Prize of two-thousand and eleven, for not making it even on the long list, was an outrage! This novel became the Booker Prize of two-thousand and eleven’s worst nightmare, for it was constantly brought up in the crisis of the debate of “readability over quality.” It was named one of the best books of two thousand and eleven along with Alan Hollinghurst’s new novel “The Strangers Child.” Even I named it one of the best books of two-thousand and eleven – not that my opinion means anything.

It is a playful novel; which usually sounds like in my head, a rather boring or self-centered novel that is being overly complicated, or ridiculous. However Ali Smith’s new novel is quite the contrary to the stereotypical playful novel. Even though the summary or the blurb about this book would give one the impression that it is otherwise following that stereotypical pattern, of a playful self-centered novel. When first reading about this book – which would have most likely never come under my radar, if it was not for the Booker Prize snub; I thought to myself when reading the blurb about a man who decides to lock himself into a guest bedroom after a dinner party, and decides not to leave, was a rather strange book – and yet continuing to read the blurb it gets even stranger. The person whose guest bedroom he has commandeered, starts selling merchandise, about the man who has locked himself in her guest bedroom. Immediately I thought to myself, it was no wonder the Booker Prize had snubbed this book.

From that point on, I did not bother to give the book another thought. With the Christmas season, around the, the store was busy. Yet traversing the aisles, I immediately was struck by a book, which had gone unnoticed before. It was white, with the look of green grid paper on the cover. In the middle of the green grid paper, was a outlined door in pen. Complete with the design of the door itself. The rest of the book was white. Accept for the authors name on top in black bold letters, and the bottom in a pea soup green colour was the title “There but for the,” looking up at the top showed the author “Ali Smith.” It was the cover that grabbed me. This odd picture of a door, on green graph paper – it was lovely shade of green as well, reminiscent of a hospital room coloured green – except it look nicer on the book. It was not under any sign stating “Best books of 2011,” nor was it on a table that had a sign stating any new releases. No sticker on it stating that it was a Booker Prize snub. Nothing, just a book, like every other book, sitting on a shelf with to no importance at all. I ignored the book again. I really did not care for a book that was playful.

Time went on, and on. I passed the book every so often. I picked it up. Flipped through it. Eventually I decided to buy it. With a store employee discount as well as a store credit and the fact was that I only ended up paying a dollar and fifty nine cents for the book, what harm could it do. Besides the fact that I had also made it one of the best books of two thousand and eleven and it was deserving to have been read and reviewed.

First reading of the novels were odd. The sentences did not seem to fit quite right. Some of the sentences had a coma at the end of the sentence with an odd word at the end of them. Not odd as in peculiar word, that would certainly stand out in the sentence because of its meaning. No just generic words that could fit in any sentence. Such sentences were odd to me. The way that the word ‘that,’ had appeared at the end of a sentence with a coma in front of it, kept pulling the metaphorical chain around my neck. Causing great annoyance. However I got over these little pot holes in the road of this novel, and tried not to think of them that much when they decided to appear.

One of the largest shocks of this book was how it works. The premise of a man, who locks himself in a room, in a stranger’s house, during a dinner part, and a cult of celebrity that surrounds these entire abnormal events, is just odd. Yet it works. It works for its purpose. The thought of reading this book at first was: “Really we are so culturally and creatively stagnant and sterile, that we have to right about some ‘reality,’ celebrity?” However it’s not quite like that. Of course the premise of this book would let you believe that, but no it is quite the opposite indeed. The act of Miles Garth, locking himself in the Mister and Misses Lee’s guest bedroom, connects four people – well three people anyway; from their own distracted and broken lives.

There first of these people is a Scottish woman by the name of Anna. She won a writing contest, among other people from all over the United Kingdom, and has gone a Europe wide trip. There as a young seventeen-year old she meets the then seventeen year old Miles. Anna felt alienated and isolated from the group on the trip as well. Though upon meeting Miles things start to change. They continued to send each other little notes and postcards even after the trip. It is purely by coincidence that Anna is discovered by the Miss Lee, who finds her name in Miles cell phone which he left down stairs a long with and in his jacket; he wore at the dinner party. It is from that point on that Anna remembers that fateful summer and she remembers the enigmatic man behind the door.

There is Mark Palmer, an elderly gay man, who first meets Miles, and is the one that brought him to the dinner party that he did not want to attend. His dead mother Faye Palmer lives inside of his head – and often likes to tell clever little rhymes.

There is May Young, a senior woman who is dethatched from the world around her that she refuses to speak. Yet her connection to Miles is the oddest and perhaps the least enjoyable of this book, is that Miles comes and reads to her.

Then there is perhaps one of the more interesting characters of this entire book at the end. Brook, a nine and soon ten year old little girl, who was at the dinner party – though not quite expected to be there; and witnesses the following outcome of the twisting bizarre tale of Mister Miles Garth, and his celebrity as Milo; and her keep delivering notes underneath the door way for Miles Garth to read, while he sits in the guest bedroom, doing nothing at all that interesting – so she makes it her job to make sure that he reads something interesting.

In all Ali Smith created an interesting piece of work, which does not probe the psychology of Miles as I had first thought it would, but instead searches the people that are connected to him, and how his actions have the ripple effect and cause slight disturbances of waves and memories, in the general lives of others.

Ali Smith also uses language in this story. Which has always been something odd to me, when people discuss language in writing. All writing has the use of language. This has always baffled me. What on earth were people talking about when they were saying that the language of a book is interesting? Ali Smith’s book, for example is written in the English Language. For me that is it that is all. But it is how she uses the language that makes it slightly interesting. Such as the following excerpt near the end:

“Brooke looked up from her piece of paper and watched them throwing the words for birds and flowers and Hollywood actors at each other like they were throwing little rocks wrapped as presents.”

There many occasions of writing like that though. I still remember the discussion at the dinner party about ‘google,’ itself:

“Google is so strange. It promises everything, but everything isn’t there. You type in the words for what you need, and what you need becomes superfluous in an instant, shadowed instantaneously by the things you really need, and none of them answerable by Google. . . Sure, there’s a certain charm to being able to look up and watch Eartha Kitt singing Old Fashioned Millionaire in 1957 at three in the morning or Hayley Mills singing a song about femininity from an old Disney film. but the charm is a kind of deception about a whole new way of feeling lonely, a semblance of plenitude but really a new level of Dante’s inferno, a zombie-filled cemetery of spurious clues, beauty, pathos, pain . . . More and more, the pressing human dilemma: how to walk a clean path between obscenities.”

It’s a strange novel as well. But it is interesting novel it how it is written. Not necessarily overtly clever or too playful – but enough to be unique in its own right.
Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*
As well as a welcome and hello to another follower to the blog The Black Cat!