I'm on the spot. heavyweights all over the place, professional and published writers alike calling this a touchstone work. gotta justify the 3/5 but off limited wifi. just resist the urge to tap GR, but here we are. can't be making excuses constantly. the 10 second take? it's Markson behind the mask of a female persona (viz., Jung's 'confronting the anima'), but still machine-gunning us the didacticism. vs. post-apocalyptic, sweep-of-western-history glamour.
isn't the question, would you rather spend five years in a Berlin cabaret or an East Anglia monastery? c'mon GR, show the guts. devastation and burndown of the Western tradition: our heart's content.
17 July 2013
for better or worse I have to do this review in short jabs, given that I don't have unfettered internet access. what I'm sort of getting at is that one of the primary conventions of this book is its heavy emphasis on the Battle of Troy as unifying motif. but to a degree (and some of this is just blowback to the heavy numbers of tenured classics professors who were trying to hammer the Iliad into my head), it is this religious-cultlike constellation of 'national poetry' 'epic poetry' that is the institution we are inherently inevitably at odds with. the sociocultural elites of America defend their privilege to some degree by claiming a superior engagement with timeless art, but given an absolutely objective view, we don't need the Iliad. We need Hesiod. We need Plato and Aristotle. We need Herodotus and Thucycdides. the Iliad and the Aeneid, are, as far as classical writing goes, relatively disposable works--more militaristic nationalistic works rather than anything that speaks to our current situation.
Markson's work continues to be flawed in a number of ways. the first is that "the conceit fails." I don't read a long-suffering and wise woman's voice here, I keep hearing a very solitary, very self-oriented old man living in New York attempting to take on the voice of a woman. I'm not saying outright that there is no woman who lives in an entirely fashion, it's just distinctly an XY chromosome thing to write a novel with one character so to speak. women generally are a little more socially intelligent, so to speak.
second, although there is value in 'following along' in the idea of entering a country searching for its literary heroes, the fact of the matter is that countries are people rather than dead traditions. if I enter Russia, of course I'm honored to be treading the same streets as Chekhov and Dostoevsky and Turgenev and Tolstoy. but first and foremost, there are living people in Russia, and their concerns and ideas matter more to me than the tradition of years ago. I am interested more in meeting a Russian and learning what his daily life is, than I am particularly in seeing Tolstoy's last shirt. of course if the tradeoff is "how about meeting a second Russian, and learning his daily life" then the balance sways to history and art, but the people have to come first. to that degree, the postapocalyptic setting is a failure of personality rather than a literary exploration of the genre.
I guess that's enough for this blurb. it is a book that necessitates re-reading, and there are some superb reviews on people who have been genuinely shook up by the work...