Wednesday, March 25, 2015
For Pleasure Winter 2014-15
Pynchon selected a particular New York City voice that to my mind tended to limit the novel's eloquence, though he couldn't always hold back the bon mot. I grew a bit tired of the voice--but that's also to say that it confirmed in me my overall feeling--despite a short residency it saddened me to end--that I'm glad I don't live in New York. As for its prophesy, one character talks about omnipresent surveillance potential that people giddily accept with every new device they covet. He refers the wrist devices that are rumored in today's news to be the next hot product as "the handcuffs of the future."
Sukenick kept publishing, through small presses and the Fiction Collective, in which he was a principal, and I bought them when I ran across them: Out, 98.6, Long Talking, Bad Condition Blues; Blown Away, Doggy Bag. But it was just this winter that I caught up to his 1999 novel, Mosaic Man. Once again, the act of storytelling is itself the plot, though this time there's a clear central concern of assembling an identity out of that mosaic of stories. That seems more to the point than the rough form of books of the Bible (each very different yet somehow parts of the same story), though the pun of Moses-iac Man does suggest something that I don't recall from his earlier books, which is factoring in his Jewish identity.
Anyway, this is clearly a mature work, though still lively and with many of the impulses (and tics) of earlier works. There are parts of it--the childhood sections especially--that are flat out brilliant.
This book ends in New York, and the Twin Towers and terrorism figure in, although it is not yet 9/11, which happens in the course of Pynchon's book (though it seems to me more a background part of the world than a major element of the narrative.) However, Sukenick's next novel is about 9/11 and the Twin Towers, near where he lives at the end of this book and in that book. I've just ordered it. Sadly, it was his last novel. He died in 2004.
Another re-read: Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. I'd forgotten what variety there is in this collection of stories, since several of the early ones were so indelible. Bradbury became a kind of grandfatherly figure but here he is still the young firebrand.
Finally, I'm giving up the pretense that this blog is any longer principally reviewing new books. When I wrote reviews more regularly for publication, I could afford to do that. But even in my many years of reviewing new books, I have always needed to write about books that were new to me regardless of when they were first published, or books that became new in re-reading--or maybe more accurately, revealed new facets the way old friends do.
So henceforth I will no longer need to categorize my reading here as "for pleasure" as opposed to new book journalism. It's all going to be for pleasure now, or at least to respond principally to other needs.