Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Early July (whiskey and dead cats)

So it turns out Graham Greene is a badass. A supervisor at work caught me reading Power and the Glory in the breakroom and tossed me his copy of The Bomb Party. We discussed his view that Greene's "entertainments" are of greater value than his longer weighty novel work. I'll have to agree with him there.

The Power and the Glory
is the story of a whiskey priest on the run in Mexico. I had very little knowledge of any anti-clerical purges that went on in this area during the late thirties, so the subject matter alone was enough to draw me in. The book had some great components: hopeless anti-hero, man on the run, biblical allegory,.....yet things did get a bit sluggish every now and again. But what impressed me most about Graham's prose is its cinematic qualities. Scenes are composed with the idea of a camera panning across a landscape, which pits this brutal story against the greatest Westerns. Borges mentions the film version in a review of Citizen Kane, and I'm going to have to get ahold of it soon.

Doctor Fischer of Geneva, or The Bomb Party
is the tale of a maniacal toothpaste mogul who tortures the elite of Geneva to test the limits of their greed. He offers them expensive gifts in return for their dignity, but his son-in-law, who works for a local chocolate company (that's right), is having none of it. Fantastic and hilarious satire ensues. Again, so many scenes were constructed around the notion of the stage, that i couldn't help picturing what a great film or play this would make, or has made. Entertainments 1, Serious Novels 0.

In between these, I had been lured into a 3 for the price of 2 sales rack at Borders.
Damnit. This, the latest Philip Roth, and the latest Umberto Eco. But I need something entertaining to prop up all the dry nonfiction I've been downing lately. Anyway, the first Murakami I read was Dance, Dance, Dance, with no idea that it's the sequel to Wild Sheep Chase. In hindsight, this is a pretty great way to be introduced to Murakami's warped convoluted plots. I read most of this over the summer at the university pool, exactly like a character in a Murikami novel, who usually spends part of the book hanging out catching rays and reading, usually accompanied by a young girl or two. Epitome of light summer reading.
Anyway, I'd put Kafka on the Shore up with Hard-Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World as his best work. In this one, a young boy changes his name to Kafka, runs away from home (aforementioned components), and searches for the rest of his shadow (or his mother and sister). Parallel to this is the story of an old man who was stuck dumb by a ufo in his youth, now able to talk to cats and make objects fall from the sky. Just typing that makes me want to read it again.
One of my favorite things about Murakami is his tendency to introduce some idea of allegory, or begin connecting concepts, and then immediately allow his characters to recognize and discuss them. Hard to explain, but I found myself looking up from the text and putting things together, trailing off into abstract thought, and then zooming back in on the story to find characters repeating back to each other the same ideas. There's a mysterious back-and-forth, drifting and anchoring, and I almost typed something about a kite but to hell with that, I need some coffee.


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