13 January 2011

Don DeLillo, William Shakespeare, and Kazuo Ishiguro walk into a bar...

Yes, kiddies, it's time for another thrilling episode of my literary adventures. Our top story: I have actually finished one of the novels mentioned in the previous entry from, oh, some time last summer. I'll give you a hint: it's neither of the ones measuring over 900 pages. Sorry, James Joyce, I'm sure one day I'll be able to slog through Ulysses, and I have a faint desire way in the back of my mind to do so. (Somewhere just beyond the cobwebs and memories of Smash Mouth lyrics.) And Ayn Rand, I have yet to hear much of a convincing argument from anyone why I should peruse all 1200+ small print pages of your Atlas Shrugged.

I did finally finish Don DeLillo's Falling Man. Needless to say, it was less overtly funny than the other novel I've read of his -- White Noise -- and with less of a slippery post-modern sheen to it. Yet it contains much of the brilliant experimentation, slipping between one episode and one consciousness to another character in a completely different place and mindset. The language DeLillo uses evokes the disorientation and the ineffable, ungraspable core of life overturned; appropriate, considering his subject is something as lofty, broad, terrifying, and inexplicable as 9/11. The characters -- a professional poker player, a copy editor -- often can't explain their choices and emotions over the course of a story. They fall into routines, like exercise or religion, without quite knowing why, and react to seemingly mundane occurences with startling bursts of emotion. DeLillo writes with sparse, well-chosen words that seem simple and to the point but evoke a larger reality that his characters can never quite grasp even when they're smack dab in the middle of it. It's quite a fascinating, brisk read that takes a surprisingly successful, delicate approach to something truly indescribable.

I've also been boning up on my Shakespeare, as is only appropriate for a bloke planning on pursuing grad studies in English. I've recently read Twelfth Night and Othello, and am currently making a dent in The Tempest. While I still stand by my view of As You Like It as the premier comedy in the Shakespeare canon, Twelfth Night came rather close with its similar switcheroos and its ironically quick-witted fool. Othello strikes me as one of the better tragedies, truly starting off with a bang compared to other of the bard's plays, although it can lay the whole jealousy theme on a bit thick at times. Better than King Lear perhaps (which also has a smart fool but, I would argue, a rather misplaced one); certainly a ways off from the magnificence of Hamlet. Food for thought: the terms "green-eyed monster" and "the beast with two backs" famously appear in Othello, perhaps for the first time.

Finally, now that I'm all wrapped up with Falling Man, I've decided to delve into Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, purchased, along with Albert Camus's The Myth of Sissyphus, with a Chapters gift card received from a rather thoughtful Secret Santa (it can happen!). I've heard nothing but amazing things about Ishiguro from the literary-minded folk I sometimes frequent, so I have high hopes for Never Let Me Go. I also want to see the movie with the ravishing Carey Mulligan, but that's another story.

Happy reading!

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