Odd Words January 7, 2010Posted by Mark Folse in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
Here’s something to swipe the last of the sleepy holiday goo out of your eyes: T.S. Elliot’s “The Wasteland “as a graphic novel. I am reading through the Sandman GN’s along with my teenage son, both because I have exhausted everything else by Neil Gaiman and because I have a fondness for comics going back to the days of the “underground comix” of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
After reading and rereading the first few of the Sandman series, I have to agree with the author’s premise that, “in a number of ways…comic books more closely resemble poems than novels: they use text sparingly; they frequently ‘break’ lines for dramatic or tonal effects; and much like lyric poetry, comic books often juxtapose images to create meaning, without any clear narrative or syntactic relationship between the images they present.”
Just what I don’t need: another book I absolutely have to buy. On the bright side, the sponsor of this project–Gulf Coast-A Journal of Literature and the Fine Arts–has a contest I’m planning to enter with a reading fee that includes a subscription. I plan to make sure I get the hard copy with the sample chapter of “The Waste Land”.
§ While we’re on the subject, let’s not ignore the project to turn James Joyce’s Ulysses into graphic novel format, UlyssesSeen.
§ The Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue will host “Poetry by Candlelight” on Tuesday, Jan. 12 from 7:30-9:00 pm, featuring ten local poets and king cake. I wish I weren’t going to be out of town for this. Scheduled readers include Laura Mattingly, Danny Kerwick, Chris Champagne, Jonthan Kline, Valentime Pierce, Gina Ferrara, Moose Jackson, Thaddeus Conti, Jimmy Ross, Jefery Ward and Mona Lisa Saloy.
§ Just a guess but if Thaddeus Conti is reading at the Latter Library on Jan. 12, I suspect that his own Dinky Tao series at the back bar at Molly’s at the Market may start later than usual. Or, as we did last week, in his absence.
§ These people are insane, in a good way. H/T to B. Rox for highlighting their Facebook page, which is how I found them
§ I just finished reading Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, a fascinating book about the obsessions and slow dissolution of a small avant garde movement in 1970s Mexico. I think this will join the small list of books that I buy multiple copies of because I keep pressing them on people, urging them to read it, and some of those copies never come back.
The books on that list often leave people scratching their heads, wondering what the hell I was thinking, but that is at least part of what has me fired up: something unique that you won’t get just anywhere. I just finished reading my first Zola (Germainal) t the urging of a friend and loved it, but it was not the sort of cerebral experience of the books that make my “you must read this” list. It was like my experience of classical music, something I enjoy but don’t profess to deeply understand (or care to think about that hard), a simple thing like a hot bath, an immersion in something pleasurable not requiring a lot of specific thought. Most books on my “read me” list–Gravity’s Rainbow, Hopscotch–tend to require a certain investment of thought and time to fully appreciate. Others, like Little Big by John Crowley, fall more into the Zola category of immense family saga well told and are are among the simple pleasures, but I tend toward being carried away by puzzle books that require multiple reads.
I had skipped over the introduction but immediately recognized the The Savage Detectives’ affinities with Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch: its non-linear structure, its focus on a small set of bohemians in search of what–truth?–in the person of a mysterious writer, the wanderings and gradual dissolution of these fictional Visceral Realists. I think I know why I am drawn to tales of bohemia–Kerouac’s, Cortazar’s or Bolaño’s–as I sit here waiting for the Counting House’s laptop to reboot before I go off for a routine midlife physical, sitting in my small office next to my recently redone kitchen with its quarter-sawn oak cabinets and elegant granite, where my wife is taking out a large package of toilet paper and remarking on what a bargain it was. I think you get the idea.
I don’t buy into the idea in this article that North Americans have embraced Bolaño because he gives them a new patron saint to replace the tired icon of Marquez in their South American literature niche, but then I live at the northernmost outpost of the Caribbean, and I don’t share the typical North American’s “worst paternalistic prejudices about Latin America…like the superiority of the Protestant work ethic or the dichotomy according to which North Americans see themselves as workers, mature, responsible, and honest, while they see their neighbors to the South as lazy, adolescent, reckless, and delinquent…” largely because New Orleans straddles both worlds, and the joy of it is precisely that which is not Anglo-Saxon.
I think I may have to journey down this path for a while, now that I’ve been through a pile of Haruki Murakami. If you’re looking to immerse yourself completely into another world, to step through the looking glass for a while (and who doesn’t want to, really) I recommend you give Savage Detectives (or just about anything by Murakami) a go.
§ But first, you really need to read Mystic Pig, which the original liner notes describe as “…a novel about sex and sexuality and race and madness and violence and fine dining. Not necessarily in that order.” I let the publisher know I had set up a Facebook group for some people in New Orleans who have also picked it up recently, and he responded kindly by setting up a coupon code so that people could get the book at a deep discount, as it is not in US distribution at this time and after currency conversion and shipping a copy of what should be a $15 trade paperback rings up at about $30. So Oleander Press is offering the book at a 50% discount (enter coupon code: FBPIG) , and is also reaching out to offer terms to local independent book stores on the book. I found a copy of a first edition in near fine condition for $40 bucks online, so if you can’t wait to get a copy my Oleander Press edition is available for loaning.