Minor thoughts on DFW, literature, and weirdos

I don’t read biographies, really. This must be the first one I’ve read in years. On the other hand, I never had any chance of resisting a David Foster Wallace biography, what with having read just about everything he wrote and generally being fascinated and probably obsessed yes. Plus, it’s by D.T. Max, who wrote the absorbing–and crushing–New Yorker article on Wallace shortly after his death. If I didn’t read this biography, I’d never read any. Every Love Story is a Ghost Story is the name of the book, and it’s a very good one. The book I mean, not the name. But the name as well.

It’s a super handsome book, by the way. At least, my copy is. Nice paper.

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Transcribed Phone Sex, reviewed

“Do you think we talked enough about sex?”

Sex, obviously, is dirty and animal and dumb, and that’s all fine, but damn, can’t it be smart too? Like, just fucking interesting? It seems to me that we tend to screen off the bits of our heads that are most into sex, and regard them as not fully part of ourselves–as more brain chemistry than personality. But there’s a lot more going on behind that screen than just the brutish workings of your chosen sex hormone.

A few days ago, I finished reading Nicholson Baker’s Vox. The whole book is a single phone conversation between two strangers, nothing but dialogue. They meet on some sort of telephone hook-up sex line–their “wires cross”–and launch into one of the most engaging, intelligent, funny, sexy, true conversations I’ve ever read in a book.

No idea what the cup of tea is doing there. Pretty sure tea did not feature in the book.

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What Happens in Amsterdam

…sort of ruins Ian McEwan’s book, Amsterdam, as far as I’m concerned. Most of the novel takes place in England, and is quietly excellent. It’s just the last section in the eponymous city. The weird section.

On the plus side, the book is really short.

The word I most want to use to describe that ending, actually, is silly. Continue reading

Headscarf Girls

He walked through to a hall with pictures of roosters on the walls; in the centre of the hall was a small cock fighting ring. At this moment Ka realised he was in love with ─░pek. And, sensing that this love would determine the rest of his life, he was filled with dread.

Yesterday, I finished Snow, a novel by Turkish winner of big fancy prizes, Orhan Pamuk. I’ll keep post this more or less spoiler-free, I promise. Pamuk places himself (or a ghost of himself) as the narrator of the book, describing the experiences of a poet friend named Ka in the small Turkish town of Kars. (Incidentally, “kar” is Turkish for snow. You can safely assume there is some snow in the book.) In the novel, Kars has become a focal point for tension between the forces of Turkish secularism and political Islam; after the secularist government banned Islamic headscarves in state schools and universities, a string of Islamic activists known as the headscarf girls killed themselves. When the town is closed off from the outside world by (you guessed it) snow, it becomes a crucible for testing this tension. Snow plays out the struggle between politically expressed religion and modernising secularism in events covering a period of about three days. Plus, Pamuk manages to get through a whole love story in the same time-frame. Positively Shakespearean compression.

The very handsome Turkish first edition.

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Sunday Night Daria

When I moved to Melbourne about a month (maybe?) ago, I had a major decision to make. Which books to bring?

Pretty modest stack.

(Sent Portnoy’s Complaint back to Brisbane when I moved, for some foolish reason. Like my old room is a library with a strict borrowing policy)

Out of my really pretty huge collection, I ended up selecting: Portnoy’s Complaint (which I was reading at the time, and now recommend), Carry On, Jeeves (a recommendation from a certain mad cool girl, now also finished and thoroughly enjoyed), A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (probably the most popular Wallace, and now also the only published thing of his I haven’t read), Armour (the less difficult looking book of John Kinsella poems I owned), V., The Name of the Rose, Midnight’s Children, Amsterdam, Johnno, and the Complete Kafka Short Fiction (just in case I get too happy). Continue reading