The Beautiful and the Damned (Fitzgerald), Vonnegut’s Breakfast of the Champions, Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and (soon) Factotum (Bukowski).
I like the classics. With Fitzgerald one is transported back to the “good old days” when things developed slower and lured you like a good black and white photo. The news traveled at the speed of a human being. The stories grew somehow organically, from person to person. There was more to be assumed and one had more time to ponder over stuff. That does not imply that the decisions taken were better or more considerate, however. People were then as they are now. Only time flew differently.
“She told herself that the years had brought her tolerance – actually they had slain what measure she had ever possessed of moral courage.”
“One must understand all – else one must take all for granted.”
“Travel, which had once charmed him, seemed at length, unendurable, a business of color without substance, a phantom chase after his own dream’s shadow.”
“She was dazzling – alight; it was agony to comprehend her beauty in a glance.”
“But he says the biography of every woman begins with the first kiss that counts, and ends when her last child is laid in her arms.”
“She was almost pitifully overemphasized from head to foot.”
“She turned to him and smiled, and as he saw her smile every rag of anger and hurt vanity dropped from him – as though his very moods were but the outer ripples of her own, as though emotion rose no longer in his breast unless she saw fit to pull an omnipotent controlling thread.”
“So he built hope desperately and tenaciously out of the stuff of his dream, a hope flimsy enough, to be sure, a hope that was cracked and dissipated a dozen times a day, a hope mothered by mockery, but nevertheless, a hope that would be brawn and sinew to his self-respect.”
“I don’t care about the truth, I want some happiness.”
Never read Vonnegut before and did not know what to expect. Breakfast of Champions took me by surprise. It’s a mix of everything. The authors talks to himself, meets his characters, does what he wants with them. The characters are pretty crazy – what they do and think. I got the feeling they were not enough developed… I did not manage to get close to them. I read this book on the PRS and for the first time I did not know if it was for real. I thought that somehow, a mistake has been made and I got to read the wrong book (although Breakfast of Champions was written on every page). But who knows, there can always be a mistake with a pdf file. Since I did not have access to internet to check the plot and the rest I started thinking if it were possible that someone else wrote the whole thing, as an attempt to destabilize the ebook reading thingy (haha!). I could feel, however, that, behind the written words was something bigger. A sabotaging writer would not have managed this. It was the oeuvre of someone who knew how to write and who was capable to harness the whole story quite vigorously. It’s like in painting (haha!). A huge work (literally big) is less often copied. One has to be a good painter to be able to do this. And so, one has to be a good writer to come up with such a thing. It was the first time I felt I needed to touch the book to make sure it was for real. Am I going to buy paperbacks again? Of course I will! Even before, when I read books I borrowed from the library, wherever I saw them cheap I bought them – to have them accompanying me, to be able to give them to others, to look at them. Anyhow, will I read Vonnegut again? Perhaps.
Then, I read The Girl with a Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier. It’s a weak book. Perhaps it is so because the narrator is nothing more than a maid who can put her brain to work but does not have too much in it in the first place. A simple girl. This is the only way I could explain the lack of literary sinew. I think I had the chance to encounter one, maybe two metaphors throughout the 240 pages and a few similes. That cannot be enough. Not even by a huge wide margin. And to do this to Vermeer… well, I do not know. But they made a movie and a play out of it. Perhaps because one does not have to squeeze one’s brains very much to get to the bottom of it and it would roll out nicely while you digest your dinner.
Now I plow through Bukowski’s Factotum. Somehow the reverse image of the previous book. The narrator is a drunk who drags himself from one job to the other. Simple sentences. Plain words. But what a punch they pack! Am curious. I will read through (I do it quite fast) and I’d like to read some of his poetry.
But I need a really good book soon! Something big. Huge. To read slowly and to let it settle. Perhaps I should go back to the Russians again! Or Flaubert? Barnes? Suggestions?