East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Recommended fiction

(Real reviews are linked in the titles.)

Mary Gaitskill, Veronica: Gaitskill has the most challenging similes in the business -- "He moves like he's being yelled at by invisible people whom he hates but whom he basically agrees with." This time they're evoked by Alison, used to be a model, now fortysomething with Hep C and embittered; she has a gift for rendering faces in figurative language (she describes her own visage as "broken, with age and pain coming through the cracks"). She remembers her late, coarse, unlikeable pseudofriend Veronica with less cynicism than she does her past Parisian and New York glamour tours. Many of those who pass through her life are beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside; what she sees in Veronica is a continued failure to be beautiful, which in herself becomes a refusal. Ugly world, beautiful prose, old trick.

Rachel Ingalls, Times Like These
: Ingalls's war stories (try the short-short "Fertility") begin in generic settings, which may or may not crystallise into a particular time and place. But her characters aren't everymen: what they have in common is that the actions they take, and those they should take, depend on the slowly revealed specifics of their situations. Sometimes the one you hurt the most isn't the one you're trying to help. Sometimes a knuckle rubbing against a hand doesn't mean it's all over. Sometimes it's OK to call your mother-in-law a bitch, especially if your son calls you a whore. Sometimes you can forget the past and future and just enjoy days like today.

Frédéric Beigbeder,
Windows on the World (tr. Frank Lynne): At 9:30 in New York on a day when the the Twin Towers didn't fall: "It's not the same anymore; we no longer worship hard cash, people are sick and tired of it but they don't know any other way of living, so they get a neck rub, stretch out on couches, cheat on their wives with their mistresses and their mistresses with guys; they search for love, buy vitamin tablets, step on the gas, honk their horns--yeah, that's the universal sign of despair--they honk their horns so people will know they exist." It's apparent this sentence has some terrible parts and some terrific ones, though it may take a while to sort out which are which. Beigbeder isn't a first-rate thinker: even those of his ideas about 9/11 you haven't seen before, you feel you should have. But he can write some, and the quantity of ideas he presents counts for something.

Skimmed: In Guo Xiaolu's Village of Stone, the heroine is raised in the country, where she suffer ostentatiously; she moves to the city, where she suffers frugally. Seems pretty good if you like that sort of thing.


Tze Ming quotes some smart-assed "actual Chinese reader".


Excellent excellent Hoberman piece on The New World's cult. Thanks, Village Voice Media!


Oh, there's an Art Brut show on the Monday as well. Unfortunately B&S/Nu Pornos is sold out. Well, at least now I'm free to see Rithy Panh's latest semidoc.


I guess I should read Drew Gardner's book.


If you like counterfactual computation, here's a potential application.


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