Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Modiano, Knausgaard, Aciman and Marías

Aciman, Knausgaard, Modiano---at the turn of the 20th Century these writers mark the turn of the novel as a work of fiction into a blended work of remembered consciousness, autobiography seguing into fiction and fiction back into remembered past.  Much as the author of Historical Consciousness, John Lukacs, described and predicted.  Proust perhaps first at the start of the century.  What about Javier Marías?  His novels do not have quite the same attitude or voice as these other three writers.  If he draws on his own life stories, he plays these cards much closer to his chest than the three others.  Marias needs to use a fictive design as an armature.  See his most recent work, Thus Bad Begins.  Hamlet figures all through the work even though Marías describes clearly Madrid in the ‘80s as he remembers it and other features of the experience of living through the long, slow end of the Franco era.  A major tale of abusive behavior also provides a main element of the novel, a doctor who raped patients and wives of patients and who succeeded in keeping this behavior safe behind a public image of charity and honor.  And yet for all of that, the novel does not have that personal feel of intimate, remembered consciousness that the works of Knausgaard, Modiano and Aciman have.  They must tell their stories---there is a sense of their personal need to find who they were and are by exploring what happened to them, what all they happened to do over the years they look back upon.  Marías in contrast is a consummate borrower and cobbler of bits and pieces of stories he has heard, he knows or believes to be true in one way or another.  He loves to weave them into intricate tapestries of layered consciousness, imitated consciousness, for his pleasure and the pleasure of the reader. A silversmith in Toledo, inlaying threads of gold and silver into the metal of the sword.  Damascene work.  But for Modiano and Aciman and Knausgaard the appeal of damascene intricacy is hardly present at all.  They may scramble timeline and thematic links but they cannot help it, this is the way the moments came back to them, the ways they grabbed them as much as they could, from possible escape.  A slight tinge of the desperation of getting into the right words the imagined and remembered way things need to be caught if they are to be caught at all. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Aciman on Voice

“Voice is not just telling a story, it is the attitude in the story that has to exist in every single sentence, because it is the attitude that keeps the reader going.”   2012 interview on daysofyore

Monday, January 23, 2017

André Aciman

Main event otherwise is Aciman has arrived.  Reading his book Enigma Variations.  Had I vaguely heard of his Harvard Square or some other title?  How did I decide to look into his book?  He’s been famous for about ten years.  Has the 5ooo limit friends on facebook.  etc.  but I’m glad I am reading this book and will read all the others.  I think.  Love his writing and the way he focuses on interior flow of consciousness, thought and feeling. 

email from the kindle iphone to myself---

Hi - I'm reading "Enigma Variations: A Novel" by André Aciman and wanted to share this quote with you.

"You and I don’t love the way others do—we run on empty.” She touched my face, my forehead. “I could tell you to be happy that you have him, but it won’t help. I could tell you to be happy we’ve got two days, but that won’t help either. You’re alone, as I’m alone, and the cruelest thing is that finding each other and saying let us be alone together won’t solve a thing.””  no page number though  Loc 3201  so weird

8:40pm  Finished Enigma Variations.  Final section, Abingdon Square, felt like a let-down.  Felt forced and unnecessary. 

quotes  “I’d grown to love serving two masters.”  “and the unspoken tinge of indecency in every avowal--that thrilled and stirred me . . . .”  “I was like an ellipse, with two competing foci but no center.”  "We were neither friends, nor strangers, nor lovers, just wavering, as I wavered, as I wished to think she wavered, each grateful for the other’s silence as we watched the evening drift into night on this tiny park that was neither on Hudson, nor on Bleecker, nor on Eighth Avenue, but a tangent to all three, as we ourselves were, perhaps, nothing more than tangents in each other’s life. In a blizzard, we’d be the first to go, we’d have nowhere to go. Ours, I began to fear, was a script without parts.”

still I will keep reading in the other books.  do feel some duty to finish the others I’d started last fall. 

Thurs morning 20th  Aciman has me again after all.  Call Me By Your Name.  The narrator talks of envy and similitude and the hunger for acceptance, recognition.  The eternal teenager in us, Aciman seems to have a talent for recapturing that over and over.  Tempted to troll through Goodreads to see what others say about the books.  Later perhaps.  Enough still to have found them.  Being Jewish is a topic and for me it satisfies enough for curiosity and I can easily replace it for being Catholic, strangely enough. 

Aciman’s writing reminds me of reading Brideshead Revisited, listening to Leonard Cohen, or, even, reading Pessoa?  No, Pessoa feels different even if akin. 

Hadn’t realized until looking at Goodreads that Enigma Variations is listed as being published this year, 2017.  Call Me  ten years earlier, 2007. 

“They had always said I got too easily attached to people.” 60
“Here was someone who lacked for nothing.  I couldn’t understand this feeling.  I envied him.” 26

“How could anyone intuit the manner of someone’s thinking unless he himself was already familiar with this same mode of thinking?”  22

Being and having “in  the twisted skein of desire” are one and the same thing. 68

A minute of grace.  Between always and never.  Celan.  70

Finishing Aciman more slowly to make it last.  Plans to declare him on twitter the greatest INFP writer ever, Enneagram 4, and bisexuality realist. 

Monday  23 Jan 

Aciman’s novel incredibly beautiful.  And perfect.  Having the father give his knowing blessing to the relationship part of that rather amazing perfection.  Having it be situated perfectly on the Mediterranean also.  Is it in fact too perfect?  Could that be so?  No, it is a wonder.  Like a Keats ode.  Now it is a movie at Sundance, review posted just 8 hours ago.  ! 

Peter Debruge’s review for Variety is exceptionally well done and has this paragraph about the father: “No matter how intellectually progressive the Perlman family is, no father has ever said something so open-minded and eloquent to his son, and yet, the film offers this conversation as a gift to audiences who might have desperately needed to hear it in their own lives. Such liberties are permissible given the story’s 1983 setting, which suggests that this isn’t a literal rendering of Elio’s experience, but a bittersweet embellishment of his memory. These were the days that shaped him, marked by the intense tastes, textures, and odors which Guadagnino so effectively amplifies for our benefit.”

Sounds like the movie is successful. 

The reviewer of the book for the Times, D’Erasmo, quotes this passage from Aciman on nostalgia:  “In his essay “Pensione Eolo,” Aciman writes, “Ultimately, the real site of nostalgia is not the place that was lost or the place that was never quite had in the first place; it is the text that must record that loss.” In other words, Elio and Oliver might give each other up, but the book that conjures them doesn’t give up either one. In fact, it brings them back together, reunites them, for a glorious endless summer. In the book, the river can be revisited. The closing words echo the title: a phrase simultaneously of elegy and of invitation.”

I like the line from the Post---In The Washington Post, Charles Kaiser said, "If you have ever been the willing victim of obsessive love--a force greater than yourself that pulls you inextricably toward the object of your desire--you will recognize every nuance of André Aciman's superb new novel, 'Call Me by Your Name.’”  Obsessive is a better frame than “gay” and the wikipedia article where I found this uses “bisexual” somewhere in it.  At least it shows up on search under that term but of course the main press hails the movie and book as a gay story.  Aciman makes clear that it is not so easily boxed. 

Message from student gave me line from Beckett---“It is suicide to be abroad”, grumbles Mrs Rooney in Samuel Beckett’s All That Fall, “but what is it to be at home . . . what is it to be at home? A lingering dissolution.”

passages from “Call Me” to bring up the subtexts I focused on.

Marzia says this so am in doubt as to whether to post it:  “People who read are hiders.  They hide who they are.  People who hide don’t always like who they are.” 115  

Could be just an inside joke between writer and reader.  One of the oldest complaints about reading. 

“I envied him.”  the author of If Love.  113

I like how often envy is mentioned.  More than any other book in recent memory. 

“the inflections of desire . . . could only be conveyed in play.” 186

“I want you as intermezzo . . . as both, or as in between.”  196

Here is Aciman’s genius, and few reviewers see it clearly enough.  The obsessiveness of the experience serves this desire for the transit into the middle of the bridge.  The hovering in the middle, that is the experience beyond every other. 

“I had never envied him the past, nor felt threatened by it.  . . . I didn’t envy life before me, nor did I ache to travel back to the time when he had been my age.”   201

“Rehearse the pain to dull the pain.  Homeopathically.” 210

Because he was himself, he was myself.  Montaigne  “he’s more myself than I am.”  Bronte  223

“No reader of Montaigne can forget that stunning moment when, after probing why he loved his deceased friend Etienne de La Boétie so much, the author of the essays, this master-stylist of baroque prose, breaks down and scrawls out one of the most beautiful sentences penned in French: “You ask me why I loved him,” Montaigne says. “I don’t know. All I can say is parce que c’était lui, parce que c’était moi.” Because it was he, because it was I. Proust too knows how to “  PEN America 2007

Father says to Elio “You had a beautiful friendship.  Maybe more than a friendship.  And I envy you.” . . . . “But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything--what a waste!”  224

“‘The truth is I’m not sure I can feel nothing.  And if I am to meet your family, I would prefer not to feel anything.”  235

“God, the way they envied us from across the dinner table that first night in Rome,” 239

“And we’ll want to call it envy, because to call it regret would break our hearts.”  239

“it would finally dawn on us both that he was more me that I had ever been myself, because when he became me and I became him in bed so many years ago, he was and would forever remain, long after every forked road in life had done its work, my brother, my friend, my father, my son, my husband, my lover, myself.” 243

Jeff P Jones on The Millions gets everything right about Enigma Variations.  Especially the dominance of feeling.

“But this section also reveals something at the heart of Paul’s character: he’s happiest in the throes of yearning after new love because he knows that acquisition never leads to contentment. Obsessing over his feelings for Manfred, Paul thinks, “The circuit is always the same: from attraction to tenderness to obsessive longing, and then to surrender, desuetude, apathy, fatigue, and finally scorn.” Familiarity is the come-down; Paul’s drug is feeling itself, the more intense the better.”

Except feeling is not the “drug.”  It is the way of being, the primary process of living itself. 

Jones adds “Love, infatuation, desire — these most powerful of feelings, this novel says — reduce and enlarge us in ways that are wonderfully juvenescent, at once simplifying and magnifying the world.”

Jones also gets exactly the “P” nature of the way Aciman describes desire.  “P” as in INFP.  “Paul’s focus isn’t on the repercussions from leaving an old lover as much as it is on savoring the possibilities of new love.

“Intriguingly, as we witness Paul repeatedly rearrange his life around a new magnetic north, it becomes clear that his bisexuality abets his serial monogamy. “I’d grown to love serving two masters,” he thinks, “perhaps so as never truly to answer to either one.” Yet Paul’s state isn’t a dilemma in search of an answer. We go with him the way we go with Anton Chekhov’s characters, enmeshed in the humanness of the drama. When Chloe, an on-again, off-again lover since college, confronts Paul, asking about his new lover, “Did you tell her you’ll always want something else and something more?”, we see it for the tender inquiry it is.”