Every great novel is a mystery novel. At their core they have some fundamental question that needs to be answered which drives the narrative. Whether it’s as simple as the disappearance of a girl or as complex as the disappearance of God, it is our need to know and the authors ability to ask that makes literature rise above dross. One way to study books is to try to determine what question the book is asking and how it is asking that question.
We spend our lives forgetting about air. We move through it and let it pass over us without a second thought. It is only in extremes that we can see air as an object; when it is filled and when it is absent.
I hate the heat. Especially when it’s humid. I sweat, I get dehydrated and I want to collapse into a ball and lay still until it’s gone. Heat waves, especially the northeaster moisture rich variety are the worst. The natural world feels like a prison trying to keep you inside and punish you for emerging.
But there is one great thing about heat waves. They make your recognize the air. It is unavoidable. You feel it. You remember that it has density, mass, volume. It is not just background, it takes up space and you exist in that space. It moves and flows and acts like a fluid traveling in parcels throughout the planet. When it is oppressively hot out your body may not be happy, but if you try, you can teach yourself to enjoy the novelty of recognizing what air really is. You can write about hot air, you can not write about pleasant air. So yes, it is terribly disgusting out, but it is also pretty amazing. Enjoy the rest of the heat wave and drink plenty of water. Minds don’t work without bodies. Not yet at least.
I’m just finishing up Pale Fire by Nabokov and it has been such a pleasure to read. It’s the second book I’ve read by him. The first, of course, being Lolita. It’s surprising how few people have read anything by him other than Lolita. I was a little on the fence about that book. It was wonderfully written, but it was hard engaging with the characters. Not to say they need to be likable, but I found the protagonist smug. I owe that book a second chance.
What I’ve picked up from Pale Fire is that Nabokov loved to write. Really, really loved it. You can tell from the text, the sentences, the story, that he gained great joy out of the process and experience. I think that translates directly to the reading experience. And it goes to the fundamental level of writing to language. As a polyglot, and (if not professional then serious amateur) linguist, he has fun with language itself. Pulling apart and concatenating words, moving between languages, obfuscating intentionally to distract you. It’s rare and it’s generous and it’s gorgeous.
It reminds me a lot of Anthony Burgess who was in fact a linguist. There are several other linguists out there that were also writers (most notably Tolkein). I think there’s something fascinating about reading a book by someone with such a deep fixation on language itself, but who also has the creative freedom to play with language. They can, at their best, engaging in writing at all levels from narrative to semiotic, and in doing so, weave a story with texture that is also enjoyable to read.
Anyway, Nabokov is great and I think he deserves more attention then a quick reading of Lolita. Also, if you want an amusing dissection of literature, check out his essay on Kafka’s metamorphosis, where he puts some serious thought into the entomological nature of the insect Gregor becomes.
We would like to know the story of how this photograph came to be.
via Errol Morris
I find great pleasure in seeing and experience things that make no sense, like this photo. Isn’t there something wonderful about seeing something incongruous and embracing the discomfort that follows. I think we lose something when we can easily find the answers to questions. Creativity grows out of not knowing answers.Which is not to say that we shouldn’t seek answers. Doing so is essential. It’s just to say we should allow ourselves the benefits of spending some time in the dark.
My favorite band name ever is Camper Van Bethoven. I don’t even know that much about the band, i just love the pun in the name. I keep a list of bands in one of my writing notebooks mostly to amuse myself.
Inspired by marisreview excellent literary band name list, here is my non-definitive list of celebrity double band names. In my heart all of these bands are real and play in dive bars in L.A.
North Dakota Fanning
Nicolas Cage Fight
Tim Gunn Control
Master Jason Bateman
The Remains of the Doris Day
Kevin Hart Attack
Billy Crystal Meth
Hey Michael Cera Cera
Naomi Watts Riot
In honor of the band Salvia Plath, I thought I’d take a moment to create a list of other potential band names. A public service for all those psych rock kids who are trying to get just the right vibe.
1. Anais Ninja
2. Gertrude Slime
3. Anne Sextin’
4. Edna St. Vincent Buffet
5. Joyce Carol Totes
6. Willa Catheter
7. Hickey Giovanni
8. Vagina Woolf
Please add to this.
Oddly, I keep a very similar list in my notebook. I will have to post that shortly.
Oh, and Willa Catheter is by far my favorite of the bunch. Then again, I always though “The Sound and the Fury” would be a great name for a place that caters to medical fetishists.