The job of retracing my reading over a month is a strange one, involving pulling out the books from the shelves where – hopefully – they’ve found their way, so as to make room for the current mess. Some of April’s reading I’ve already written about – Enrique Vila-Matas’s wonderful Dublinesque (the best book of his I’ve read so far, and certainly the one you would hope will broaden his English language readership) and Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière’s brassily erudite conversation piece This is not the End of the Book in a blog post here, to which I added a footnote concerning Teju Cole’s quietly, devastatingly manipulative Open City; and Chris Bachelder’s Abbott Awaits, the book all liberal-minded dads should carry slotted down the back of their Baby Bjorns, celebrated here.
Looking back at books over the chasm of a few weeks, rather than writing about them hot off the last page, means interrogating your reading self to see what remains of the experience: Gabriel Josipovici’s Only Joking, for instance, seems now an unforgivable diversion, a modernist skit on the caper movie that evaporates from the page, leaving no real sediment to speak of. It is a comedy, told largely in dialogue, about a series of variously wealthy, artistic, ingenious and criminal types all trying to do each other over for the sake of a Braque painting, or love, or neither. It entertains, but less than Charade, or Len Deighton in Only When I Larf mode.
The other thing that occurred to me over and over again as I read April’s books, is how wonderful it is to read books in tandem, or close enough to each other that it feels like it. The Vila-Matas and the Eco/Carrière, as I blogged, seemed in direct conversation with each other about the vitality of the physical book, but then there’s Teju Cole and WG Sebald, whose Rings of Saturn I am still re-reading, slow-slow-slowly. Continue reading
A rushed post, while the kids watch the Simpsons, and before I go upstairs to pack to fly to New York tomorrow. These last couple of days I’ve been trying to finish these two books, which arrived over the weekend, and which I’ve been reading in alternation, Dublinesque, the new novel by Enrique Vila-Matas, author of the wonderful Montano (here’s my Indy review, here’s Lars Iyer’s manifesto, which treats it at more length), and This is Not the End of the Book, a transcription of some characteristically wide-ranging and ebullient conversations between Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière.
Quite apart from the resonance of the Vila-Matas to my first trip to New York, of which more below, the two books play off each other through their shared theme of the death, or otherwise, of the book, or literature. In fact, they are almost as much in dialogue with each other as are UE and J-CC in TINTEOTB (an abbreviation which brings to mind both Tintin and Kinbote, the mad editor of Pale Fire).
The Eco/Carrière, as its title suggests, is a repudiation of the idea that the book is going to be killed by the digital revolution Continue reading