Monday, February 16, 2015

Inherent Vice

This space has been quiet for a while.  Perhaps too long.  Another trip to St. Louis squeezed in there somewhere.  And off to sweet Alameda next week for a hearing.  Motion due tomorrow.  I measure my days in coffee spoons.

At a seminar last week Bryan Garner suggested we write more letters.  Sound advice.  And what he said is also true - if you can write a good letter, you can write anything.

I got out Sgt. Pepper's tonight for no particular reason (other than I tried to sing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" earlier and couldn't remember the words)..  And it's amazing how much comes back.  Those afternoons as a kid in front of the speakers, tucked behind the La-Z-Boy in the living room.  Sifting the stacks of my dad's vinyl.  Now that same copy in my hand here.  On a snowy DC night...

So I finished Inherent Vice the other day.  And it was much better than the film (which I also liked).  My first Pynchon and full of these levels of paranoia.  It's easy to disappear down the rabbit holes - the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, ARPAnet, the Golden Fang.   Nothing is real, as the Beatles might say.  Or rather, it all is - and you soak in what you can.  As though by pushing the hyperbole to the edge he arrives at something you don't get to by playing it safe.  That said, it wasn't particularly easy to read.  Or follow..  but c'est la vie say the old folks.

Now reading Rivka Galchen's story collection and I stumbled across this story ("The Entire Northern Side Was Covered With Fire") on the X2 this morning.  I remember reading it in the New Yorker back in that 20 under 40 issue in 2010 - and loving it.  But somehow it struck me today.  Fresh.  There's a richness, a tautness, to every word - and she manages to pull it all off without it seeming writerly:
“Men like me,” I said, hand on the belly that housed a being of unknown gender. “They really do. Just yesterday a man stopped me on the sidewalk to ask me if I was Italian.” 
“Who was talking about not liking you? You’re just in pain.” 
“Maybe I’m not in pain.” 
“I’d put my money on pain. It’s the Kantian sublime, what you’re experiencing. There’s your life, and then you get a glimpse of the vastness of the unknown all around that little itty-bitty island of the known.” 
A silence ate at the air in the room. Sublime. I thought of it as a flavor. Maybe related to Key lime. I didn’t know what the Kantian sublime was.
And yeah.  When I was in London last summer I asked for Galchen's (then-new) short story collection at W.H. Smith and the clerk was flummoxed.  I referenced her novel (the great, but somewhat surreal, Atmospheric Disturbances) and she told me, after searching the computer, that they had once had one copy - but they'd returned it unsold.

It goes to show you never can tell.

Dylan in Baltimore in April.  And there should be so much more, not of orange, of words..   More later.  Including thoughts on Wild and NW and Rhiannon Giddens and Shadows in the Night.  And so much more.

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