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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sebastian Knight and The Year of Magical Thinking

I finished "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight." Between yesterday and today I read over 180 pages or over 2/3 of the book. The story continues from where I left off: the narrator seeks to put together the last year of his brother's life in order to compose a biography. He finds out very little but in the course of the search he is confronted by the fact that his brother might have had an affair during one short summer stay at a hotel in France. The narrator seeks for this woman to be able to better comprehend his brother's last year. The novel is well-constructed, with animated and very alive characters (even the minor ones). The language is all Nabokov, pure genius.

Why am I reading so fast? I finished Sebastian Knight this morning (I had two chapters to go) and immediately started Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking." Today was all-school testing so all I had to do was sit there administering the tests. I read voraciously all morning while the students slaved over the test. I assume it was about two and a half hours but I am presently on page 101. Why did it go so fast? I have never been a fast reader, but I think only when I am completely lost in a book can I achieve so much in a single seating. Didion's book is a non-fiction account about how, while her daughter is in the hospital seriously ill, her husband faints during dinner and dies of a massive heart attack. Didion captures well the events, surprisingly so for someone to catch so much detail in such a terrible event. She details her relationship with her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, over the forty years of marriage and collaborating together. It is needless to say a very painful book, but one filled with fine passages and intense emotion. I found an awkward sentence: "It was just an ordinary beautiful September day," people still say when asked to describe the morning in New York when American Airlines 11 and United Airlines 175 got flown into the World Trade Center. I don't know but it seems strange to me... "got flown"... of course it is indeed what happened.

About her writing process, she writes:

As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs, a technique for withholding whatever it was I thought or believed behind an increasingly impenetrable polish.

This is comparable to what Nabokov's narrator states about the writing process, no? I love it when writers impregnate their work with their working habits and techniques. I don't know how long it is going to take me to finish this book but I might take a break tonight (although I know I can't). This is how I love to read... forgetting everything in the daily ordinariness of my life and immersing myself into someone else's world. Escapism?... touche!

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At 1:11 PM, Blogger Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

Year of Magical Thinking might end up as the May pick for Our Coffee Rings and if it does, feel free to join in with comments!

At 3:22 AM, Blogger Susan Abraham said...

Enjoyed this post tremendously.
You're right at the end.
Everything is so solitary and individualistic isn't it...when it comes to serious reading and writing. :-)


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