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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

William Gass, Martin Amis' "Dead Babies" & Murakami's "After Dark"

I haven't posted for a while due to work obligations. I have continued reading voraciously, though. So Gass continued to the very end being the tough writer that he is. He does not relent when it comes to arguing and exposing philosophical truths galore. In the second half of the book, he offers even more academic high discourse. While I may be critical of others doing the same, Gass wins the reader over by simply approaching his topic lineally; that is to say, he offers a great amount of background information before he takes off on a tangent. His writing, as I have said before, it's not for the faint of heart. There are quite a few interesting examples of what Gass considers the "simple" in literature. He reviews the great "simplists"--Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. There's a great difference, states Gass, between the "simplist" and the incomprehensible. Stein plays right along the border of this distinction with "Melanctha," a story in which she successfully employs the vernacular but totally loses the central coherence of the story. Hemingway fairs the same criticism. The last few essays of "Finding a Form" were difficult to read, but I pressed on and enjoyed even the tough ones.

I had promised that I was going to tackle "After Dark" by Haruki Murakami next, but I took a detour and read Martin Amis' "Dead Babies" instead. The story takes place in the span of one weekend at a English country estate called the Appleseed Rectory. There are a series of characters divided into three groups: the Appleseeders, the Americans, and "others." The main characters include an intellectual named Quentin and his wife Celia; Andy Adorno, a reckless vagabond who is sort of a gypsy; Giles, a hopeless drunk who dreams of losing all of his teeth; Keith, a midget who is frustrated with life overall; Diana, partner to Andy Adorno. The Americans (Marvell, Skip, and Roxanne) are a threesome (in all the sense of the word) who come as an invitation by Quentin. Marvell is an illegal drug impresario and specialist. The jest is that Marvell--during the course of the weekend--is to give drugs to all the other characters as an experiment/performance thus pushing everything to its limits.

The structure of the novel is "reader friendly." Some of the chapters begin with a flashback and biographical notations on the main characters. This is useful because the reader has a point of reference for many of the strange decisions the characters make during the course of the novel. Martin Amis attempts at a style caught between the dream-like and the explicit with great success. Where the novel goes amiss (no pun intended) is Martin Amis' experimentation with stream of consciousness; he interjects these in the most strange places and they don't seem to follow anything dealing with the plot. Overall, the experiment doesn't offer anything to the plot. There are very funny passages dying to be interpreted from a Freudian point of view. Giles' constant dream of losing all of his teeth (which is the scene that begins the novel) is one of the many passages. There's a lot of expectation driven by the characters ambitions (sexual and otherwise) during the course of the weekend. The end is a massive discombobulation which ends the novel quite well.

I am in the first few pages of "After Dark" and I can already tell it is Murakami at his best. Murakami really excels writing about urban settings. He really gives it life and at the same time the mystery of every corner of the city comes across clearly and distinct.

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At 4:48 PM, Blogger bhadd said...

Received Wind-Up Bird Chronicle's nasty good vibes. Hate that Haruki ended the book though like there was six hundred pages left, was the book cut short.

The Hood Company

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Imani said...

Am I the only one who never quite understands the language Hood Company employees speak?

Anyway I'm glad you're liking After Dark so far. I was a bit worried about it, for some unknown reason.


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