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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Whirlwind that was Harry Mathews

Harry Mathews' "Twenty Lines a Day" was supposed to be a fast-read, but it proved none of it was purposefully written to be a quick-fix. An established writer sets out to write (under the dictum of Stendhal) twenty lines a day. While most of them revealed a certain amount of connection with the other (especially when they were sequential), many of them were just random writings, the author switching between first and third person at will. They are snippets of brilliance--I take nothing away from Mathews as a genius, but I think I wasn't ready to read this book and only made it worst by persevering through it. Remember, I was still under the spell of Billy Collins when I picked up Mathews' book.

I think I remember the author of "The Corrections" (Jonathan Frazen) saying that he was inspired by Harry Mathews' "The Conversions." I didn't make the connection until much later, even if the connection actually exist. I think the book was Jonathan Frazen's collections of essays "How to Be Alone." I suddenly thought of this while driving back from the library last night, and swore to myself that I will look up the quote immediately after getting home, which of course I didn't do. So here I am now making a wild guess as to whether or not Frazen made that references in one of his essays. Will be reporting back on this later.

Writing continues but perhaps a bit slower than expected. This might be a super stretch, but I might put off the publication until August or September. I have failed to mention here that I will be taking a couple of trips this semester. Late March will find me in Barcelona, settling a group of students who will be studying there for a month or so. April 17 will find me in China for a ten day educational tour, including me teaching a class at a school in Changchung (Northern China). I will be sure to catch up with my reading during both flights, and might even re-work some issues of plot during my 16 hour flight to China. We'll have to see what happens. I never pictured myself the academic ambassador. Talk about a whirlwind.

ALERT: I mistakenly took Jonathan Frazen's reference to Mathews' "The Conversions." Frazen referred to William Gaddis' "The Recognitions." How in God's name did I take one for the other is beyond me. I am glad I checked rather than letting this be the way I wrote it.

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