I went to Paris for my birthday (had to say it at least once). Found a wonderful hotel, with the sort of market just two minutes away you can only find in France. Combination of food on sale and items and atmosphere. Checked the book in Shakespeare and Co. Have a look, too – Uncorrected Proof, under A for Alba.
Walked the streets. Passed through, open-mouthed, the commercial alleys of the left bank. Should manic tourism do this to such a brilliant part of the city? Up and away through Montparnasse, by the Pantheon and back down by Joyce’s home (one of 13 while he was in Paris).* I just found the address without any idea where it was, wasn’t even thinking of him. Now I’m asking myself what are the chances of chancing on it in a city the size of Paris.
Not one for tourist plaques or gravestones but this is worth lingering by.
Really didn’t do all that much in two days – didn’t lunch or dinner at expensive restaurants, didn’t even tea or coffee in les deux magots. Just absorbed the sounds and sights from train to train. It’s enough to be in Paris.
* As the New York Times tells us, it was Joyce’s “prettiest place…Valery Larbaud’s apartment in a kind of mews at 73 Rue Cardinal Lemoine, on the Contrescarpe behind the Pantheon and with curving view of Paris.”
This is a taut moving beautifully realised post-apocalypse narrative. The beauty of it ameliorates the subject. It is a tale filled with almost unbearable tension, a tiny thin thread of hope throughout. Someone wrote that it is not particularly American, but I thought it very American, almost at times a touch too cowboyish in parts. But looking back now I see no flaws in this now. At first I thought: this is a searing tale right up until the end but McCarthy wandered off into Hollywood territory with an (almost) all’s wells that ends well roundup, even in a post-apocalyptic hell on earth, and this is some hell on earth.. At first I thought: has McCarthy snatched literary defeat from the jaws of victory? Did he dismantle 300 odd pages of narrative perfection ..Does he want to wipe the slate clean? I thought: maybe it’s his irony on the myth, ingrained it seems in the American psyche, the good guys and bad guys stuff ..but I realise, thinking again, I was wrong.
The Road is too spare and taut for happy endings. It does end better than it could have … It doesn’t matter that the hope comes from and to the boy..there is much left of the road still to go for him..
I put it alongside the bittersweet end to Nam Le’s The Boat…Both tales are about that thin thread of human hope in so much despair. Even if at times I find myself asking why does Cormac McCarthy gives us this cowboy stuff every now and again…..Maybe, I wanted to say: I would prefer a bet each way on human nature…….but looking again I realised it is the hope in that upside-down burned-out world throughtout, the tiny impossibly thin thread of it, so beautifully captured and centred in the boy, that tense last thread that truly resonated with me throughout the telling of the tale, and it still resonates with me long after I finished reading..
I have been trying to get a blogger of note to become a reviewer of note, that is, get to her to do a notice on my book. Or should I say write a note, postice me, no, well notice me in her..well I think you get what I mean by now.
The problem is or was she was taken up with blogging the Hirst thing as he was selling 111 million or whatever pounds worth of what, we don’t really know yet, in the middle of what we’re not sure yet is the second worst (or just the worst) finance mess of all time. I fear the financial bang down on economies and hell only knows what else, all that money stuff that holds us all up in the first and last place has much yet to say.
My own hazy memory of other memories tells me that 1929 was the first big stock market etc crash, but 1931-4 was the real pain that the ordinary bloke felt so keenly, pain the world felt all over. Ditto for 1987, which became 1991-3, when the real ordinary mess that was house values falling down around people’s ears really hit home.
I remember 1987 very well. I was in Sydney and was about to try to sell my apartment, and, a few days before the crash, went to a property auction in the suburb of Bondi Beach to see what I could possibly do, auction or straight sell. That auction day was a scene from Fellini. It was dizzying mad, like nothing I had seen, people shouting over each other to buy huts and hovels for double and treble their one day prior worth. Perhaps I exaggerate the doubling and trebling but that was what it felt like being packed into that auction house room.
At that time the king of all things moneyed down under, particularly the market gambling sort, was a one Robert Holmes a’ Court, greenmailer and white knighter extraordinaire, who became Oz’s first billionaire. He was richest but still (unofficially) vying for the title of most wealthy man in Oz, fighting with two redoubtable dark nights and media souls, Rupert Mudoch and Kerry Packer, for the privilege, probably, I guess, because he came from the West not the East. But all up before the 1987 crash Holmes a’ Court was worth 2 billion dollars, a tidy sum even today, and from reports of Hirst’s worth, enough to buy him out twice over.
And Robert Holmes a’ Court – like that other Robert from Oz, Robert Hughes, the bloke that Hirst doesn’t too much like apparently – was a lover, no, a connoisseur of Art. I say Art with a capital, because Robert Holmes a’ Court was into ART in a big way. A horse lover, a stocks gambler, he also bought into the big and small art stables. He bought and supported big and small names. And one of his stable of small names was a one Paula, an artist I knew in passing. Paula created holograms, a pioneer of minor reputation in a part of the world that by geography alone diminishes the adjective minor to very very small in the world of ART – her end of it, at least. She told me about her brush with Robert.
Those who know what happened in 1987 will remember the face of Robert Holmes a’ Court standing at the glass wall of an upper floor overlooking the Sydney Stock Exchange that day his fortunes went a little too far south for his liver to digest. His face was a newsprint picture, financial grief of power disappearing faster through him than a bad curry. Post crash, when the bits stopped falling, when the exchange chit dust cleared (long weeks on after much gnashing of teeth, wringing of hands, and of course, horse trading), he was worth 600 million, not too bad either even for a mogul today. He devoted himself to other matters thereafter, his horse stud, his art and perhaps some charity if I remember well.
Paula told me how he arranged to see the work she had been doing under his patronage some days after his catastrophic crash – he was dead in three years, at 53. She described a distracted figure walking into her studio and standing trying to get his head around what she was doing, trying to fathomize what she was telling him (and Paula could tell you at twenty fathoms). The world of finance had done his head in. Getting his mind in a grip with tiny green hologrammed figures was beyond him. Robert stared at one of her projections stuck out in thin air. ‘But it’s so small,’ he said and left without another word. And that was it for Bob and ‘er, the last Robert H. a’ C. dollar she ever saw.
Now no one could say that Hirst’s work is tiny in the way that Paula’s experiments were back then. And what with that artistic industry of so many hands, his tanking of animals in preservative somehow brings Holmes a’ Court’s newsprinted face to mind, this apparition of a human staring at this watery cow, and turning to an assembly of art gamblers I see him trying to say something. Only I can’t hear him against all the clamour of bidding. Was it, what’s next Damien, the white elephant? No, that’s what I would say. Was it something about it all being so small? No, that cash cow aint tiny. I’m still looking, trying to read his lips as they disappear into the thin air of a reconstruction of a long-lost auction room – moments, ethereal elements caught up in a hologrammed memory – along with a good part of the world’s financial infrastructure, coming soon to a leaky tank near you, not to mention that review of my book, Bob H. a’ C ., his horses and Paula, my apartment, the diamond encrusted prices a Russian miniature oligarch saw fit to pay for a Hirst tanked up thing – all those mad, dizzying seconds.
With tongue in cheek humor and a sly poke at genre fiction, literary untouchables and the publishing industry this book seems tailor made for smart praise. Even though I wasn’t able to pick out all the literary styles interwoven playfully within the book — and frankly at a certain point I was so into the story it didn’t matter — when I was able to pick up on an author or style it just added to the fun. Very impressed with the versatility of the prose and the ability to coopt all these writers and yet still make it all work within the story being told, a story that holds its own as a larky genre thriller with literary overtones and a lot of humor too. In the end all came off as clever parody. Especially enjoyed the “genre thriller” kick of the kidnapping and rescue of Ellen mirroring the story within the story within the story. Given the levels of literary byplay and the scope and ambition of the prose styles, the story is amazingly accessible. It even is a bit of a high concept as well — literary high concept (or highwire act) in which, while flawlessly speaking in all these different voices the book still tells a thoroughly enjoyable pulp story about stolen manuscripts and deferred vengeance in the volatile, cutthroat world of publishing. Making publishing a life and death enterprise is a nice conceit that allows all the tropes of detective and spy fiction to come into play and gives it much of its kicky fun. Bravo!
– Paul Duran, LA director and writer (Flesh Suitcase and The Dogwalker)
I found your book very refreshing..very readable but also so postmodern and referential. I delighted in your sources.
Richard Olafson, Editor, Pacific Rim Review, San Francisco
Quite an extraordinary work. Initially the surreal plot threw me then I realized that the plot, the use of various styles and forms, present continuous, film scripts and cooking instructions etc, were creating a particular structure.Eventually, I concluded that it was some sort of a coded book, either intentionally or as some kind of experiment, which I failed to appreciate.Like most coded works, the book consists of two novels seamlessly interwoven.In this case the characters from at least one are able to inhabit the other.This is clear when you separate the two novels by the plot and other code markers.The two novels are quite different, and even seem to deal with different subjects and are sometimes contradictory. I have tried this coded thing but I used simple invisible multi-layering as you do when encoding engineering drawings.This form of yours is way beyond that.This is a very brave new world you have stepped into, or invented, a new realm.
Eric Willmot, author of Pemulwuy and Below The Line
It reads like a splendidly maintained & protracted metafictional elaboration of the climactic shoot-out in the fun-fair corridor of mirrors at the end of Orson Welles’s ‘Lady from Shanghai’. I was glad to see refs. to ‘King of Comedy’, surely one of the last century’s vy best films…
Tom Gibbons, painter, writer (Rooms in the Darwin Hotel) and academic
From the UK
Uncorrected Proof by the wonderfully-named Louisiana Alba… I’d read it. If I were reading anything.
Brought him up because I wondered if his position in the literary scheme wasn’t drifting into a long slow decline. No, not so, it seems, from the reaction. Someone put him down as having two of the best final lines ever written, but then his final sentence in Ulysses goes on forever – 33 pages in Penguin Twentieth Century Classic edition (Bodley Head – if not boggle yr head).
Joyce is one of those impossibles, except the other impossibles like Musil you can learn to forget pretty quick. Joyce, he lingers and lingers and makes you re-read him and then you frown and then you pick him up again and frown some more and then you find gems, but boy some ordinary stuff, duds as well. The point is though, he recreated the novel, gave us a key out the Victorian literary prison – literally.
Does he live on in writing today? And if not, who are the writers that make the difference, guide our consciousness these days? Marquez? Borges? Pynchon? (not for me). McCarthy? Stephen King (is he anyone’s favourite?). How many people still read 20th century writers today for inspiration? Anyone want to add to this list? (in no particular order).
Joyce – for destroying the concept of realistic/willing suspension of disbelief narrative. Kakfa – for bringing the waking dream to the fore. Faulkner – for As I Lay Dying. Hemingway for being himself and those short stories, Gertrude Stein – for the value of repetition, Andy Warhol – for that diary, Marquez – for Love in the Time of Cholera, his prose-poetry and story capacities really melded in this one, J.D. Salinger – for page one filled with attitude in The Catcher in the Rye, Jack Kerouac – for describing the road, Brett Easton Ellis for showing us how alive American sociopathology and sadism is in the ‘well bred’ (well-breaded) American soul, James Kelman for that language and wonderful portrait in How Late it was, How Late, Dylan for Like a Rolling Stone, Henry Miller for Tropic of Cancer, Samuel Beckett for being there, Woody Allen for all his films onward from Annie Hall, Jorge Amado, The Animals, W.H. Auden, Warren Beatty, Saul Bellow, Chuck Berry, Robert Bloch, Lawrence Block, Jorge Luis Borges, for the best short writing of the 20th century, Hermann Broch, Joseph Brodsky, Charles Bukowski – made east LA come so alive, Anthony Burgess, John Burnside for crossing Commercial Street (Road) in the rain, Albert Camus, Ethan Canin – the Accountant, Raymond Carver for all his stories, Raymond Chandler, Leonard Cohen, Larry Cohen, Julio Cortazar, Billy Crystal, e.e. Cummings, Michael Cunningham, Len Deighton, Don DeLillo, T.S. Eliot – sometimes, James Ellroy, John Fante, William Faulkner, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ian Fleming, Safran Foer, Richard Ford, Michel Foucault, Jonathan Franzen, William Gibson, Nadine Gordimer, Graham Greene, Dashiell Hammett, Jimi Hendrix, Homer (hey, you can’t forget him), Dante for just those opening lines in Inferno , Elfriede Jelinek, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Thom Jones, Charlie Kaufman, John F. Kennedy, Milan Kundera, Philip Larkin, John Le Carré for Leamas at Checkpoint Charlie, John Lennon, Elmore Leonard for everything he wrote 1980 to 1990, Kenneth Lonergan, Federico Garcia Lorca, Norman Mailer for The Executioner’s Song, David Mamet, John Marks for exposing the undercover boys, Paul McCartney, Jay McInerney, Robert McKee, Czeslaw Milosz, Eugenio Montale, Robert Musil for showing us that a book and a brick can be the same thing, Vladimir Nabokov, Pablo Neruda, Stewart O’Nan for Speed Queen, Harold Pinter, Luigi Pirandello, Marcel Proust, The Rolling Stones, Philip Roth, Arundhati Roy, José Saramago, for a truly favourite book of all time for me – The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, Sam Shepard, Wislawa Szymborska, Quentin Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Peter Tolan (along with Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro and Harold Ramis for some of the best dialogue in a film), Sue Townsend, Gore Vidal, Derek Walcott – beautiful narrative poetry, Patrick White for showing me the spirit, William Butler Yeats for opening up classical style modern poetry for me and Paul D. Zimmerman for that gem and most underrated screenplay, King of Comedy.
I caught an online Oprah Winfrey interview with Cormac McCarthy. Having only read No Country For Old Men I was and still am a little surprised by all the fawning atttention, but then traced his writing history and found Suttree (1979) .. “the novel’s evocation of Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, is often palpable”. How many writers did Joyce influence? I have lost count of the readers who say they cannot read Joyce, do not like him, yet on literary writers of the 20th century alone Joyce’s influence is always there somehow in some way in their work. Until I hear something that dismantles my view, I think I can say quite confidently that Joyce must be the most influential writer on writers to ever have been so disliked by readers.
Was swimming 1500 metres daily at a fair clip and got a kick in the left chest. Thinking my heart was the reason I had a check and a blood test done. All clear on all fronts. Problem – chest wall strain from guess what? Swimming 1500 metres daily at a fair clip. Yesterday after getting the news I was back in the pool doing 1500 metres at a fair clip. I am over it and myself but my fears that I may now have permanent PISST has created more anxiety that it will return only making me go faster. Christ now what? Another injury and PISST all over again? Any sports experts out there who can help me reli(e)ve the PISST? (Post Injury Swimming Syndrome Trauma)