Thursday, December 16, 2004

Pre-Friday Hi-Jinx

Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Feel free to talk about anything you like (CAAF, this means you). And perhaps later I'll reveal my Borges Theory.


Blogger Rake said...

OK, screw it:

This isn't a theory so much as it is a question. And the question is this: Did anyone else think about Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote while reading this week's passage?

Here's the part that got me thinking:

[Basil Valentine and Wyatt are talking forgery and calumny]

--And so when you're working, it's your own work, Basil Valentine said. And when you attach the signature?

--Leave him alone, God damn it Valentine, he...

--Yes, when I attach the signature, [Wyatt] said dropping his head again, --that changes everything, when I attach the signature and...lose it.

--Then corruption enters, is that it, my dear fellow?

(Pg. 251)

And from Borges:

Those who have insinuated that Menard dedicated his life to writing a contemporary Quixote calumniate his illustrious memory.

He did not want to compose another Quixote --which is easy-- but the Quixote itself . Needless to say, he never contemplated a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it. His admirable intention was to produce a few pages which would coincide--word for word and line for line--with those of Miguel de Cervantes.
[Note the word "calumniate"--and more:]

The first method he conceived was relatively simple. Know Spanish well, recover the Catholic faith, fight against the Moors or the Turk, forget the history of Europe between the years 1602 and 1918, be Miguel de Cervantes. Pierre Menard studied this procedure (I know he attained a fairly accurate command of seventeenth-century Spanish) but discarded it as too easy. Rather as impossible! my reader will say. Granted, but the undertaking was impossible from the very beginning and of all the impossible ways of carrying it out, this was the least interesting. To be, in the twentieth century, a popular novelist of the seventeenth seemed to him a diminution. To be, in some way, Cervantes and reach the Quixote seemed less arduous to him--and, consequently, less interesting--than to go on being Pierre Menard and reach the Quixote through the experiences of Pierre Menard. (This conviction, we might say in passing, made him omit the autobiographical prologue to the second part of Don Quixote . To include that prologue would have been to create another character--Cervantes--but it would also have meant presenting the Quixote in terms of that character and not of Menard. The latter, naturally, declined that facility.) "My undertaking is not difficult, essentially," I read in another part of his letter. "I should only have to be immortal to carry it out."So this isn't a fully formed thought, by any means, I admit. But it seems interesting. Maybe something else will occur to me later--or perhaps someone more intelligent will take up the challenge(?)

December 16, 2004 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

As the person bringing down the IQ up in da club, the Borge theory did not come to me as I've not read the piece you referenced.

I did make a post last night I'm too lazy to re-type (
if anybody wants to check in on that.....

as far as off topic stuff...does anybody know what the cover picture is? ... a friend of mine opted not to read the book b/c she thought it would be some kinda freaky based on the cover. so there.

December 16, 2004 at 8:29 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I am so totally behind on this week's reading (only up to p.226), but...

very interesting, Rake... but, what is the theory? That the Borges informed Gaddis? Would Gaddis have been aware of the story? It was published in the 40s, right? When would it have been translated? Would Gaddis have read the original?

Tito, I found your comment to the other post of interest, as well. Perhaps Otto is not quite all there? I say that in connection to the idea that the painting is of Wyatt's mother, which had been incomplete... but re-reading the passage, and that page, it seems to not be that painting, but one of the ones Wyatt is "forging"...

December 16, 2004 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

I'm not sure if there is a theory, yet. I haven't read "PM,AOTQ" closely in awhile, but I think Borges and Gaddis/Wyatt are exploring the same idea of authorship. Or at least a strange idea of authorship. Or perhaps they're working on opposite sides of the coin. I was hoping someone smart would tell me for sure.

As for the cover: My back cover sez it's a detail from a painting by Hugo van der Goes (i.e., something that Wyatt might have forged.)

December 16, 2004 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

wow, if only i'd turned it over. thanks for the knowledge. I kind of liked to wonder, though.

Anyways, as far as "ownership" goes, I did think about it while reading the response to T.Teachout's comments on the matter around the blogoshpere...

December 16, 2004 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

So, to unsurprisingly introduce an off-topic thread: What else are y'all reading and liking right now? What books are you dipping into between your Gaddis stints?

December 16, 2004 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

hmm... no one round tonight?

...well, Rake, whether it rises to the level of theory or not, I like the idea, and it reminds me that I want to re-read the Borges...

speaking of Quixote, though, moving right off topic, can I alert the Club to an essay by Harry Mathews in his collection, The Case of the Persevering Maltese? "Prizewinners" it's called, and it seems to be more of a speech. In any event, in it, in an effort to discuss how form conveys meaning, he presents the entire (two sentence) text of Kafka's "The Truth about Sancho Panza". Then he proceeds to give us two alternate versions of the story--one with the original sentences chopped up into smaller sentences, the other with the sentence lengths kept from the original, but with all of the nouns replaced with other nouns chosen according to a chosen rule... with repetition, the first version becomes more boring, the second begins to somehow make more sense... anyway, I found this a fascinating demonstration (which begins on p.14 of the Dalkey edition of the book), perhaps of some interest to others here... the collection is worth picking up. far as other reading goes, it's been a slow month; I'm only reading Naomi Klein's No Logo outside of Gaddis right now; 'course, this hasn't stopped me from buying books..

December 16, 2004 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

I've been trying to mix in short stuff I can get through quickly...I'd read Chacon't Final Solution & Wolff's Old School out in paperback. I've picked up Saramago'd The Double (after loving The Cave, but haven't jumped in too far). Some of the dialogue in TR reminds me of Saramago's stle, though....

December 16, 2004 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

CAAF, in da house. I have a bowling appointment with Diamond Dave Milofsky, by the way.

Lessee: I just read a Larry Brown short story. I re-read Breakfast of Champions. I read a couple in Eggers's new book. I'm 150 pages into Pamuk's Snow. And I'll be starting the stories in Natasha soon (can't spell author's name).

December 16, 2004 at 9:20 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

I read Final Solution, too. What did you think?

(Also, I just picked up the Saramago from the library ... But haven't yet read.)

December 16, 2004 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

Oh, and The Plot Against America. And a Stephen Dixon short story.

The Chabon's in the TBR pile.

December 16, 2004 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

I liked the style of TFS, but as a who dunit, it wasn't that satisfying (but I wasn't expecting much there). I bought it when I saw Chabon do a reading for it, so it was fun to imagine the bird's voice in the same way Chabon did & described it (as somewhat of a Michael Jackson impression). I saw some places give credit to the first-person chapter of the bird, which was nice, but I thought Saramago's dog, Found in The Cave was much better. Of course, he had more time to develop the character there.

I think it would have been better if it was longer, but then it may have failed as a Holmes homage...something I could have lived with though. I'd read TEV's side by side and would like to read "the other Holmes", by Cullin I think.

I'm still curious to know how/if it is different from the original story that ran in the paris review a few years ago.

December 16, 2004 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

Ooh, do let me know what you think of "Snow." I found it disappointing myself after the first 100 pages ...

Me, I've got Money by my boy Amis going right now ... have the new Eggers but haven't started ... and today I picked up Peter Turchi's Maps of the Imagination based on the recommendation of his Mumps, Matt Cheney.

By the by, read and really liked News from Paraguay, that book by that obscure woman from New York.

December 16, 2004 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

...oh yeah, I also read The Plot Against America... and I was underwhelmed; I do NOT get why people are blown away by it. The bits actually about the "plot" struck me as rushed and off... I've read (and liked) a lot of Roth and, dunno, it didn't do it for me. It was not without it's very fine passages, though. (My favorite being the phone call between Philip's mother and Seldon--quite moving.) I feel, though, as if maybe people are reading it a little too much with current events on the brain... maybe not, maybe I'm just missing something.

December 16, 2004 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

I like Snow so far, but I remain wary. It's a very through-the-looking-glass sort of book, isn't it?

Money's great, IMO.

December 16, 2004 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

Re: Plot.

You know, I did like it quite a bit. The plot worked on me--I was rushing forth with a sense of pleasure and dread. So. It's still only the 4th best Roth novel I've read this year so far, and maybe the 5th best (definitely behind Shylock, Sabbath, Counterlife).

December 16, 2004 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

That's hilarious about the parrot as a Michael Jackson voice ... by the by, my husband just finished The Final Solution at lunch and thought the parrot chapter was the worst part. He felt it pulled him out of the story with wondering if a parrot would have that kind of consciousness.

What interested me most about The Final Solution is the pacing, which is very deliberate throughout. Doyle could be silvery and stylish (more than I think we give him credit for) but sometimes he'd, of course, go breakneck to get the pace up. And I find myself wondering about Chabon's decision to pace so slowly; on the one hand, the writing's beautiful, and on the other, it's easy (or at least I found it easy) to fall out of the story.

p.s. I loved TEV's review and plan to look up the Cullins when it comes out in April.

December 16, 2004 at 9:36 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

Re: Snow.

Just to clarify, I liked a lot about it. And it's one of those books, like Plot, that I think gets some extra emotional power due to the political climate it's being read in. That said, the main female characters are fairly oblique. What's the love interest? I don't remember her name. But she's described as beautiful. That's it. Beautiful. And with that we're supposed to know her. It made me lonesome for old Naby, who, even when he's writing of someone is mysterious or unlikeable or unfathomable, that character is very specific in her appearance on the page.

I was disappointed as during the first stretch I was blown away and so excited thinking it was the best contemporary book I had read in a long time.

December 16, 2004 at 9:44 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

yeah, Plot is definitely behind Sabbath, Counterlife, and Shylock, and I think most of the Zuckerman Bound set of books... I was talking about Roth earlier today: sometimes his writing is just plain clunky (and I tripped over a few bad passages in Plot), but then he'll rip off a section, like the remarkable one in American Pastoral, referred to again by Birnbaum in his interview with Cynthia Ozick (which I am too lazy to find to post here), where he reminds me, again, why I read fiction in the first place.

...also, agreed, Money rules.

with that, alas, I am down for the count...

December 16, 2004 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

CAAF: Ipek (with that accent "dot" over the "I").

December 16, 2004 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

I have yet to read any Roth and wonder if anybody would recommend their favorite for 'starters' .. a la the 2nd cheapest wine on the menu (to show I'm not tasteless), but with some room to grow.

December 16, 2004 at 10:01 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

uhhhh....further off topic....anybody with "big head" recommend a good place to special order hats.

Also, any favorite passages from this week's reading? ... I've tried to not take notes as I read, as I fear it would take me to a crawl pace. But I did make note of two on pg. 252

* The originallity is a device of the untalented passage quoted earlier

* but I really like the thought "Most people are clever because they don't know how to be honest." a little below. not the most beautiful writing in the section, but quite ,uh, clever.

December 16, 2004 at 10:06 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

A little late again... Rake, I like the Borges/Gaddis connection, there something to be said about authorship in there, but I'm not sure what. I do think Gaddis and Borges are making rather different points. Gaddis is more about the art market and what people will believe, while Borges is to me more about context... Menard is writing the Quixote from a contemporary sensibility while Wyatt is putting himself in a past sensibility (there's a line somewhere about "past recognitions") to paint something from that time.

Other reading lately: Raymond Roussel's New Impressions of Africa (writing my review right now, actually), and Lucy Corin's Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls, a really great novel from this year. Also comics: Locas by Jaime Hernandez (you might have seen the article in Salon today (yesterday?)).

December 16, 2004 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

Ah, Tito, your comment about the organ-grinders hat made me laugh all day yesterday. No, no knowledge of a special-order biz for macrocephliacs. Perhaps you should start one? (It'd be a surefire take-off, as Oprah looks to be a macroceph and I'm sure would lend her big-headed support ... just remember all the little people in the GDC when you're a billionaire.)

I'll let the Rake answer the Roth ?. I'm missing half the oeuvre.

December 16, 2004 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

Quickly, before I go get my first drink:

I'm partial to that whole exchange between Valentine, Recktall, and Wyatt, 'roundabout page 250 or so (it goes on for more than a few pages).

Also, I read Portnoy as my first Roth, and that seemed to work out well. The Ghost Writer would probably be a good choice, too.

December 16, 2004 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

Happy to start a big-head web sight, but i'll need some be prepared when I pass the (humongoid) hat around.

also, my favorite overheard quote from a fireworks back in the big O (that's Omaha for non-locals) a few years ago.

Mother to child (annoyed/yelling): I don't want you banging stuff with your head AND I don't want you banging your head with stuff.

I thought it had a nice mix of WT* delivery with a all-encompassing legalese spin.

* for the record, I don't wish to represent all big-Oes as WT.

December 16, 2004 at 10:23 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

I confess that i'd read most of this over Thanksgiving, so it's a little blurry, but the talk of perfect materials (from that same passage I believe really stood out). That and early references to quidity have pulled me in. Also, the story does not seem as funny as initially (with regards to the early foolery about religion). but that could just be a sign of my own density.

December 16, 2004 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

Tito, I think we've been in a less funny section of the novel, but have no fun, comedy always returns (dark though it be) as does religion. In a novel this large, there are many moods and shifts.

The next section is a new part, which, as I recall, is another shift. I believe Wyatt disappears for a little while and we get some more on the other characters.

December 16, 2004 at 10:29 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

ammending that, the way Otto was portrayed was quite funny...

December 16, 2004 at 10:29 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

Derik, as it appears you're a veteran to TR, is there anything you find standing out that may have not caught your attention the first time(s) through?

December 16, 2004 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

hey boys, I'm taking my off-topic ass to bed and leave you macrocephs* to it.

* My favorite big head joke is in that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine dates the Bad Breaker-Upper, who, as part of his bad breaking up, tells her her heads too big for her body. And it preys on her till she comes into the cafe/diner with a scarf on, panicked and upset, and sez, "I'm a walking candied apple."

December 16, 2004 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

This is my third reading (in three years, I think, some kind of new annual tradition?) of TR. One thing that is really standing out for me this time, is foreshadowing. As I'm finally really starting to remember what happens in the novel, I'm seeing more and more how certain events are alluded to early on.

In this section, for instance, Recktall's final scene in the book was alluded to at least twice.

I'm sure there are other things, but that is what I noticed most this time. It's such a big book it's hard to keep it all in grasp.

December 16, 2004 at 10:34 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

Derik: Thanks (for not saying I'm a dumbass). It would take a little more digging for me to do a decent compare/contrast on B. and Gaddis, and this, for various reasons, is not the week for that.

December 16, 2004 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

I am too late to note that Jeffrey Brown, a comic artist I like, recently published a superhero parody called "Bighead". It actually wasn't very good, but... big heads.

December 16, 2004 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

In a similar but not exactly vein, just read an interesting post at Waggish on Bioy-Casares' Invention of Morel (he was a buddy of Borges, and that particular novel is amazing) and Resnais/Robbe-Grillet's Last Year at Marienbad (great film).

December 16, 2004 at 10:40 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

Ah, wonderful. I have to go check that Waggish post out--I read Morel this year! I have another Bioy Casares on the shelf, too.

December 16, 2004 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

He's quite underrated, I think. I've yet to get the new edition of Morel (I read it years ago from the library), but am looking forward to a reread. Sadly, I found his short stories lacking in some editions I picked up. I've always been more into novels anyway...

I'm outta here. Back to my Roussel reviewing.

December 16, 2004 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger BUBBA said...


So here I am at work.
It's almost 5. All day I'm thinking about 1 thing: GETTING DRUNK!

I used to be so good. I quit for a while.
Before that I drank TWO 40 oz. a day (sometimes 3 or a few 6 packs).
You could say I had a talent for drinking beer.
My body was getting that beer bloat fat - nasty.

Then something awful happened (no, not a DUI, something else).

After I was released from the hospital all I wanted to do was jog.
And I did. And it was great. And I lost a lot of weight.
Everyone kept saying - "wow, you lost weight & you're not drunk"

Now, slowly but surely, the need to get drunk is coming back.
But this time it's Sake - not beer.
I like to get a bottle of Sake & poor it into a water bottle.
I walk down the crowded streets of Manhattan drinking Sake from my Sparkletts water bottle. Even past cops - cuz why the fuck not?

Some days, craving bliss can be like weather. Natural. Powerful.
You just wake up & it's there like the clouds or the rain.

I was sitting on a bench on my lunch hour watching people walk by Grand Central Station. I was looking at people thinking about: What makes us 'Human'?
It's intellect, sensitivity, and compassion.
Yet, some people don't have it. Who are they? And what kind of world is it they create? Fuck them!

New York is so strangely alone. Everyone walks around disconnected and completely enclosed in their mind. Nobody looks at eachother. I've been here a year & made only 1 friend. However, this friend was "given" to me by a friend from California.

I sat at that bench today & realized this: I don't belong here

Some day soon I'll be moving back to California ("I'm goin back to Cali").
And some day soon I'll have to face the fact that I'm an alcoholic and I need help.

13 minutes left to go. Then it's DRUNK TIME!

December 16, 2004 at 10:54 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

I believe you wandered into the wrong club, Bub.

December 17, 2004 at 3:51 AM  
Blogger DerikB said...

That was... odd.

December 17, 2004 at 11:03 AM  
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Blogger research guy said...

Hello Rake, been looking for the latest info on dui and found Pre-Friday Hi-Jinx. Though not exactly what I was searching for, it did get my attention. Interesting post, thanks for a great read.

November 26, 2005 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger research guy said...

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November 30, 2005 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger research guy said...

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December 1, 2005 at 11:59 AM  

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