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Showing posts from September, 2007

Arrogance Can Be Art, Too

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On my flight back from the US I read – in one swoop Cormac McCarthy's "The Road."

I loved it, I ate it up, it's page-turner, it's relevant to our post-9/11 times, it is a book that understands life – the despair, yet, at the end of it, the tendency of human life to somehow go in, not necessarily to conquer evil in a utopian sense of banishing it from our souls, but in the sense that the good, though it sometimes seems to be banished, is only hibernating, and always returns.

Then I thought twice about it. That's when a bad aftertaste manifested itself on my tongue.

McCarthy's book, as is most his writing, is most notable for its outright literariness. He doesn't put dialogue in quotation marks. He leaves out apostrophes. He creates new nouns by combining adjectives with nouns. At times he remains very abstract, not even giving his main characters names, then he turns around and explains mechanical processes, like lighting a kerosene light, savoring li…

THE TWO LAWS OF SCHELMUFFSKY

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If you want to know just how conformist, submissive, rule-servile, uninventive and downright boring we have become, read the following two books at the same time: "Absurdistan" and "Schelmuffsky."

Absurdistan is a current bestselling comic novel about a fat (they're always fat) Jewish Russian and his misadventures in Russia and the US. It has "creative writing course" stamped all over it. It's in the sentences: author Gary Shteyngart positively strains to turn out well-formed sentences, like Michael Chabon and like most American writers writing today. They are grammatically correct, touched with a tinge of irreverence of the kind that might send an appealing tingle of shock through the fragile spines of upper middle class women at reading groups. Then he goes on and on about it. Scenes don't end. Over-ambitious similes take over.

"Rain fell like pin-pricks on his cheek." Do we need a sentence like that in a comic novel? Do we need a …

The Historia of Faustus Chapter 5

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THE HISTORIA OF FAUSTUS

V.
Doktor Faust's Third Disputation and Pact made with the Spirit, Who was called Mephostophiles

As for the devilish pact, it came about in this way:

Doktor Faustus required the spirit to appear before him on the next morning, commanding him to come, whenever he was called, in the guise of a Franciscan Monk and always with a little bell so that by the sound of the bell it might be known when he was approaching. Then Faust asked the spirit his name, and the spirit answered:
"Mephostophiles."

In that hour, the godless man, seduced by pride, arrogance and transgression, cut himself off wholly from God and the Creator to become a liegeman of the abominable Devil.

Then, in order that these two wicked parties might contract one with another, Doktor Faust took a penknife, pricked open a vein in his left hand in order to make a contract with the evil spirit in his own blood. Even then in the last moments of hope for his Christian soul did God send him a wa…

How Not to Be Successful in America

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If there's one thing that is and will always remain a constant in America's international relationships, it's the much-loved habit of other countries to underestimate the USA.

The Korean film industry has been booming for some time and now it has made its first major sally into the American market with "Dragon Wars", a big special effects movie based on a Korean legend. It has just opened to horrible reviews.

I wish the film and the Koreans in general success – not only would success inject the Korean entertainment industry with a dose of fresh adrenalin, Hollywood and America in general have always profited from outside influences.

But I was skeptical in advance, when I read a statement from the producer on the formula for movie success in America. He said: “The secret is to move beyond the melodrama that characterizes so many Korean films. They don’t understand that to be commercial in the U.S., you need great action and effects.”

Ah, but that's not the secr…

Farewell, Mirek Nahacz

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I've been trying for a while now to find out for sure how Mirek Nahacz died, why, and whether his fourth book is being published. But the Polish media seem to have dropped the story after the initial reports in July that is was suicide and besides, I can't read Polish, so the end of his story will remain closed to me as if it had happened on another planet, just as I will never know his books, which were never translated into English.

In the last days of July, they found his body in his apartment in Warsaw. Though I waited a while to find out more details and asked a Polish-speaking friend to comb the papers for additional news, all I could out was that the police believe it was suicide. I will probably never know more. The language barrier is complete. I will never know what happened; I will never know what happened to his girlfriend or speak to her; I will never know if his fourth book was published or will be published or if it worked out to be the masterpiece he wanted it…