au revoir arrivaderci chow

Well, that’s it. I’ve done all the editing and reviewing I can stand. So now, off to Chicago for four days with the family. A wedding, see my old friend Janet, try to find the very spot where Nelson Algren hoisted Simone de Beauvoir up so she could peer through the bars of one of Chicago’s jails – what could go wrong? Although I have this premonition of doom. Of course, I have a premonition of doom when I buy breakfast cereal...

In the meantime, some more linkies for y’all.

First, Zoe’s tout va bien, a song that is all about LI – the problem with happiness! as per this instructive video, it leads inevitably to slaughtering your neighbors, your parents and your dog.

Then, a nice piece about Penelope Fitzgerald by Julian Barnes. Barnes makes a play with the phrase “amateur writer.” I first heard that phrase years ago, having dinner with Alfredo Bryce Echinique – a name which, alas, means nothing to Americans, but take my word for it, Bryce is the Peruvian novelist you should read, not Vargas Llosa.

And then, there is this, from At Swim Two Birds – the new Everyman Flann O’Brien will be at my side in the several bars and restaurants in the several airports that I will honor with my presence (while they pay no attention, silly fools!) on the way up to Chicago:

“It was stated that while the novel and the play were both pleasing intellectual exercises, the novel was inferior to the play inasmuch as it lacked the outward accidents of illusion, frequently inducing the reader to be outwitted in a shabby fashion and caused to experience a real concern for the fortunes of illusory characters. The play was consumed in wholesome fashion by large masses in places of public resort; the novel was self-administered in private. The novel, in the hands of an unscrupulous writer, could be despotic. In reply to an inquiry, it was explained that a satisfactory novel should be a self-evident sham to which the reader could regulate at will the degree of his credulity. It was undemocratic to compel characters to be uniformly good or bad or poor or rich. Each should be allowed a private life, self-determination and a decent standard of living. This would make for self-respect, contentment and better service. It would be incorrect to say that it would lead to chaos. Characters should be interchangeable as between one book and another. The entire corpus of existing literature should be regarded as a limbo from which discerning authors could draw their characters as required, creating only when they failed to find a suitable existing puppet. The modern novel should be largely a work of reference. Most authors spend their time saying what has been said before—usually said much better. A wealth of references to existing works would acquaint the reader instantaneously with the nature of each character, would obviate tiresome explanations and would effectively preclude mountebanks, upstarts, thimbleriggers and persons of inferior education from an understanding of contemporary literature.”