Currently Reading.

Currently reading – Passing, by Nella Larsen, 1929. Born in 1891, Larsen was an African-American nurse, librarian, and author of two novels and a handful of short stories. While she fell into obscurity after her brief youthful fame, she was rediscovered in the late 20th century and is now considered fundamental both to the Harlem Renaissance and American Modernism. Both of Larsen’s novels examine black mobility in a white-dominated society, and Passing is about two mixed race women who can “pass” as white, making them outsiders in both worlds. Larsen died in 1964.

Bouvard et Pecuchét

Bouvard et Pecuchét was Gustave Flaubert’s last novel, and he left it unfinished upon his death in 1880. He had intended for it to be his masterpiece, surpassing all his other works, but on its posthumous release in 1881, critics were not impressed. It’s not for everyone’s taste, and the lack of a proper ending can be unsatisfying, but Flaubert was at the top of his game here – stylistically and structurally, it’s the pinnacle of his work, and it reveals (at the end of Flaubert’s writing career), his immense sense of humor, which can be surprising to anyone who has read Madame Bovary. The overall theme of the novel is supposed to be a commentary on the stupidity of humanity, but what I think critics miss in this novel is Flaubert’s amazement at how despite humans’ stupidity and the futility of their efforts, their endless curiosity, capacity for self-delusion, and boundless aspiration give them a sort of beauty and eternal quality that – though they may not be divine – are still significant in an uncaring universe. Flaubert famously claimed to have read 1500 books to write this, which is undoubtedly true, the guy was a maniac, and to the interested reader, it’s illuminating to see a sort of catalog of late 19th century knowledge; it may seem antiquated, but along with the dated segments on whale science in Moby Dick, it can cause one to be more skeptical of our own assumed conclusions about the world around us.

Criticism.

This is one of the best books of criticism I’ve read in the past couple years. I read it when it came out, devoured it, really, and then forgot about it. But for my birthday last year, my sister, not knowing I had read it, bought me another copy. Since then I’ve been telling myself to read it again. I definitely recommend it.

Absence

Been too busy to read, but I’ve been thinking about this Simpsons joke. It might seem irrational, but in a lot of arts, Lisa is right. Sometimes by leaving something out, or in some way allowing the audience to connect faint dots to make its own observations, the artist provides for a deeper, more multifaceted experience. Grand gestures can be thrilling; but subtle details and inferences can be equally if not more powerful. Happy Mother’s Day! 😃

Currently reading.

Currently reading. Witold Gombrowicz part two. What I don’t understand is this: Gombrowicz was Polish, but he lived in Argentina for decades after fleeing Poland before World War 2, and from what I’ve read is he wrote in Polish, but this novel was translated from the French? 🤔