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 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.
Currently watching – Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola, 2006. Born in 1971, Coppola is the daughter of revered director Francis Ford Coppola, and quite a filmmaker herself.
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.
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. 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? 🤔
Currently watching – Paris, Texas – directed by Wim Wenders, 1984. Born in 1945, Wenders is a German filmmaker, author, and photographer, and one of the most renown independent directors of the last four decades.
Currently reading – Sweet Days of Discipline, by Fleur Jaeggy, translated by Tim Parks. Born in 1940, Jaeggy is a Swiss author of five novels. I finished the first novel in the Gombrowicz book, so I’m taking an intermission with this.
Currently watching – Señorita, directed by Isabel Sandoval, 2011. Born in 1982, Sandoval is a Filipina filmmaker. This was her award-winning directorial debut.
Currently reading – Cosmos and Pornografia, Two Novels by Witold Gombrowicz. Born in 1904, Gombrowicz was a Polish writer and playwright nominated for the Nobel Prize, but never awarded it. He died in 1969. This book was given to me by a dear, departed friend.