"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, September 13, 2008

R.I.P. David Foster Wallace

When I was young my grandfather told me that "People who commit suicide are cowards."
I would have been very young but I remember clearly his argument for fastidious labor and strength in the face of life's adversity.
And but so last night America's greatest young writer hung himself in his home.
And still I know with all of my heart and mind that David Foster Wallace was a man of incredible courage.
I write not of his obvious and incomparable stylistic invention or of his formal acrobatics.
Better minds can and have written tomes dedicated to the intellectual fellatio of Mr. Wallace's hilarious/morbid/neurotic/exultant prose.
What brought me and bound me fast to DFW's writing was his relentless pursuit of Humanity.
Wallace NEVER dealt short his characters or his readers.
He constantly challenged himself in the search (the desperate search it now seems to me) for our shared pathos.
No one writing today has Wallace's fantastic ability to transport us so completely into the minds of people so foreign to ourselves and then make us identify with them entirely (read this recently published story in The New Yorker).
David Foster Wallace wanted above all to understand everyone and everything. To have his readers and himself feel compasion for people by entering their most private thoughts (read, the now eerily titled, The Depressed Person).
He offered us the best of what literature has to offer in every sense but most of all in this.
And what fucking courage this must have taken.
To never deal in the obvious or the easy.
To never pander to the public's notions of what certain people do and how they think.
To embark on the rigorous pursuit of what binds us all as human.
That takes courage.
And that is the great tragedy of this loss.
We have lost the writer who most challenged us to empathy and understanding.
The two things we now need most.

You're the bravest man I've never meet.
I know your brilliance and compassion will be missed in a literary scene so impoverished of both.
Most of all we send love to your family and friends who in this time need it the most.
Because that's what you would want from us.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal

In a comic masterpiece following the misadventures of a simple but hugely ambitious waiter in pre-World War II Prague, who rises to wealth only to lose everything with the onset of Communism, Bohumil Hrabal takes us on a tremendously funny, often deeply touching and satirical trip through 20th-century Czechoslovakia.

See the just released film directed by Hrabal's friend and collaborator Jiri Menzel.

"One of the most authentic incarnations of magical Prague, an incredible union of earthy humor and baroque imagination."
--Milan Kundera

"An extraordinary and subtly tragicomic novel... Hrabal has told both the story of a nobody and a history of Czechoslovakia and found in their commonplace details everything that matters in life." --The New York Times

"I Served the King of England is a joyful, picaresque story, which begins with Baron Munchausen-like adventures and ends in tears and solitude, a modulation typical of Hrabal's greatest work." --James Wood, The London Review of Books

Good News Bolano Lovers

Just read this in the
New Directions September Newsletter:

Life after 2666

Roberto Bolaño saw himself as a poet rather than a novelist. (When asked why, he replied: "the poetry makes me blush less"). His first collection of poems, The Romantic Dogs, will be published alongside 2666 this November and will captivate Bolaño readers as if they were viewing momentary portraits of his life. To whet readers' appetites for Bolaño's poems, "The Worm" can be read here. More work from Roberto Bolaño is set to be translated and published by New Directions well into the next few years, including:

Next Year:

Nazi Literature in the Americas (paperback edition, May 2009)
The Skating Rink (novel, August 2009)

In the Not-too-Distant Future:

Monsieur Pain (novel)
Antwerp (novel)
The Insufferable Gaucho (novel)
Parenthetically (essays)
Assassin Whores (short stories)
Secreto De Mal (posthumous collection of writings-stories, sketches, poems, miscellany)