Fra Keeler’s Influences

Reading is pure pleasure for me, without obligation, professional or otherwise. I abandon books frequently after fifty pages or halfway through, whichever comes first. For every book I finish, three preceding books end up in a bag by the front door destined for the local charity shop. It is rare and fortuitous that I read two brilliant books consecutively.

I’m still thinking about Gillian Rose’s Love’s Work. I’ll read it again very soon, more slowly, pencil in hand this time. I’m curious about Rose’s Adorno book so please let me know if you’ve read it and have an opinion.

Next though I’ll reread Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s Fra Keeler, which I finished this morning. I hope to write more about it soon. It is a distinctive, rather special book. I suggest it’s a cross between Lispector, Nabokov, and just a suggestion of late Beckett, which is probably too high a pedestal for a first novel, but I have been enjoying the afterglow all day, and need to ponder and read it again, immediately.

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi acknowledges at the end of the book that “Fra Keeler would not have been possible without the following constellation of films and books.” I’m posting the list in full because I love lists, but also because I love Fra Keeler, and, as a first novel, reading some of the books on the list that I haven’t read before and watching some of the films enables me to linger, however loosely, in the world inhabited by this remarkable book. If I read a better contemporary book this year, I shall be surprised.

  1. César Aira How I Became a Nun
  2. Attila Bartis Tranquility
  3. Thomas Bernhard Three Novellas and The Loser
  4. Roberto Bolaño Distant Star and By Night in Chile
  5. Luis Buñuel Diary of a Chambermaid
  6. Éric Chevillard Palafox and Crab Nebula
  7. Brian Evenson The Open Curtain
  8. Max Frisch Man in the Holocene
  9. André Gide The Immoralist
  10. Jean-Luc Godard Breathless
  11. Nikolai Gogol Diary of a Madman
  12. Witold Gombrowicz Cosmos
  13. Knut Hamsun Hunger
  14. Alfred Hitchcock Vertigo
  15. Anna Kavan Ice
  16. Imre Kertész Kaddish for an Unborn Child
  17. Abbas Kiarostami Close-up
  18. Jim Krusoe Iceland
  19. Patrice Leconte Monsieur Hire
  20. Doris Lessing Memoirs of a Survivor
  21. Clarice Lispector The Hour of the Star
  22. Jean-Pierre Melville Le Circle Rouge
  23. Marie Redonnet Hotel Splendid, Forever Valley and Rose Mellie Rose
  24. Eric Rohmer Six Moral Tales
  25. Daniel Pail Schreber Memoirs of My Nervous Illness
  26. Muriel Spark The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  27. Magdalena Tulli Dreams and Stones and Moving Parts
  28. Lynne Tillman This Is Not It
  29. Trajei Vesaas The Ice Palace
  30. Diane Williams Romancer Erector

6 thoughts on “Fra Keeler’s Influences

  1. Interesting post, Anthony. I hadn’t come across this novel, but a quick investigation suggest something very appealing to me and I will be acquiring and reading it soon. Her list is terrific and I responded especially strongly to her inclusion of Anna Kavan’s novel, Ice, which is a book I have loved for many years and re-read often. Great stuff.


  2. You’ve whetted my appetite with this one, Anthony. I’ve only read or seen nine on the list but all nine are pretty special. The reading table is groaning at the moment. (Malcolm Lowry’s In Ballast to the White Sea and Krasznahorkhai’s War and War await). I’m reading Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson as light relief after Lowry’s Ultramarine. I’ll definitely look out for Fra Keeler.


    • Des, Fra Keeler is an accomplished novel. I can’t wait to see more from the writer. I haven’t read Seibobo Below yet, but War & War is my favourite Krasznahorkai (the railway bridge scene made a huge impression). I’ve been following your Lowry reading with interest, and will dip my toe in sometime soon.


      • If you haven’t read Lowry before I think it’s best to start with ‘Under the Volcano.’ It’s definitely his best book and ‘Dark as the Grave wherein my friend is laid’ refers to it constantly. The novels are very autobiographical. ‘Hear us o Lord from Heaven thy dwelling place’ (he likes long titles) is a great collection. One of the pieces ‘Through the Panama’ juxtaposes nonfiction and a paraphrasing of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner in side columns to the main text. His constant alcoholism (in ‘Ultramarine’ for example) can get tedious but ‘Under the Volcano’ is simply a work of genius and I do want to get to ‘In Ballast to the White Sea’ very soon. That said, after reading your comment above, I put ‘Imaginary Cities’ aside for now and went back to ‘War and War.’ It fits more with my present state of being, I think. And yes, the opening railway sequence is brilliant.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Discovering Brigid Brophy | Time's Flow Stemmed

Post a Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s