In the Hood

I’m back from my travels, and circumscribing Pessoa like a terrier trying to find a way into a rathole. I’ve also caught up on some stimulating blog posts in the alt-lit neighbourhood:

Have you read Lampedusa? I’ve owned the Everyman edition of The Leopard for 15 years but never read beyond 100 pages, though I enjoyed each one of them. This post at Anecdotal Evidence links to an excellent essay by Javier Marías, in which he writes:

“The few people who knew him well were astonished at his encyclopedic knowledge of literature and history, on both of which subjects he possessed a vast library. He had not only read all the important and essential writers, but also the second-rate and the mediocre, whom, especially as regards the novel, he considered to be as necessary as the greats: `One has to learn how to be bored,’ he used to say, and he read bad literature with interest and patience. Buying books was almost his sole expense and sole luxury.”

Isabella at Magnificent Octopus is documenting her reading of Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H. Of course, I immediately want to reread Lispector’s elusive work that pushes at the extreme possibilities of language.

Pykk is unpacking Arno Schmidt’s Collected Stories, 1996, and his longer School for Atheists: a Novella = Comedy in 6 Acts, 1972.

Joe at roughghosts is discovering the wonder that is Mahmoud Darwish’s Journal of an Ordinary Grief, which a dear friend introduced to me some years ago.

Scott W. at seraillon writes compellingly about Emilio’s Carnival and makes it likely I’ll get to Svevo’s work sooner than later.

Loiterly Intentions

The recent edition of The Review of Contemporary Fiction, the first I have read (with thanks to Vertigo for the introduction), introduced me to the ugly but useful new term loiterature. Coined by Ross Chambers to signify the digressive, category-blurring style of writing of authors like W. G. Sebald, Geoff Dyer, Roger Deakin, Javier Marías and Iain Sinclair.
Warren Motte’s excellent article in the magazine is framed around a story by French author Jean Rolin, yet to find an American publisher, unfortunately). Writing about this “loiterly novel“, Motte explains:

What may be less immediately obvious is the idea of digression as a deeply purposeful narrative technique. However counterintuitive this notion may appear at first glance, upon further consideration it is perfectly reasonable – especially in the context of literary discourse. We easily accept that an author and the narrator that he or she constructs may be quite different in voice, character, purpose. Why should that difference not express itself in the attitude that each evinces with regard to digression? Or as Montalbetti and Piegay-Gros suggest, “If the narrator goes astray, the author, undoubtedly, knows where he’s going. In a literary text, digression is less a sign of going astray; it is not the sign of a lack of mastery in writing, but rather the fiction of a lack of mastery”.