This little mixture of mystery/supernatural/coming-of-age tale is irresistible. It harkens back to the efficiency of 70s-era, pure storytelling-prowess King, but is infused with the wisdom of someone who's almost forty years past those early, glory days. Even the ending is great! Holding this book ( a physical paperback book), with its retro-noir cover and promise of carnival-themed fun whet my appetite and the story delivered in every aspect. It gave me a nostalgia-drenched thrill and has me jonzing for the recently published Dr. Sleep.
In reading other reviews of this novel, I can agree with the general arguments of both camps. I've read reviews that were blown away by the novel's ambition. I am as well. I have read reviews that found the avalanche of footnotes and appendices simply overwhelming, if not distracting or outright boring. I can agree with that as well.
The main narrative itself is no great shakes. But then this novel is really much more than a B-grade horror story, isn't it? In that respect, I am completely impressed Danielewski's ambitions. I love that he parodies, mocks, and-in my opinion- pays homage to the notion of literary criticism. As a Borges fan-boy, the footnotes, many of them completely fabricated, give me a huge English-major smile. And in the Navidson Record section, where the main story is told in fits and starts, Danielewski's narrative is riveting. There are a handful of scenes that expertly filled me with a sense of dread. Any hack can write a horror scene filled with blood and guts and general grossness. It takes more talent to create a scene where a child's drawing of a black square on an otherwise blank page creates a palpable tension. There are several such moments.
Where I had problems with the book lie in Johnny Truant's drug-filled rants and in certain parts of the appendices which end the novel. I don't mind drug-filled rants, mind you. But Truant's are boring and they take away from an otherwise compelling narrative in a way that most of the other footnotes do not. I give Danielewski credit for the narrative ambition; he's walking a highwire. I simply feel that in these sections, he falls. Also, in the appendices, there are things there that I simply felt were there to show off. I got a sense of "Look how clever I am" in reading the Truant poetry and the endless list of extraneous quotations. And this may be a fault that lies with me as I find this in a lot of post-modern novels. Maybe I'm just missing the boat. I don't like the Truant poetry section because it is- again this is purely subjective- bad poetry. I don't like quotations section because they were more than adequately represented within the narrative section itself.
Having said, that, I remain very impressed with Danieleski's ambition and scope. This was not an easy read and I appreciate that I had no problem, for the most part, with jumping through the hoops asked of me by the author (Those of you who've read the novel, I'm specifically referring to one of the letters written by Truant's mother). You know, Borges always shunned writing novels because he felt the type of stories he told could never maintain their effectiveness over such a length. Danielewski writes a similar type of fiction and he comes as close to maintaining that Borgesian effectiveness as anyone I've read.
This volume consists of Eliot's first two poetry collections,Prufrock and Other Observations (1917) and Poems (1920), along with The Waste Land(1922). The first half of Prufrock andTWL are essential modernist poems. The very modern tension of isolation, cynicism, the longing for an idealized past, and a desperate, clinging hope for the future are perfectly encapsulated in Eliot's best early verse. Unfortunately, the second half of Prufrock and virtually all of Poems fail to maintain this standard. The anti-semitism of Poems is particularly disturbing. That said, The Waste Land should be required reading for anyone interested in modern and post-modern literature.
Esoteric Wanderlust is very much concerned with the travels of the mind. In this respect, any and every thing is possible. There are paths I naturally gravitate toward: literature and literary theory, history, film, music, pop culture, the American mythos and its disintegration, and religion. These subjects, I suspect, will dominate the discourse found in this virtual residence. However, as I say, any and everything is possible.
As the aphorism goes, every act is a political act. It follows that every work of art is one as well. For imbued in the work is something of the artist’s public and private concerns, her society’s norms, his sense of history, her belief-system and worldview. A reading or viewing of such a work is then only enhanced by the personal beliefs and life experiences the reader/viewer brings to the piece. At this point, art becomes performative, as well as political, and exists as a living entity. Whether reading a novel, considering the point of view asserted in a volume of history, ruminating on a painting or sculpture, viewing a film, or listening to music, you are actively engaged in the miraculous creation of life. This constitutes the wonder of art.
Borges argues that in writing one line of Shakespeare, one becomes Shakespeare. I believe this. I also believe in the romantic notion that all art is part of a continuous dialogue that has existed for as long as mankind has told stories. When I read Blood Meridian, I am McCarthy, who is Melville, who is Hawthorne, who is Austen, who is Cervantes, who is Shakespeare, who is Boccaccio. When I pen one line of poetry, I am Borges, who is Eliot, who is Yeats, who is Charlotte Smith, who is Petrarch, who is Chaucer, who is Dante, who is Virgil, who is Homer.
One continuous dialogue. Esoteric Wanderlust is thrilled to be a part of this conversation.
The world, so easily traversed in this era of digital transformation, stands before us as a seemingly endless labyrinth of knowledge and possibility. What shall we take from its pathways? What shall we offer in sacrifice? Esoteric Wanderlust, through the avenues listed above, as well as those not yet stumbled upon, seeks to travel this world, equipped with intellectual curiosity and the honest-to-goodness excitement that comes with navigating new courses, not certain of what lies beyond the next turn. Welcome to the wanderlust. It’s okay to get lost for a while.