Monday, November 10, 2014

book, etc

If I hadn't agreed to do a teaching observation, I might never have read Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station.  Whereas I still can't make up my mind what I think of it as a novel (the trouble with a self-indulgent, pretentious, insecure, vulnerable, irritating, verbally sensitive first person narrator - at least in this case - is that one's left very unsure how much authorial irony there may or may not be behind the whole book) - I was given a gem of a sentence (p.16) about the ordinary and the overlooked, the background to everyday life: " ... love for that other thing, the sound-absorbent screen, life's white machine, shadows massing in the middle distance, although that's not even close, the texture of et cetera itself."

Footnote: Lerner himself: "Maybe I should say that “Life’s white machine,” Gordon’s phrase for the rhythm of mundane life, the texture of time as it passes, etc., is very close to Hart Crane’s “white machine of life,” but it’s also a line from a collaboration between the poets Geoffrey G. O’Brien and Jeff Clark, a line in turn quoted by Ashbery as an epigraph to one of his own poems."  From an interview:
The whole interview, in fact, is terrific, and makes me realize that yes, the book is subtle, and self reflective, and multi-layered.  But I still think the protagonist (even if poetry-smart, in his way) is a jerk.  I also suspect that's the point, or part of it.

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