summer reading/guilty pleasures: “this house is playing parlour games with us, I think…”

sarah waters’ the little stranger:  as if written by a literary offspring of henry james and daphne du maurier . . .
with class consciousness supplied by l.p. hartley, and wallpaper courtesy of louisa may alcott.  
I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old. It was the summer after the war, and the Ayreses still had most of their money then, were still big people in the district. The event was an Empire Day fête: I stood with a line of other village children making a Boy Scout salute while Mrs Ayres and the Colonel went past us, handing out commemorative medals; afterwards we sat to tea with our parents at long tables on what I suppose was the south lawn. Mrs Ayres would have been twenty-four or -five, her husband a few years older; their little girl, Susan, would have been about six. They must have made a very handsome family, but my memory of them is vague. I recall most vividly the house itself, which struck me as an absolute mansion. I remember its lovely ageing details: the worn red brick, the cockled window glass, the weathered sandstone edgings. They made it look blurred and slightly uncertain–like an ice, I thought, just beginning to melt in the sun.
—the opening paragraph of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger (2009)   


more summer reading — with bonus representative quotations!


recent reading: 


forrest gander, as a friend


Lyrical, intense, this novel reads like it was written by a southern James Salter, and is apparently based on me:


I never heard him read anything he’d written, but he would sometimes quote a poem, his own or someone else’s, in conversation. It sounds unlikely, self-conscious or pretentious or bogus, but across the booth from us at the High Hat, he could join the lines of a poem to the flow of talk seamlessly. His face was so weighted down by its brooding handsomeness that he seemed older and more convincing than the rest of us. His gravitas sucked us in. He could lock his eyes on you and draw you toward an alien realm where you were given to suspend your habits of thought. It was as if he’d come from a place where excitement wasn’t taken to be a reverse indicator of intelligence and where it was normal to mention Cocteau and blue channel catfish in the same sentence. None of us had his range, none of his had read so much. The opal blackness of his eyes was magnetic. 

























gilbert sorrentino, aberration of starlight


This novel has four sections, one for each of the four main characters. Each section progress through description, letter, dialogue, questions-and-answers, fantasy, pornography, simple narrative, etc. As with everything Sorrentino wrote, structure is all.


It’s probably no use quoting just a portion of Sorrentino’s language – in isolation most excerpts you could pull from the text simply show off his use of the colloquial language of his childhood:


But all the time Tom was cool as a cucumber, his voice nice and calm, a smile on his face, just a gentlemanly difference of opinions. Marie would look up at him once in a while, blushing to beat the band when he caught her eye, my God, she looked like a peach! Frau Schmidt was as busy as a goddamn bee, Christ only knew what kind of baloney she was giving that long drink of water, Mrs. Copan, the poor bag of bones was drinking it all in.




Was Tom indeed a maker of cuckolds? If rumor is to be given credence, the answer is “yes.” Three men putatively so served were: Lewis D. Fielding, a junkman of Ossining, N.Y., through his wife, Barbara; Alfred Bennett Martinez, a plumber of Ozone Park, N.Y., through his wife, Danielle; William V. Bell, a shop teacher of Paterson, N.J., through his wife, Joanne.


But – and this is a big but – the effect of pages and pages of this kind of thing is the production laugh-out-loud black humour: you start to see the jazz-like patterns of repetition and improvisation, and a some point the flatness of the language begins to shift from cliché to grimly ironic understatement.



    Bookseller Photo 


alain-fornier, the wanderer

John Fowles’ favourite book.  Possibly the all-time great portrayal of youthful love outside the pages of Turgenev and Al Goldstein’s seminal (ouch!) Screw magazine.

            (the great edward gorey cover!)


dennis cooper, ugly man


Damn! I left my copy at the Y.M.C.A. 


louis-ferdinand céline, normance

Double damn! I left my copy at the Jewish Y.!  

Normance por Louis-Ferdinand Céline
BONUS: cover art from goldstein’s screw magazine . . . 
which céline no doubt would take as proof positive of the prescience of political views: