Wednesday, February 27, 2008

page 123, sentences 5-whatever

Courtesy of Eric...I pick up the nearest book, which happens to be Tom McCarthy's Remainder, and flip to page 123:
"Shh!" I said, holding my hand up. I was looking at the jagged line that ran across his chart: how it jutted and meandered. As his lecture had moved off the figures and onto the randomness stuff he'd let the left side of his chart drop, so the value line was running vertically, like my bathroom's crack. I let my eyes run up and down it, following its edges and directions.
Matthew Younger saw that I was looking at it and straightened it up.
"No!" I said.
"I'm sorry?" said Matthew Younger.
"It was better when you...Can I keep this chart?"
"Of course!" He boomed back. "Yes, have a proper look at it in your own time."

Nearly 2/3 of the way through, and although at moments very funny, I find myself wishing (perhaps selfishly, or waxing psychoanalytic, or forgetting all those beautiful minimalist models that precede him) that the protagonist were simply more confessional, openly conflicted and self-critical. In a word: more interesting. You could say he is nothing but these things, I suppose, but then there is that psychic blankness, that fundamental lack of curiosity and non-caring, and inability to risk relation at the heart of all his actions, that in some rather crucial sense extends to his ability to care about himself (this is interesting, of course, but hardly original). That maybe he had at least one personal relationship not led on a leash by his hyper-rational, hyper-active quest to feel, or be real (but which is it? and do we have any guarantees he's sincere about actually living once he gets there–assuming, falsely, that he can reach his point of purity through neurotic managing of the world's excess. Just to say that sustaining fictional sympathy, or even interest in the rampant self-indulgences of a man who can buy any piece of psychic space and mechanical repetition he wants is, well, difficult without more to convince (or at least remind) the reader of his unique condition. Not to suggest that its lack of definition, or his lack of dwelling in self-pity, isn't also part of the crucial reference here–that he is, in some important and exemplary sense, a common, everybody figure, 'nowhere man,' or even 'man without qualities.' Nor that a word like "torment" might not still be too strong a word for his condition–one without basic bodily and emotional connection, fluency, and hence empathy. The obsessional quality is therefor believable, as is the disregard for the reader as it clearly mirrors his non-relationship with every character (or chess pieces, as they might be called). One thinks also, inevitably, of The Mezzanine.

3/1/08 Ok, so I've read a few pages on now...and the story of Mr. 30-year-old trauma-opiates-addict is gripping once again. The astute reader would have probably guessed better at what was going on. The trauma-opiates explanation is not completely satisfying, though. At some point this character simply has to show some self-reflexivity, or be ruined. He's engaged in a kind of addicted vicariousness bordering on necrophilia, an addiction and self-indulgence nearly as bad as blogging. Such things can only end in tragedy. Prospects for real memory return seem minimal (although something has to give, somewhere–this can't go on forever).

3/2-08 Hurray. With added self-reflexivity comes renewed sympathy-he's quite the endearing fellow. But will his re-wiring of the brain succeed in bringing his real memory back? I still predict tragedy, although...a "happy" ending that convinced would be more difficult to pull off and ultimately more rewarding. That is, some reconciliation with real memory and working through to renewed (albeit universally flawed) 'authenticity.'

On a side note, not sure "live-blogging" books (if this has been a sorry excuse for that) is really way to go.

3/2/08 Finished! Hurray for tragedy and happiness!

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