The Books of My Numberless Dreams


Posted on: November 9, 2007

In wanting to write about The People of Paper, this was one of the few times I searched for other commentary on the book before I wrote down my own thoughts. This was partly because I had maintained a good record of my ruminations throughout the first reading, and after sorting out the sources for my negative reactions, had a firmer hold on what it all meant for me. I was also damn curious about what others thought, especially since I had to take the very short A.V.Club review more seriously, once I’d reached further into the story.

The Carrie/Rake talk at Tingle Alley provided some interesting side-paths. Apparently Zadie Smith and Ian McEwan had what sounded like a dubious exchange in some magazine about how more valid an art form realist fiction was to the more fantastical. Some rubbish about magic realism being trendy (as if the shelves aren’t buried in realism), of a more “international” flavour, and novels need to be local. Now, I’ve never had any intention of reading Zadie Smith’s books because, despite our similar ideas on reading, no one’s managed to make her books sound exciting; but McEwan’s retrograde position (based on the excerpts) has moved Enduring Love‘s position in the TBR queue back a few spots. I’ve never understood the attitude behind wanting to place constricting limits on literature.

Which brings me to the NYTBR review by Nathaniel Rich. I don’t have a problem with his brief, paragraph long assessment of the book which ends the article, but I could not shrug off my discomfort with his opening. I cannot abide a critical approach to a book that frames it in racial/cultural terms for no better reason than the author’s race. Oh ho, Mexican-American author, eh? Used some Spanish words? I can’t wait to see what insights he brings to the “Mexican-American experience”! It’s a novel not a bloody tour bus. It seems grossly inappropriate for Plascencia’s book as, if nothing else, it is such an idiosyncratic and highly personal exercise. You’re not going to get any stroll through the mind of a drug-pushing gang member.

Darby’s reaction to the novel was the most amusing: exactly how I felt right after I’d finished it, and still describes it to some extent, although I’m a bit clearer on some things since I wrote about it. He does not seem to have elaborated on it since then.

On a completely different subject The Little Professor commented on a strange illustration of Robert Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover”, which I blogged about before.

Edit: I received my complimentary Virginia Quarterly Review despite giving them the wrong address by accident. (Three cheers for awesome postmen who remember address changes.) And, you know, it’s not that it’s not awesome or anything, but where are all the articles on knock-me-over South American fiction? There’s some excerpted Bolaño fiction, but goodness knows when I’ll get to it, or the one in my Fence journal copy, or any of the novels because I’m tired of the genius before I even got started.  I’m mildly pacified by the archaeology article. Mildly.

I also got my Akashic books and was so super-excited until I entered them into LibraryThing and saw how few members owned any of them. Poor indie press books. My Abani’s talents must be recognised and revered! I don’t know what it means that I’m more excited about the novella than the novel. I really should reread Graceland: I paid much more attention to Becoming Abigail because I was blogging by then.


4 Responses to "Addendum"

It’s fair to say I enjoyed it.

It’s also fair to say my girlfriend absolutely loved it. She’s a girl, and so is a better subject matter expert in most matters involving taste.

Darby girls are dependable for that sort of thing.

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