Friday, April 24, 2015

Madame Bovary, c'est moi.

"What word would you use," the psychoanalyst asks while my eyes seek the canyon of Manhattan towers visible from her window, "to characterize the feeling in all these things you've been describing?" Me: "Elegiac."

     Since I respect you, let me tell you a secret.
     As a cow devours grass, so literary themes are devoured; devices fray and crumble.
     A writer cannot be a ploughman: he is a nomad, constantly moving with his wife and herd to greener pastures.

After ripping through the first section, Juan García Madero's journal from November 2 to December 31, 1975, it took me months to fall back into the The Savage Detectives. Then, momentum: I take the last third or so of the novel in great gulps, mostly on the 1, nearly missing my stop every time, accompanied by a rising, heaving disillusionment at not having lived like a visceral realist or an infrarealist — hard-boiled. Bolaño didn't believe in exile, "especially when the word exile is set beside the word literature."

The momentum carried me headlong into Cole's Open City, which I had begun in Berlin and abandoned in a kind of panic, like catching a glimpse of yourself reflected at an unexpected angle in the bus window against which you've been resting your head; and for a moment you forget where you were going in the first place. This time I finish. The two, The Savage Detectives and Open City, pass through each other in Liberia, as though a minor character in Arturo Belano's travels there has wound up in a Queens detention center: Saidu telling his story though plexiglass to Julius. Now I fret that there is something equally despicable in my past that I have secreted away, even from myself, and that the therapist will uncover soon.

Directly on the heels of Open City, Zoo, or Letters Not about Love completed what now feels like a coincidental symphony — through Shklovsky's compressed exile in Berlin, a mental or spiritual breakdown between the lines of an epistolary novel that, like The Savage Detectives, ranges freely and idiosyncratically over a literary tradition and its recent politics. For both RBA and VBS, detection and the detective novel were special keys, but for opening what door? while Julius wanders to know himself, like the lunatic quoted by Benjamin: "I travel to know my geography."

...Moving diagonally like a knight, I have intersected your life, Alya, and you know how that was and how it is; but you turn up in my book like Isaac at the fire built by Abraham.

If ever a lady doth-protested too much, it was me writing dustily on the board clack tsssh click that the characters in the novels we will be reading this semester are not people; do not (for you cannot) identify. Drops the chalk into the tray.