07 September 2011

Random Thoughts

I’m clicking about on the internet tempted to spend money and desperately resisting the urge. One alternative might be a trip to the local Dairy Queen for a hot fudge sundae with a twist or an Oreo mini-blizzard®  Yes, I would have to pay for the treat, but it is a minimal charge and a perfect exemplar of instant gratification. Actually, I have found the mini-Blizzard® insufficient, and the regular Blizzard® too much. I have suggested to both of my children that they send letters to Mr. Dairy Queen recommending the introduction of a ¾ Blizzard®, but neither has taken my suggestion seriously. 
I find the immediate hour or so after dinner particularly unsettling. I am not quite ready to slip on my jammies and call it a day, but neither am I prepared to fully engage in a serious project. When the semester is in session I devote this time to on-line class discussions and usually this activity settles me into the evening. At some point I would leave the conversation,arise from the desk chair, go into the house, slip on the jammies, and pick up the book of the moment. At the present it is Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope. I am enjoying the narrator in this novel: a bit satirical, even sardonic, whose insight into the petty behaviors of the characters makes for wonderful irony. But perhaps included in his irony is an awareness that the narrator is a part of the society he criticizes. Certainly the book itself lends itself wonderfully to an analysis of class relations, and offers interesting perspective on England in the latter half of the nineteenth century. I’m enjoying the vacation there.Next I plan to re-read Tristram Shandy, a book I studied almost thirty years ago. I have fond memories of the experience. Indeed, it is great fun to return now to books I read then. I have recently reread the early first Zuckerman trilogyThe Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, and The Anatomy Lesson, and found there a richness I did not earlier know. I even re-read Portnoy’s Complaint.  I was so much older then. Roth seems to me to be obsessively concerned with the relationship between art and life, between writing novels and living life. He seems to want to keep the two domains separate. Interestingly, this is the same critique Zuckerman makes of Roth’s autobiography The Facts: Zuckerman accuses Roth of deception by attempting to report only the facts, when, in fact, the facts he offers obscure the life that the novels portray and that derive from just the facts.

I am fascinated by the life Nathan Zuckerman narrates; he seems to want to keep wholly separate the life he lives and the life he narrates, even if the life he narrates derives from the life he lives. He discovers that clearly this is not at all possible. As the novels progress, Zuckerman retreats farther away from the world even as the world continues to intrude itself on him. It assaults him at the delicatessen, oppresses his body,; it literally passes by his window (I Married a Communist) or storms through his front door demanding he write someone else’s life (The Human Stain). And though compelled to write, Zuckerman is unsure it has meaning for anyone but himself. And I do not think he considers himself worthy enough.Fall is still several weeks hence, but the mornings are crisp and fresh, and I sleep with the comforter and quilt snug warm in my jammies under the covers. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jammies?? Alas, non-judgment could only take place in your dreams.

07 September, 2011 08:16  

Post a Comment

<< Home