Sunday, October 10, 2010

How to Think about a Book

I find I think about a good book in pretty much the same way I think about sex. There's more than meets the eyes and I would like more, please. I do not think about books that are not good, because they do not sponsor thought. They provoke a desire to find a good book.

I have just finished Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road, which is a good book, because I am thinking about it, as an object or event, yes, but also I am thinking conceptually and comparatively. This sort of activity is, I should say, my fault, not the author's.

Oh where does a thing begin and where does it end.

Let me cover a few things here, or as many as the twin-sized blanket of my critical acumen is capable.

Proxy proxy proxy.

This book is stylistically clunky, and yet, it is intriguing. Published in 1955, it touches on the subjects of abortion, infidelity, marital discord, post-war Euro-longing, Intelli/Suburb image disaffection. I got through it well enough then was startled to find a conclusion where the author put forth an oblique representation of supporting characters metaphorizing the whole. How Franzen.

This book treats computers. It places in the mouth of a person intended to be a colossal bore (a General Manager of Sales) a speech in the throes of a four-martini lunch an impassioned vision of the place in business of the future for the computer.

It is a Small Melville World, after all.

There is a certain degree of sex in a house, an apartment, a car. Not a lot of detail. Most of the book is experienced in the thoughts and actions of a Frank, the confused white male emotionally detached central character. He deserves what he gets, the son-of-a-bitch - though it's a shame it costs his wife her life.

I like this book quite a lot though, being from 1955 - and the portrayal of the emotional charges underlying pretension, and those errors, and their impact on present emotion. One can do all sorts of things imaging oneself right, or damaged, or deprived. Be it 1955 or 2010, folks are happily driving themselves in a variety of attractive cultural or political vehicles to being stupid to the effect they produce on the people who matter most.

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