Friday, October 29, 2010

The Three Stages of Bolano

Aside from the merits of his individual works, the literary output of Roberto Bolano presents a fascinating portrait of a writer in development.  The seemingly never ending stream of translations of his work over the last two years at one point seemed to me to be approaching the level of barrel bottoms being scraped.  From a monetary standpoint for the publishers, this seems likely to be the mentality.  However, it allows the opportunity to get an understanding of how he developed over his writing career.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Tale of Two Articles

In the November 1964 edition of Harper's Magazine Richard Hofstadter's article The Paranoid Style in American Politics explored a mindset that was prevalent in his time, but that he traced throughout American history.  He referred to the "paranoid style" as a negative force in politics that is problematic primarily because it is employed by more or less normal people.  The people who fall into the trap are not certifiably disturbed, but average citizens and members of the public service, and the "style" they employ, whether conscious or not, create it's impact on how the ideas are perceived rather than the inherent value, or even validity, of the content of the message.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall

Don Carpenter's Hard Rain Falling certainly can't be judged by it's cover, at least by the New York Review of Books edition I own.  The cover shows a car speeding down a road implying, in my mind, freedom and open spaces.  On the contrary, the novel is incredibly claustrophobic.  Jack Levitt, the anti-hero, is always inside, whether this be a pub, a pool hall, an apartment, a prison cell, solitary confinement, or his own mind.  The lack of freedom comes through on every page and makes for an intense reading experience.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ronald Wright's America

Ronald Wright's What is America? occupies a strange place: part well-researched history (there are well over 100 pages of endnotes, sources, etc.), part polemic, and, as the title suggest, part attempt to figure out why the United States makes the particular decisions it makes on the worldwide stage.  Wright is a compelling read, largely due to an seemingly effortless writing style and the ongoing sense of concern he reveals on every page.  However, this is not enough to make a flawless book, of which I'm still trying to assess it's true value several days after finishing it.