austerlitz before 100

beginning to get scared about presenting a “talk” to the les figues people for their kathy acker camp.  this anxiety of not knowing enough is a very big part of the project of this book– and a lot of the work is in extracting the parts that are about the boring parts of my anxieties and leaving the parts that are good for the larger purpose and good-to-read-ness of the novel.  one aspect is relationship with allusion and quotation.  I put a line in there that explains it to myself:  that I quote when I don’t have words myself.  then I came across a line that seemed to say just that, reading Austerlitz.  But now I can’t find it.  Maybe it was a thought that came out of the things I marked (and implicit in the large-frame form of only-slightly dramatized first person narrator quoting the subject, Austerlitz, through the whole book– all in one paragraph– which blends them in a way that I have been interested in blending narrator and character in my book– he has found this way to do it without losing clarity– and I have not yet figured out my way).  Anyhow, stuff I marked that is part of this:

Other things I’m marking in this book (and less than 100 pgs in)

1. the descriptions of buildings — the reference to the Pantheon– seem magically intersected with my book.  I don’t know how smart I will be about being able to understand the different purposes and the way those purposes are different in relation to what each book wants to depict about history.

2.   the way that the book launches at exactly p. 50– just as I was told by Nan Graham in 1991, when I was reading for her as her intern, that novels do.  I think she said “by p. 50 you need to know what the book is about” & hence “send the first 50 pages.”  But I have noticed since then that a lot of novels declare themselves in an important way right at 50.  this seems related to the way I read and write supposedly “innovative” books.  the ones I like are all anchored in really stark and simplistic aspects of generic form– and spin out from there.  But they choose their anchors rather than assuming them.

3.  “we try to reproduce the reality, but the harder we try, the more we find the pictures that make up the stock-in-trade of the spectacle of history forcing themselves upon us:  the fallen drummer boy, the infantryman shown in the act of stabbing another… Our concern with history, Hilary’s thesis ran, is a concern with performed images already imprinted on our brains, images at which we keep staring while the truth lies elsewhere, away from it all, somewhere as yet undiscovered.” (72)– he then goes on to talk about the way that his newly revealed “real” name becomes real for him as the place/time where the name comes from is described in a history lesson.

4.  the description of his interest in photography (77):  “From the outset my main concern was with the shape and the self-contained nature of discrete things” (2 images of nature– seashore and leaf-dapples, & 2 images of constructions– brick wall and factory– accompany this part of the story– and we know he will later become immersed in reading architecture).


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