Fox

In Rome I don’t have a bookshelf filled with a thousand books I thought I wanted to read immediately and have not yet read, some for 20 years.  That is the depth of my home nightstand.  So it was pretty incredible feeling this week to be able to finally use the “sample” function on freakin ibooks on my freakin ipad to download many of the books I am afraid to forget I might want to read (say 75% are on there– rest must be small press?) so that when I want a new book I really can open and shut until I can take the language and then commit.  I have been very fussy about reading, again, after a good reading month or two when I first arrived.  This time it’s b/c I am in the middle of trying to write this book, though, which is a different reading problem.  The reading has to collide with what I’m working on– or more like brush up against it obliquely.  So I am finally reading Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters which might be a 20th century realistic novel I actually want to teach (ach I can’t help it I still think about teaching– it doesn’t horrify me as much as it did a couple months ago).  The first chapters are breath taking, really, with their unaffected clarity– each sentence has something incredibly cool in it– and she shifted btwn her 2 characters so gracefully– and I saw a few shadows of formal stuff I am trying to do with the idea of America occasionally conscious in some characters’ minds but clearly in mine– and trying not to be affected about it or anxious– just like of course we think about this– it’s our common narrative, the one we all know and fight.  But the punctures is what I love in the first chapters– the cat of course and followed by the stone through their friend’s window that no one noticed.  I am less enthralled with these last few chapters though, which are almost entirely internal/ free indirect 3rd, which james wood thinks is the very thing that makes novels worth being novels and I find almost always unbearably snobby to read.  This is far from unbearable, but it has meant the loss of most of the surprise I found so thrilling in the first chapters and the layering across formal elements of the pattern of puncture, the dynamic aspects of the dialogue.  Anyhow.  Do I really hate exactly what most people wld call “the novelistic” in novels?  That may be the case.  Anyhow I am very excited to see how the rest of reading this book plays out.  Phew.

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