Just some quick thoughts on other things I’ve been reading.
I’ve burned out on Thomas Pynchon, having read too much too soon. And I feel a bit like his novels are a kind of magician’s act wherein I’m dazzled by his erudition and command of the English language but am left without anything real to grasp. Which, I mean, may just be his schtick as a postmodernist, but I tired of it (and his penchant for weird sex stuff).
When I first read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, I hated it. Rarely do I have that sort of reaction to a work of art – usually I’m just disappointed or indifferent, and move on. So, naturally, I decided to revisit it, and, dangit, I actually liked it. The first time I went in, I was expecting a revisionist western and got what seemed to be this storyless, tedious drivel. But now the novel strikes me as more of an expressionist nightmare in cowboy drag, and in that mode it becomes quite frightening. Or maybe I’ve just become a more demented person in the intervening time. It’d probably take an entire separate post to hash out my thoughts on it.
No Country For Old Men was a step down, though (or at least what I read of it). I get that McCarthy gravitates towards a macho, Hemingway sort of minimalism, but this is pretty skeletal. It just feels so incomplete compared to the movie adaptation.
In Isaac Asimov’s The Robots of Dawn, it turns out that the most prophetic aspect of his science fiction is his prediction that people would be horny for robots. His inability to make compellingly human characters hurts way more in his robot detective novels than in the Foundation trilogy, which has an epic, generational scope that isn’t as dependant on individual personalities.
Ted Gioia’s History of Jazz is a good, informative read.