June 21, 2005

I get my kicks above the waistline

James Joyce once wrote of "that ideal reader suffering from an ideal insomnia."

Normally, I wouldn't quote anything from Finnegan's Wake, as it is a huge literary joke. Lots of writers and essayists quote that line, but few take a second to look at its syntax in the book.
and look at this prepronominal funferal, engraved and retouched and edgewiped and pudden-padded,very like a whale's egg farced with pemmican,as were itsentenced to be nuzzled over a full trillion times for ever and a night till his noddle sink or swim by that ideal reader suffering from an ideal insomnia: all those red raddled obeli cayennepep-percast over the text, calling unnecessary attention to errors, omissions, repetitions and misalignments: that (probably local or personal) variant maggers for the more generally accepted majesty which is but a trifle and yet may quietly amuse: those superciliouslooking crisscrossed Greek ees awkwardlike perched there and here out of date like sick owls hawked back to Athens: and the geegees too, jesuistically formed at first but afterwards genuflected aggrily toewards the occident:

Whatever. The only thing Joyce is good for, in my opinion, is his appearance in Travesties by Stoppard.

Speaking of which, as I was searching for a link to Stoppard, I found a quote that I think some of you might enjoy.
You've turned literature into a religion and it's as dead as all the rest. It's an overripe corpse and you're cutting fancy figures at the wake. It's too late for geniuses: Now we need vandals and desecrators, simple minded demolition men to smash centuries of baroque subtlety, to bring down the temple, and thus finally, to reconcile the shame and the necessity of being an artist!

I had a point to this post, once.

Normally, I would refrain from even thinking about Joyce, especially during my free time, but Zadie Smith quotes him in Best American NonRequired Reading (2003), and it sparked my interest.

I want to add another person to Friday's meme, of the authors who've influenced/meant a lot to me.

Carole Nelson Douglas

Her books (and the Harry Potter ones, to a lesser extent) are the only ones that can consistantly keep me up until the wee hours of the morning, no matter how tired I am. It's that ideal insomnia, enthralled by a great author. It's not easy for me to sit down and read 600+ pages in one go, but with her books, I always can, and usually want more.

I should clarify. She writes two series of books, both mysteries. One is this silly little series about a cat who helps its owner solve mysteries in Las Vegas. It's actually not bad, for that genre of cozy mysteries. It's her other series that gives me literary wood.

Her other book series is about Irene Adler. Miss Adler was the only person to ever outsmart Sherlock Holmes. The first book in the series retells A Scandal in Bohemia from her point of view. In subsequent books, she is called in to help investigate mysteries that are too delicate for Sherlock Holmes. He's too famous to help in times of great, national importance.

My favorite books in this series are Chapel Noir and its sequel, Castle Rouge, where Irene, enlisting such notable people from history as Oscar Wilde, Nellie Bly, Sarah Bernhardt, and others, to capture Jack the Ripper. ::Link contains spoiler:: Her choice of killer seems both plausible and original, at least in the context of the story.

This book probably seems less literary than what I usually talk about. Sure, she's no Dostoevsky or Rimbaud, but let's face it: no one reads those dead guys for fun. Dostoevsky hurts. It's okay to admit it. He's a dead Russian, he's not meant for light beach reading.

But Carole Nelson Douglas? Her other series is light beach reading, sure, but this series isn't. It's no Russian classic, but it's no beach read, either. But definitely worth a look.
Here lies a most ridiculous raw youth, indulging himself in the literary graces that he once vowed to eschew. Now he just rocks out.