Also, I have been splitting my time between Jest and Midnight's Children (about which I'll have a post soon), as well as a couple of other books which I may not post about in full. The executive summary of that reading would go something like
- Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada: what is so dull about the Underground Railroad, much less the Civil War, that you have to add airplanes to it? There is a sort of smallness to the literality of Reed's historical disruptions that robs them of being anything more than cleverly irreverent.
- Peter Handke's The Left-Handed Woman: Brilliant. Still ruminating. Eager to read more Handke.
- Athol Fugard's play Master Harold and the Boys: also read Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman a month or so back and together they present, one might say, Aristotle's pity and terror. And while terror is perhaps the more interesting spectacle, I would almost rather see this performed—where Soyinka's play presents all kinds of interesting choices and challenges for the director, I feel Fugard's play may be more dependent on the living performance of its words—the challenge to the actors must be immense, and to see it successfully acted would be a mind-and-soul-rearranging experience.
- Victor Pelevin's The Sacred Book of the Werewolf: it takes you 4/5 of the book to figure out how scant the plot is, and then the last fifth is a discourse on vaguely Daoist/early Chan Buddhist philosophy and mystical practice. I honestly don't know how most people got through the last fifth; I very enjoyably took a number of courses in college on East Asian religions (particularly Daoism), and I found Pelevin's handling of it really plodding and dull. What someone who isn't familiar with these concepts is able to dig out of it by way of profit or pleasure, I can't fathom. That said, everything about the novel up to that point works way better than it deserves to, and it's a really fun ride while it lasts.
I haven't really enjoyed the Don Gately sections (although, admittedly, the toothbrush in the butt section was funny, albeit rather macabre in its ending), but I suddenly got a real feel for him as a character in the long exchange between him and Day in endnote 90. Again, just ludicrously good dialogue, really giving a sense of someone trying to have a conversation with someone bent on delivering a monologue. And, I guess the section about the different "Units" was really enjoyable as well.
All of which is to say that, nearing page 300, I feel like I've settled into what Wallace is doing with at least two of the main characters. There hasn't been a section involving Steeply and Marathe recently, and I really didn't find their previous sections interesting at all.
If you have advice about how to approach upcoming material (or the book as a whole), or want to add your own status report, please share!