Tuesday, October 4, 2005

ten talons clawing at twenty-six letters

Favorite Quotes from Philip Roth's The Anatomy Lesson
No, if the pain intended to accomplish something truly worthwhile, it would not be to strengthen his adamancy but to undo the stranglehold. Suppose there was the message flashing forth from a buried Nathan along the fibers of his nerves: Let the others write the books. Leave the fate of literature in their good hands and relinquish life alone in your room. It isn't life and it isn't you. It's ten talons clawing at twenty-six letters. Some animal carrying on in the zoo like that and you'd think it was horrifying. "But surely they could hang a tire for him to swing on - at least bring in a little mate to roll around with him on the floor." If you were to watch some certified madman groaning over a table in his little cell, observe him trying to make something sensible out of qwertyuiop, asdfghjkl, zxcvbnm, see him engrossed to the exclusion of all else by three such nonsensical words, you'd be appalled, you'd clutch his keeper's arm and ask, "Is there nothing to be done? No anti-hallucinogen? No surgical procedure?" But before the keep could even reply, "Nothing - it's hopeless," the lunatic would be up on his feet, out of his mind, and shrieking at you through his bars: "Stop this infernal interference! Stop this shouting in my ears! How do I complete my life's great work with all these gaping visitors and their noise!" (27-28)

The well-known pornographical paradox: one has to esteem innocence highly to enjoy its violation. (180)

Least Favorite Quotes from Benjamin Kunkel's Indecision (so far)
Soon the emptied seats had filled up with passengers going on to Quito, and the flight attendants were reciting their spiel again, first in English, then espanol. I'd never learned to habla espanol even a poquito. (8)

But what a tremendous, almost vegetal peacefulness there was in working for das Man! (As Knittel would say.) (21)


Not to say that the later book is bad, it's just not great, not yet - and the writing, the cutesy-ness of it sometimes falls flat. I have rolled my eyes more than a couple times because the prose seems so labored in its attempt to sound lax. Roth's prose, on the other hand, is amazing, and he also tries to have readable easy prose, but there is a lyrical quality to it that is amazing. Roth has so much going on in his books, so many literary jokes, so many jokes about his own career via his doppelganger, Nathan Zuckerman - and yet, unlike other writers who strive for literary greatness, Roth is such a pleasure to read. His books I don't want to put down. He gets everything right. He understands what perversity is when so many people say they don't understand why someone would do something, asking why someone would be into watersports or panty sniffing - Roth doesn't even bother with those prudish questions. I am thinking of Sabbath's Theather and how these turn the characters on and it is not sick but simply is. I love the repeating theme in a couple of his books, including this one I just read of an aging man flipping out and having less and less respect for social decorum, for convention and just spirals out of control into a mean, perverse growing curmudgeon. When Larry David is at his worst, that is the closest I can think of to other instances of a character just saying fuck off to the world in such a fashion. And just like with Larry David, it is a thrill to watch, something that makes you even a little envious that you hold some of it back and are not such an asshole also.

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