Friday, January 07, 2005


I really can't seem to stop reading novels now I've started. It's reprehensible. I read an excellent one last night, though, a recommendation from Sarah Weinman: Peter Temple's Identity Theory. It's fabulous! I am outraged that this is the guy's first novel to be published in the US; Australian-published fiction is surprisingly difficult to get hold of over here. (I rely on various university libraries that are linked by BorrowDirect to Columbia's for a lot of the British and Irish fiction I read; at least a few of these libraries regularly buy the lists of small presses like Serpent's Tail and so on, not just the big-name ones like Faber etc. All these libraries usually have two copies of new novels that would have been published first in the UK, for instance--there will be the UK and the US editions of someonelike Kate Atkinson, in other words. But Australian fiction doesn't seem to be on the radar in the same way. It's a great pity, too. I was terribly thwarted when I couldn't get hold of Emily Maguire's novel earlier this summer--I can't wait for it to come out from Serpent's Tail.) Anyway, someone should buy up his earlier list & bring them all out directly to paperback & sell huge numbers of copies. He's a really good writer, and it's a really complex but well-worked-out plot that had me wondering whether I could try to write something like that, which is always a good sign.

I also saw a not-particularly-good production of Chekhov's Three Sisters: it had some good ideas, but the gimmicks quickly grew old. I was disappointed--it had sounded pretty interesting beforehand.

And I am in the throes of this Leslie Farber fixation--I think I won't really write anything much here, I really must try and write some kind of an essay about all this, but here are a few thoughts. EVERYONE should read Farber's essays--the most readily available collection is The Ways of the Will (a selected/expanded edition). My favorite is the one called "Lying on the Couch," which seems to me both brilliant and absolutely obvious, so that you can't believe nobody ever saw it like this before. Here's a brief quotation, just to give the taste of it: "Revelation is addictive because the pursuit of the esthetic--at the expense of the accurate--is essentially coarsening. Ordinary, fragmentary truth, on a more modest scale, appears by contrast trivial and inadequate--appears, in short, untrue, sincce it so conspicuously lacks the splendor and intensity of feeling by which one has come to recognize the validity of revelation. In this way one's assumptions about truth fasten on the revelatory, and this habit of discovery quickly becomes addictive." And also of great, great interest to almost anyone who cares about good prose/mental illness/ethics and the intellect is Emily Fox Gordon's memoir about her treatment by Farber (it's about other things too, but that's its moral center), Mockingbird Years: A Life In and Out of Therapy. It is absolutely wonderful! I loved it. I read it in a single sitting, it's extremely addictive. It has some obvious points in common with Girl, Interrupted but it's a completely different kind of book.

No comments:

Post a Comment