A Man’s Gotta Have Values!

M. Majistral from the excellent lit blog tabula rasa interrupts his review to vent a frustration of his:

Mais voilà, pardonnez-moi une grossièreté : j’en ai plein le cul de jouer (et ce jeu dure depuis très exactement quatre ans et un jour) à faire la liste des bons et des mauvais points des livres lus. J’en ai plein le cul de résumer l’intrigue. Oubliez donc les trois paragraphes qui précèdent, virons les chapeaux et les chutes et passons, rapidement sans doute, trop rapidement peut-être, à ce qui fait, selon moi, tout l’intérêt du « Livre sacré du loup-garou ». Pas pourquoi il faudrait l’acheter. Même pas pourquoi il faudrait le lire (ça, finalement, vous l’avez vu plus haut ou ailleurs : amusant, blablabla). Non : ce que je veux brièvement mentionner ici, c’est ce que ce roman de Pelevine (et sans doute plus que certains de ses précédents textes) aura évoqué en moi.

As someone who had trouble starting to write reviews (and is still crappy at it), trying to slip out of his academic skin, trying to transmit his passions for literature and still make a point that could not be summed up by an emoticon, I can understand that. But I think these three things (“pourquoi il faudrait l’acheter”, “pourquoi il faudrait le lire” and “ce que ce roman de Pelevine … aura évoqué en moi”) cannot be easily separated, or at least I try not to separate them. WordPress’ blogcounter tells me this blog’s being read (not that I’d know from the comments) and I hope that people who read my reviews can see that my reviews are, first and foremost, accounts of what the books move in me, of how they move me; and since I am a missionary whose faith in God got lost in the mail, apparently, I then spent a lot of time trying to persuade people to read or not read a certain book. I’m not sure if I misread M. Majistral’s frustration here, but I think he thinks too little of the worth of the first two parts. I know my attempts to force him to read some great writers (Jahnn comes to mind) have been unsuccessful, so far, but you can always try. See, I’m hugely egocentric, and currently pummeled by an unholy headache, but when I think a book is great or important or just really worth reading or thinking about, then I tend to think: you, reader, you need to read this. your life will be better with the book than without it. Yes it’s myopic, but that’s me. The same goes for bad books, too. Why should someone read the Brooklyn Follies when he could read Shining at the Bottom of the Sea or Go tell it on the Mountain instead? Sorry. Have no idea where I’m going with this. Getting some aspirin. Bye.

2 thoughts on “A Man’s Gotta Have Values!

  1. Well, Marcel you make some valid points. I wouldn’t accuse you of misreading, although you get it partly wrong: I didn’t articulate the reason why I said what I said, so it’s my fault. I don’t think the first two or three paragraphs are worthless, it’s more that they don’t correspond to what I want to do, which is to go further than a single book or at least go further than the surface of summing up the story / the author. You see, for years I wrote things that more or less read like reviews you can find in the press, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I studied journalism and it’s difficult for me to get away from the classic structure of the review. Hence the frustration with my tendency to still do it that way. Obviously, “why should I buy it”, “why should I read it” and “what did it tell me” are things that are difficult to separate and are, like it or not, at the heart of most literary comments (outside the Academia, at least). But I’d like to make it less obvious, I’d like not that have to spell out so clearly the story and what tiny bits I liked or disliked, I’d like to still convey that but obliquely, less directly, by peppering those elements over the whole piece, by seasoning a wider ranging text with elements peculiar to the novel that I use to talk about the thing I want to talk about. If that makes any sense.
    As for Jahnn, I’ll read him as soon as I get my hand on vol 1 of Fleuve sans rive. So far, I only see 2 and 3. By the way, Bolaño quotes Jahnn in his poetry.

  2. “still make a point that could not be summed up by an emoticon” : I really, really love that one.
    May I add that you succeed on that particular point ?
    Thanks for that.
    I’ll try to keep it in my gasteropode’s mind. But you know, I’m a “young” reader…prefering ibuprofene to aspirin.

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