Distribution Automatique

Saturday, January 29

"25th April (1936)

Today, nothing."

(*The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950*
Cesare Pavese
Walker and Company, NY, 1961)

Thursday, January 27

"We must love one another or die"
W.H. Auden

Soft! by Rupert Thomson

Rupert Thomson is a British writer whose book *Soft!* (1998) I came
across browsing the fiction shelves of the Grand Army
Plaza branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. When I
returned *Soft!* today, I took out another stack of
books including the immediately very readable *Goest*
by Cole Swenson, which I remember got nominated last
year for an impressive literary prize. I also came across
a new translation of the Proust classic *Swann's Way* by
Lydia Davis. I figured I would try to get through
this fuzzy-wuzzy book again after many misfires.
Maybe having once or twice briefly met the translator might
help me to get through it. No doubt I am am severely
shocking the inveterate Proust fans who read *fait accompli*
But you must see how persistent I am about literary classics.
There are numerous others I haven't gotten through that
I can also shock you with, including all of Dante. I can see
you shaking your head now with disbelief. I also took out
*Anthropology of an American Girl* by H. T. Hamann,
a book I got hooked on so quickly I missed my subway
stop on the way to my office today, and almost missed
it again coming home.

Well, I really liked *Soft!* by Rupert Thomson and will
be hunting down his other books as soon as possible This is
not a gentle book,in that it involves murder and suicide,
fraud and manipulation, but I admire the way it combines
various fictional techniques and has the one quality
I demand of any writing I like a lot: unclassifiability. Come
to think of it, I like that adjective better than "experimental"
or "language", because as soon as I am aware that writing
is pretentiously experimental or
languagy I no longer like it, say, the way I might have
in the late 70's or even the 80's. Soft! is inventive,
not experimental, though I read an interview with Thomson
who urged writers to remain experimental. Evidently he
was approached to turn one of his books into a film script
and refused. But that was 1999 and maybe he's changed his
mind by now. He quotes Louse Bourgeois as urging
writers to trust the unconcious. But clearly Thomson
is quite aware that the unconcious has a dark side
as well.

In *Soft!* a group of soft drink company executives decide to try a new twist
on publicizing a product. They put out an offer to pay
subjects for a sleep experiment and then plant subliminal
ideas in their minds about loving the drink. One of the subjects
of this experiment, who needed the money for a dress to go to a
wedding, becomes totally obsessed with Soft! drinking it
constantly and obsessed with its color logo: orange. When she is about to
be interviewed by a reporter he
mysteriously disappears. One of the most intriguing aspects of
this book is that each section is devoted to a tracking one character
in depth, whose life you learn about very deeply, even in
aspects that do not contribute directly to the plot. One reviewer
rebuked this technique but I admired it greatly. Each character
is from a vastly different background from
the other and is explored and patiently followed in great detail.
Glade is a waitress hopelessly in love with a wealthy American
who is coldly cruel to her. Barker, a professional bouncer who is
employed to track and murder Glade, has had numerous
futile relationships. Logan, who invents the advertising
stunt, never seems to be able to connect with anyone. By
closely tracking his characters' inability to experience human
closeness, Thomson evokes a world in which power,
greed and violence stealthily, yet inevitably, come to
live in the void where love won't grow:- or suddenly, volcanically, erupt
out of it.

Tuesday, January 25

Santa Clause

Dagzine {click here} picks up the gauntlet, and marches into the lists against the mighty

Mike Snider's Formal Blog and Sonnetarium {click here}.

Now, I'm really beginning to wonder...what is the irresistible appeal in debating this gentleman pictured on his blog harmlessly plucking a guitar (or is it a mandolin?) and sporting a lengthy white beard? Is it because *sonnetarium* sounds so much like
*sanitarium*? Have we never left the Magic Mountain after all? Hmmmm......