the power of power-point

Time is not on our side, sneaking up on us and grinding away our souls and bodies. “Time’s a goon” says one of the characters in Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the best reads I’ve had in a long time. Encompassing past, present and future, a whole lot of nostalgia and innumerable character points of view, the novel is a self-declared proustian endeavor for the 21st century. Since I’ve never really managed to warm up to Mr. Proust, I’ll have to take Egan’s word for it, but it did give me renewed bouts of shame for not having read the frenchie classic and maybe even the push to do so during up-coming long cold winter nights.

Aside from the nostalgia and the all encompassing theme of the past’s shadows over the present, there is little else of the self-absorbed proustian streak. It’s a novel about no one in particular, but about many characters whose paths cross more or less delicately: a kleptomaniac redhead, a punk-rock producer, a bunch of punk teenagers, children, spouses and lovers of other characters, friends, a late blooming, recluse guitar-player, a middle-aged art professor, a suicidal unrequited lover, a PR specialist with a ruined reputation and so on. The time frame is scrambled and ranging from sometime in the late 70s to 2020. This all sounds pretentious and complicated, but it somehow falls effortlessly into place. Despite the obviously experimental prose, it has a surprisingly classical old-fashioned tinge to it. It may be because of the whole nostalgia permeating it. It’s like Proust for the digital age. I’m getting the feeling that the sex drugs and rock’n’roll self-destructive thing is becoming vintage material for this squeaky clean, technologically savvy and paradoxically eco conscious, slow food cooking, domestic new generation and the novel definitely carries some sort of heroin nostalgia.

Some may find it tiring that each chapter starts from an entirely new perspective that one needs to get accustomed with, but the effort pays off in the end as you start to see the fine lines tying all of them together. They are all almost poetic and despite their shortness, you get a deep insight into each character and an uncanny sense of how the passage of time is altering them. My favorite chapter belongs to a former teen-age guitar-prodigy, now toothless recovering heroin addict turned bum, who spends his time fishing in New York and one day brings a big catch to his now big shot producer former childhood friend, leaving a big stinky fish wrapped up in newspaper on his fancy desk in  an equally fancy skyscraper office building. It plays beautifully with the ambiguities of success and how sometimes reaching rock bottom is not very different from achieving what society would refer to as success. And how success is always tinted by the fear that you are nonetheless always one step away from hitting rock bottom. There is also a touching chapter written in power-point slides, not my favorite, but definitely an achievement keeping up with the connection between the passage of time and ever changing media theme, in an eloquent way. It got me looking back at my own life and what the passage of time has done to it and I found myself already missing the characters while I was done with the last pages.

f&*% the anxiety of influence

The fear of plagiarism can be a paralyzing thing and not to mention pointless. It’s like being afraid of the air you breathe. Of course I’m not talking about the word for word type, that’s a crime, but about the unconscious one, about those ideas that are in the air sometimes and they come to more people at once and about things going on around us that enter our subconscious. You can’t prevent being influenced by everything around you. We are all the unique combination of different influences. Lolita was a story told by an obscure German guy, but who cares about that. What matters is that Nabokov wrote it the way he did after absorbing countless influences, among which the story written by the German guy. The anxiety of influence can become the ecstasy of influence according to Jonathan Lethem and this amazing article, it’s just a matter of the manner in which you look at things.

And an ecstatic cover:

post in grup

Noroc cu oameni care mai incita la posturi, in grup de data asta, ca alfel eu nu mai prea dau pe aici.

Si inca un semn ca tre’ sa-l citesc pe Michel Houellebecq asta desi am impresia tot mai pregnanta ca n-o sa-mi placa. Am vazut filmu’ cu particulele elementare parca si am facut cadou si cartea cuiva frantzuzit, se pune?

boladenieve78

Je vous présente Houellebecq. Michel Houellebecq. Pentru ca l-a plictisit istoria din romanele lui Dumas dar i-au placut benzile desenate cu Pif. Pentru ca te pocneste in ochi cu adevaruri precum “people get married to have a personal life”. Pentru ca l-am iubit de la “Particulele elementare” pana azi, cand il savurez in dialog cu Bernard-Henri Levy, si am tresarit dureros a recunoastere citind “Extension du domaine de la lutte” taman cand lucram ca programator. Pentru impertinenta asumata si libertatea de a se contrazice, pentru ca se inchipuie romantic si se vrea iubit. Pentru ca e uman si inteligent si scrie bine.

[interviu houellebecq]

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Micawber

Tocmai mă bucuram că am un interviu cu Wagner, ba chiar unul publicat într-o carte cu ştaif, Wagner’s Meistersinger: Performance, History, Representation (editor Nicholas Vazsonyi). Unul din contributori, Peter Höying, reproduce o convorbire cu compozitorul, sub titlul http://worldwidewagner.richard.de: An Interview with the Composer Concerning History, Nation, and Die Meistersinger. Până la urmă se dovedeşte că discuţia e inventată, cu tot parfumul ei de verosimilitate (la un moment dat intervievatul se plânge chiar că e întrerupt). E frustrant de-a binelea – n-am găsit niciun interviu real cu Wagner şi nici nu am cum să-l întreb, direct, „e adevărat, maestre, că vă plăceau pilotele de puf şi hainele de catifea, după cum susţine Thomas Mann, un individ care s-a afirmat după moartea dumneavoastră?” Aşa că adresa de mai sus trebuie luată ca parte a glumei (să nu-i vină cuiva ideea să-o acceseze). Linkuri la interviuri adevărate n-am.

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bicicleta galbenă

Pentru că a scos din zona de confort atâţia mediocri dovediţi, dar ultra-prezenţi şi obositor de vizibili, spunând lucruri sincere într-o limbă ciudată & adâncă, de o rafinată simplitate. Şi pentru că, de fiecare dată când îi citesc interviurile, realizez cât de ipocrit/ipocriţi sunt/suntem în relaţie cu oameni pe care-i dispreţuim din rărunchi, dar le zâmbim strepezit – precum în viaţă, aşa şi pe bloguri. Da. Deci: Herta Müller.

[interviu herta müller]

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delaskela

când am dat de ’’Ziua independenţei’’ era o zi de iarnă mă învârteam aiurea printr-o librărie văzusem un film cu titlul ăsta mi-am zis băi frate ditamai romanul pentru un film cu extratereştri răi dar eram în mare mare eroare nici vorbă de aşa ceva m-am lămurit citind un interviu într-o revistă dăruită de o doamnă aşa am descoperit pe unul dintre cei mai puternici prozatori din toate timpurile Richard Ford iar ’’ziua independenţei’’ nu are nicio treabă cu filmul e un roman remarcabil, la fel e şi ’’Cronicarul sportiv’’ artă narativă pură glorioasă.

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milfUnde nu i-ar da dumnezeu un d-asta si lu’ Eugenia Voda!

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Simona Radoi Bun, interviul ales de mine este cel facut de Eugen Istodor cu Cristi Borcea: [interviul] Interviu ales din motive obiective, cu mentiunea ca in ziua aparitiei m-a sunat un prieten, dinamovist, sa ma roage sa il felicit pe Eugen Istodor.

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S(f). Vasile Cititorule, ai conştiinţa împovãratã de atâta dialog cu Luciferii zilelor noastre? Ai cugetul nãclãit de atâta “culturã”? Alungã ACUM mirosurile neplãcute de pucioasã din viaţa ta de apoi!

Sigur aţi cãpãtat suficientã lecturã serioasã pentru azi, aşa cã uite un interviu cu tânãra speranţã a ligii terţe, Stelian “Maradona sixtinã” Baban.

[interviul]

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puπla diletantă

mișel houellebecq îmbracă straie de gogâie într-un monolog de oferit drept exemplu pentru interviuri. din sutele de clipuri cu acest superstar dubios ăsta pare a fi un bun start în a-l cunoaște pe musiu, pentru că în ciuda aparențelor excentricitatea insăși – de altfel caracterizantă pentru mișel – se ascunde parcă timorată sub patul acelui hotel din la fel de dubiosul frankfurt.

[alt interviu houellebecq]

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TuPac Cianur

Eu când aud de gonzo, mă gândesc la filmele porno în care actorul o face și pe regizorul, dar și pe cameramanul aruncându-și în centrul atenției șomâlca după care este avidă cucoana din film. Hunter Thompson este un gagiu care pare-se a oficializat gonzo-ul în activitatea jurnalistică, adică și-a pus la bătaie șomâlca, unii au sărit pe ea, iar apoi a scris despre eveniment. Este cam ceea ce retarzii ăia de la Can Can fac când se pun de-a curmezișul drumului ca să nu treacă Mihaela cu Dany, fac poze multe și le vând apoi ca eveniment exemplar de conduită retardă a unei Dive. Thompson a fost un drogat, bețiv, cu afinități gay – a făcut-o pe peștele (vezi poza) pentru niște băieței și a mai produs și câteva pornoace d’alea. Îl admir pe omul ăsta pentru că este schizofrenic de primul grad. Am ales două bucăți de interviu, unul dat în Vanity Fair (1994), pe modelul oracol de școală primară și un altul apărut un an mai târziu, când se pregătea debarcarea lui Clinton la Casa Albă. Nu peste foarte mulți ani, se sinucidea. Treaba se împuțea – nu cu lumea, ci mai ales cu el.

[interviu thompson]

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tlön

[interviul] acest interviu ne ofera o recomandare esentiala. ne arata, de asemenea, ca nu e totul pierdut daca nu o urmam.

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fiction addiction

Nu prea ma omor dupa interviuri pentru ca de multe ori cei care pun intrebarile ma scot din minti ducand discutia in directii irelevante. Exista evident si exceptii, intervievatori care stiu cu cine au de-a face si ce vor sa scoata de la subiect sau subiecti care intorc intrebarile proaste si vorbesc despre ce vor ei calcandu-si respectuos in picioare intervievatorul. Un interviu pe care il recitesc din cand in cand e unul cu William Faulkner pentru ca e incredibil de bogat in ciuda intrebarilor cliseistice. Pe langa filosofia lui de golan zen, ca nu stiu cum altfel sa o rezum, care ma da gata de fiecare data, interviul are raspunsuri la multe intrebari pe care mi le puneam citindu-l: [interviul] Si pentru ca Faulkner mi se pare mult mai golan in realitate decat mi l-am imaginat citindu-i romanele, William S. Burroughs care e cel mai mare golan in scris ma surprinde de fiecare data in interviuri prin calm, coerenta si costumul respectabil: [interviul]

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bătrânul safo

Nouă ne place atunci când sud-americanii încearcă să definească literatura, i.e., încearcă să traseze o linie între realism și fantastic. Și după aia încep să vorbească așa serios despre cărțile lor, despre ce-nseamnă să fii scriitor, cu un aer de sfârșeală. Cu alte cuvinte, ne-am gândit la acest interviu cu Roberto Bolano, pentru că are straniul obicei de a retracta tot ce spune.
[interviu bolano]

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chestii livrești

pentru că este posibil ca Marcel Proust să rămână în memoria oamenilor mai mult după acest chestionar-oracol decât pentru ciclul romanesc În căutarea timpului pierdut, aleg acest “interviu” pentru tema propusă. deci, chestionarul pe care Proust l-a completat la 20 de ani. [chestionarul/interviul lui proust]

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voroncas

interviul ăsta cu woody allen e ca un film perfect de woody allen, e tot miezul lui woody allen acolo, e material dens, e absurdul lui de anii ’60-’70 pe care nu l-a mai regăsit deloc de atâta timp încoace și ne face o mare bucurie să-l revizităm acu în aceste vremuri triste, post-midnight pariziene. (e-n 4 părți, serviți cât aveți poftă și nici nu vă sfiiți!)

a cure for ADHD

Just when I thought that I was getting too old and that there were no real page-turners left for me in this world, I find a quite unexpected one, a novel inspired by and half the size of War and Peace. I had started reading Freedom almost a year ago, but the realist gossipy opening seemed like a drag, so I abandoned it. Deciding to give it another try recently, I’ve gotten so engrossed that I devoured it in a couple of days. It really made me forget about emails, facebook and all the time eaters, just like the author intended (he said that in an interview), I barely even turned my laptop on while I was sunk into the story of the Berglunds, a middle class family dealing with the usual personal problems, in the first decade of the 21st century. It shows the cycles of the generation gap, the dynamics of rebellion and conformism and how conformism is also a means of rebellion, it’s also about the mistakes we make, the complications of love and sex, ambition, but also selflessness, about youth and the sad, but sobering revelations of adulthood, but most of all about freedom and its entanglements. Freedom has become a commodity too much taken for granted by the Western world in the 21st century and the entanglements, paradoxes and limits of it become subtly evident in the everyday drama of the characters whose main struggle with themselves is to be “good”, each in their own different understanding of the term. Without being pretentious or too didactic, the novel shows the inescapable contradictions we are facing nowadays as citizens of the so called “civilized” world and how our best intentions are turning against us in the long run, how on a personal level we abuse our freedom and how that same freedom tears us apart draining us of ambition and drive, how the whole globalizing process of “making the world safe for democracy” by spreading the free market, middle class prosperity, liberal ideology is draining the world’s resources at a staggering pace, how we focus on petty struggles for power, while the environment we all depend on is dying out before our blind eyes. The most amazing achievement of the book however is that it manages to weave these huge themes in a very intimate story of love, marriage, friendship, adultery, betrayal and coming of age, very discreetly. While you’re turning pages to see who’s gonna sleep with who and whether some character is gonna kill himself or not, you’re also pondering the future of this planet and the legitimacy of the social order you inhabit to claim supremacy over others. It is a love song for the middle class family that also shows how disfunctional and destructive a model it can be, how we’re all gradually going to hell, but might as well love each other and try our best till that happens. It’s also a laugh out loud funny and heart-breathtakingly sad story, it’s both a dead serious and a deliciously self-indulgent read. I might have to get back to it with a clearer head later, but for the moment I’m still enjoying being under its spell.

the other side of terrorism

There are some books that I root for, I want them to be good because they seem to carry an important message that might get lost due to too little or too much artistry. The premise of Jasmina Khadra’s novel The Attack is enormous, it deals with the causes of Islamist terrorism from a Middle Eastern perspective. The author is an Algerian army official writing under his wife’s name. The novel itself is like bag full of good and bad beans that have been mixed together and it takes so much effort to separate the good beans that you just want to set the whole thing aside. The writing is seeped in linguistic cliches and melodramatic, I wonder if the translation had anything to do with that, and the first person narration in simple present was quite awkward, it felt like reading a bad movie script at times. But still, the topic itself drew me in and despite its lack of artistry, the novel manages to capture the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the type of terrorism that is fostered in this vicious circle of violence and retaliation on both sides and of two ways of life that threaten each other’s existence. Unlike Western authors like Don DeLillo, John Updike or Martin Amis who wrote from the perspective of a terrorist, Khadra uses an in-between narrator: the clueless husband, a successful Palestinian doctor working in Israel, whose world is turned upside down when he finds out that his wife is a suicide bomber. I was quite disturbed by the Western authors’ ease when claiming access to the mind of a terrorist and I think Kahdra’s more indirect approach, the investigation the husband gets involved into after the shocking event, is a lot more effective and politically correct. It showcases the difficulty a non-terrorist person encounters in his effort to understand a phenomenon that is so foreign to most of us. The same effect is achieved by Orhan Pamuk in Snow, a novel that is beautifully written and constructed at the same time.