finished Jakob von Gunten

What a weird little book. I hated it.

I’m afraid that i’m ill-suited to be the reader for this particular work. I’d read a few pages, only to have a nasty, unsettled feeling cloak me. It could be bitterly funny, weirdly incisive in its observations, but too much in one sitting meant having to perceive the world through Jakon von Gunten’s weirdly mundane vision.1 After finishing the book, i settled into a horrible depression for nearly a week, as Walser’s vision infected my own. It was most unwelcome.

Walser did indeed remind me of Kafka, but he also reminded me of Bruno Schulz and Danilo Kîs (especially Garden, Ashes.) The difference was that Schulz and Kîs can make the mundane wondrously ineffable. Walser made me feel like a cog in the machine, that rebellion is futile. There seemed to be no way out of the labyrinth. Walser doesn’t seem insane to me, only horribly, miserably frustrated. I know that the end of Jakob von Gunten is supposed to be triumphant in its peculiar way, but it felt false. Jakob von Gunten was the monster.

I was excited about Vila-Matas’ Doctor Pasavento, especially since he’s the one who turned me onto Walser in the first place, in Montano’s Malady, but now i have an aversion to Walser, no matter how sympathetic a character he himself is.

  1. It makes perfect sense that the Brother Quay did a film adaptation of this novel. []

three 9,000 year old skulls found at Yiftahel site, Israel

Normally i studiously ignore anything remotely related to archaeology that comes out of Israeli and its vicinity. It raises my hackles whenever someone finds some bones or ruins, and then uses that as evidence that everything in the Bible is literally true.

Three 9,000 year old skulls have been unearthed at Yiftahel dig in the Lower Galilee in Israel.

Washington, August 14 (ANI): Archaeologists have discovered three 9,000-year-old skulls at the Yiftahel dig in the Lower Galilee in Israel.

According to experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority, the placement of the skulls confirms the worship of ancestors from during that time, practiced by displaying skulls inside houses.

The skulls were apparently placed on benches in a house where they would inspire the younger generation to continue in the ways of their forefathers.

A similar custom was also identified in Syria, Turkey and Jordan.

The skulls are 8,000-9,000 years old and were buried in a pit adjacent to an excavated large public building.

They were discovered during excavations for a new highway interchange at the Movil Junction, a major intersection .

The skulls were found plastered that is to say sculpted which is a phenomenon that is identified with the New Stone Age, said site director Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily.

The practice included the reconstruction of all of the facial features of the deceased by means of sculpting the skull with a variety of materials such as plaster that was specifically intended for this. On the skulls that were found in the excavation, the nose was entirely reconstructed, he added.

The pit where the skulls were found showed depressions that probably were used for graves underneath floors.

According to Dr. Khalaily, Some time thereafter, the residents would dig up the grave, retrieve the skull from the rest of the skeleton and recover the grave. Later they would then mold the skull in the image of the deceased and keep it inside the house.

This custom is known in the scientific literature as ancestor worship, he added.

The three molded skulls that were found at Yiftahel join 15 other similar skulls that have been found to date. (ANI)

Honor your father and mother indeed.

finished McCarthy’s The Road

Even though there are a stack of library books that are due tomorrow, and The Recognitions slunk back into the stacks, it seemed like the perfect afternoon to tackle The Road. It turned out to be freakishly easy to read, the kind of book one can breeze through in an afternoon. Most everyone has already read the reviews or already read it.

Is it the best book written in the past twenty-five years?

Hell no. It’s not even the best Cormac McCarthy novel written in the past twenty-five years.

It was a good read. It was a fine adventure tale. It was spookily bleak, but it essentially had a happy ending, even if it seems obvious that the human race will go extinct, as “the fire” might be carried until the last life passes from the earth. Compared the McCarthy book that ripped out my heart, Blood Meridian, that’s positively cheery. What really makes The Road different is that as much as i enjoyed the read, racing through the chapters to see how the duo survive, i didn’t feel the urge to sit and marvel at the crafting of passages, fascinated by the obscenity or beauty. The Road had some horrific moments, but they were just movie scenes, not bizarrely fascinating prose poems, and there was no beauty… tenderness, yes… but no beauty. McCarthy worked with a very limited palette. He did what he set out to do.

In no way was I dissatisfied, but The Road came off as overrated. It’s not his masterpiece. I’ve only read Blood Meridian and Child of God, with Outer Dark in the queue, and even i could answer that.

Rielle Hunter is Lisa Druck is Alison Poole

The John Edwards affair doesn’t mean shit to me, aside from it being something that goaded me into rage when I’d turn on CNN over the weekend looking for news on South Ossetia, only to see more pundits railing about Edwards. However, Bill sent a link to an utterly bizarre story about Rielle Hunter, as she seems to be the inspiration for the character Alison Poole from Jay McInerney’s Story of My Life and Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho and Glamorama. This New York magazine post might be a better link.

Yuck.

Nope. I never read those books. I had a friend in high school who worshipped McInerney and Ellis, and would read long passages from American Psycho aloud to anyone who would listen by day, and do his best to emulate his heroes by night. It never seemed necessary.

Gypsy Lou

One of my friends who i worked with at one of the bookstores, Nick of Big Black Cloud, owned a first edition Bukowski on Luojon Press.1 That seemed weird at the time. Bill and i ran across the book Bohemian New Orleans later, but Bill was in such a foul anti-Beat mood that i didn’t read it, as i wasn’t in the mood for that flavor of hectoring. Loujon slipped out of mind.

I had no clue that Gypsy Lou, co-proprietor of Loujon Press, is still in circulation at the age of 91. Also, i didn’t have a clue that there was film documentary now as well.

With the photos, i’m now realizing that i used to see her around the Quarter a lot, back when i was down in New Orleans frequently.

  1. At least i remember that he did. []

show some of the 2008 Olympic fencing competition now already!

NBC refused to show anything but the medal ceremony for women’s sabre fencing this morning. Not a single clip of the competition was shown. It was weird to see a post on the lack of BBC coverage of fencing on Freaky Trigger just now, at the same time i was trying to pull something up on Bittorrent. Even though it’s a sport that i know virtually nothing about, i admire the aesthetic of it. Here’s footage from the 2004 Olympics in Athens, in which Mariel Zagunis won her first gold in the sport.

And here’s footage of epée and sabre fencing from the infamous 1936 Olympics in Berlin, filmed by Leni Riefenstahl

Stop all of this lip service about how it’s not about the medals, but about the competition, if all NBC shows of the more esoteric sports is the medal ceremonies alone. Cut just a little of of that women’s volleyball and biking coverage for just a few minutes of fencing.

2,000 year old skeleton in southeast Englad with ties to La Tène culture

The 2,000 year old skeleton found in southeast England with a shield decorated with patterns invoking the La Tène culture and a Mannheim helmet is pretty cool. The theory is that he was a tribal nobleman from mainland Europe with Roman ties. The bones are to be tested for isotopes to see where he lived in his youth. Anything that proves that humans have always been widely traveled is fun.