Sunday, June 16, 2013


The city character in Bitin' Back has a clear ordinary diction, he speaks the language that the novel could have been written in, and every time I came to him I slowed down because he was disturbing, a character whose accent was a no-accent, it was a book-accent, it was the accent of a conventional book, and too nice and stiff to be a natural representative of speech: the narrator's accent was a less flexible version of a spoken accent, this one was the less flexible version of a book-accent, a regression or bafflement of the same power that had already constructed an accent for the narrator.

The conversations between those two characters were the conversations of two distant poles or universes. The difference was not a difference between the histories or ethnicities of the characters, one from the country, one from the city, it was a mortal difference, it was a change of substance.

The new author so filled up by the process of imagining accents for other people that she never settled into her own slang or voice, so the book was unrelaxed, it jumped with the pressure of imagining, and therefore the movie scenes pastiched into its plot, and the scenes from comedies -- that was what I thought as I read -- the pressure had made a patchwork, and the force-field generated by the elements of that patchwork helped to hold the thing together. The parts of the book stood out separately.

I was anticipating a rowdy climax because the kind of comedy she borrowed from always came with rowdy climaxes. Then it would calm down and the characters would come positively together, because the characters in those films came positively together.

Some time after that I started Levin's Mill by Johannes Bobrowski, because flowerville pointed myself and everyone else in her twitter feed toward Bobrowski earlier this year, and as I went further into it I wanted to read at a fast pace because Bobrowski's language in translation was so shortwinded and it repositioned itself so often, saying, "Now," often. "Now where are we? We're at such and such a point in the story. Done. Let's move on." (I'm paraphrasing, not quoting. The book had to stay at the library.)

Then the author would make a back-sorting or a parody of conscientious research into his own location, pretending that he had to find out where he was in the book, and what he meant, but really it was the machinery of refinding he was interested in, not the actual discovery, since he did not discover himself exactly: he made himself happy with the mimickry of a search; the tempo interested him, the beat or rhythm that went along with the activity of discovery in his book right there, the pause in the book, the refreshing of the memory, the rhythm of the pause and the hunt must have felt right, there must have been pleasure there, it felt like the correct tempo to have just there: it must have satisfied him, the hitch or hiccough in the book when he does that, the retardation of the narrative, the reminding you of himself.

The blessing of the correct feeling entered him. He was revitalised. That's what his accent seems to say, there in the book. Relaxation in spite of short sentences and speed. Distance travelled not related intimately to emotion then.


  1. it's interesting, those thoughts on speed, accent and length of sentence. just when i read murnane with his very long sentence, it feels extremely slow to me. but bobrowski also feels slow to me. generates a slowliness in reading....which might be the accent and the different (compared to murnane) length of sentence.
    'of refinding he was interested in, not the actual discovery' -- i like that.

    1. I felt the slowness in Bobrowski a lot more in that translated book of short stories you linked, I Feel Bitterness. In Contemplation of a Picture I read slowly. "I'm thinking now about Torell, De Long ..." -- I go through that list gradually. Levin's Mill felt different, and I think it really was due to the way he kept pretending to stop and go back. "That can be the fifth sentence of the story ..." etc. All of that "Wait! Stop! Ok, go on now!" made the book seem sort of breathless.

      I was in a quiet library on a sleepy Sunday afternoon too, so that might have affected me.