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Home for the heteronomous

When I Grow Up I Want to Be an Old Woman

(I certainly hope you recognize the allusion:  I can’t actually find Michelle Shocked’s original version of it on YouTube, just a whole bunch of mediocre covers of it.)

This novel’s like Don Quixote:  when you’re young you read it one way and you focus on Humberto Peñaloza and Iris Mateluna and Boy, but when you’re old and decrepit and you haven’t left your sad, sad rented house in Ohio since Friday afternoon except to go out on the porch to pay the pizza delivery guy (twice in six days!), well, you read it a different way and you focus on Mudito and Peta Ponce and Inés.  Which isn’t to say that the novel hasn’t been heading in this direction all along.  And anyone who says otherwise –and sooner or later, you yourself will say otherwise– is a liar.

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August 9, 2018 Posted by | boredom | | 1 Comment

Noble Monsters

I’ve only got twenty minutes before this coffeehouse closes, so let me be super quick: Yup, this sure is a masterpiece.  I had remembered the extensive set piece in La Rinconada after Boy’s birth, in which the estate turned into a place without a sense of the normal and abnormal, so that Boy’s deformities would not engender any sense of inferiority:  I had forgotten

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August 2, 2018 Posted by | boredom | | 2 Comments

Yumyum! Gothic Late Modernism

I am having so much fun re-reading The Obscene Bird of Night that I can’t believe it’s been 28 years since I read it the first time.  To be sure, the formal fireworks can sometimes seem like a ruse to distract us from second-guessing what’s at stake in the story, but at other times these same formal and verbal tricks seem to give us exactly the insights we need to understand what is at stake in this story of Mudito/ Humberto Peñaloza, the extended family and servants of the Azcoitía family, and the decrepit and haunted House where most of them live.

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July 25, 2018 Posted by | boredom | | 6 Comments

Pushing back the schedule/ I so know Donoso

  1.  At the request of Mr. Kamensky, we’re pushing back our reading schedule a bit more than a half-week.  (I have a commitment on Sunday August 19th so I can’t push it back a full week.)  The new reading/comment target dates are:

Thursday July 26:  Chs. 1-7 ( –> p.93)

Thursday August 2:  Chs. 8-16 ( –> 217)

Thursday August 9:  Chs. 17-23 ( –> 329)

Thursday August 16:  finish

My apologies to Mr. Malbin, who will certainly be running ahead of us for the first deadline.

2.  Do you need to know anything about José Donoso (1924-1996) or about mid-twentieth-century Chile (or Latin America) in order to appreciate The Obscene Bird of Night?  Probably not, but here’s some stuff anyway:

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July 18, 2018 Posted by | boredom | | 1 Comment

José Donoso, The Obscene Bird of Night (1970): Reading Schedule

We’re spending four weeks on this book but it is written in three parts.  Such bad planning on Donoso’s part!  Especially because in my experience you want to start a book slowly.  So my recommended reading schedule is:
Sunday July 22:  Chs. 1-7 ( –> p.93)
Sunday July 29:  Chs. 8-16 ( –> 217)
Sunday August 5:  Chs. 17-23 ( –> 329)
Sunday August 12:  finish
As I said, this runs roughshod over the book’s natural units (1-9, 10-18, 19-30), but c’est la vie.
As I also said, part of the pleasure of these summer reading sessions for me is that I can get in touch with books I’ve read or should have read that are “unteachable” on the undergraduate level –I can’t ever see my way to assigning a 430pp delirious-surreal baroque satire of the Chilean ruling classes in 1970 to any of my Spanish classes, and it’s too big to fit into any of my Surrealism-in-translation courses too. (It’s also not exactly what I would call Surrealist:  Baroque, carnivalesque, grotesque, but it doesn’t have the Surrealist metaphysics or faux-Freudianisms or the philosophizing that’s so characteristic of the Surrealist novel with Breton or Aragon or even, say, Angela Carter or China Mièville when they’re in that mood.)  But I know stuff about Donoso, especially Donoso in the ’50s-’70s, so I may mouth off a bit more professionally than I did about Kushner.  And part of my BloodGradGuilt is that this was one of two books I read as a grad student in translation, so I at least will be working off my debt to La Sociedad by reading it concomitantly in Spanish and English.  The Spanish original is now only available in Kindle –I thought I owned my own copy but couldn’t find it on my ever-messy shelves on Sunday– but that might be an advantage:  I’m about to make a decision on which edition of Rabelais I’ll be assigning to the students on the size of the font in the Penguin edition.

July 17, 2018 Posted by | boredom | | 1 Comment