[lit-ideas] Re: one of Exit Ghost's political points

  • From: "Mike Geary" <atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2008 17:34:26 -0500

>>He has that unreadable Saul Bellow style in that book. 

Really?  You find Bellow's style unreadable?  It always intrigues me when 
someone dislikes an author that I like a lot.  Of recent I've been re-reading 
"Mr. Sammler's Planet".  The first time I read it must have been 30 or 35 years 
ago.  I truly don't remember any of it until reading it.  We're talking long 
term memory, folks, not your expected short term lapses with age.  But at least 
I remember having read passages, and not remember what comes next keeps me 
going.  The Fawcett paperback that I'm re-reading was printed in 1971.  All the 
pages are yellowed and nearly as fragile as dried butterfly wings, tending to 
crumble at the edges with any less than delicate turning.  I am not a delicate 
man.  But I insist on re-reading this copy because there are several underlined 
passages (by moi) and they fascinate me because in most cases I can't remember 
or even imagine why I underscored those particular lines -- was it the thought 
or the style that had so grabbed my attention back then?  Most seem rather 
ordinary now.  Maybe it's just that the thoughts or the stylistics have become 
so much a part of me in my maturity that I no longer come to them as new or 
exciting or epiphanic or whatever.  Maybe maturity has robbed me of the charm 
of life.  "Maturity", I hate that word, it was constantly thrown into my face 
as a teenager and a college student and even as a new teacher by the old hands. 
 "When you a little older..." they would always say.  I can't remember now who 
said it, someone hippy-like no doubt: "Maturity is the state of being totally 
disillusioned" (by the tenor of your posts, Irene, I think you should claim the 
title of Most Mature Member of Lit-Id -- that's meant endearingly, my friend).  
I've just now flipped through the book to find the last underlined passage, it 
occurs 30 pages before the end of the novel: 

"Life when it had no charm was entirely question-and-answer....This poverty of 
soul, its abstract state, you could see in the faces on the street.  And he too 
had a touch of the same disease -- the disease of the single self explaining 
what was what and who was who." 

This passage is an exception to what I've said.  It catches my attention.  I'm 
sure I relate more to this passage now than I could have as a thirty-something 
year old.  Or maybe not, maybe, just maybe, I was one fucking precocious 
fellow.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

Mike Geary
Better than Bellows.   
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Andy 
  To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Friday, October 31, 2008 1:40 PM
  Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: one of Exit Ghost's political points

        Doesn't change anything.  The sky did fall in 2000 in nobody noticed.  
I started his book My Sister Was a Communist (or something like that) and I 
didn't like it.  He has that unreadable Saul Bellow style in that book.  I did 
like that one about the black guy who passes as a white guy (can't think of the 
name) and of course I liked Portnoy's Complaint which was hysterically funny in 
a truly spot on way of how to crush a child in 18 years.

        --- On Fri, 10/31/08, Eric Yost <mr.eric.yost@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

          From: Eric Yost <mr.eric.yost@xxxxxxxxx>
          Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: one of Exit Ghost's political points
          To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
          Date: Friday, October 31, 2008, 5:27 PM

 >>In a real sense the sky did fall, only in real life 
nobody noticed.  It's curious that, apparently, Roth 
thinks only trustfunded literary types were impotently 
outraged about that 'election', some of whom make a 
joke about it.  This financial catastrophe is all part 
and parcel of it.

You, especially, should read _Exit Ghost_. It might 
make it easier for you to give yourself a break and 
laugh a bit.

Roth's Zuckerman is a self-described old-fashioned New 
York Jewish liberal intellectual who cut his political 
teeth working twice for Adlai Stevenson's campaigns.

At the part of the novel cited, Zuckerman is surrounded 
by thirty-somethings, none of whom were old enough to 
be appalled by Nixon or any of the other 
disappointments that constitute a political memory. For 
these relative sprouts and yearlings, the 2004 election 
is "the most important election ever." Ha, isn't it always?

As these self-centered, ambitious, and vain characters 
fume over Kerry's defeat, Roth records many of the same 
dire predictions, apocalyptic declarations, and 
hysterical hate-filled snipes I have heard from 
friends, acquaintances, and strangers in New York. As a 
social document goes, Roth is spot on.

Those scenes hold many unconsciously-ironic formulae, 
part of the orchestrated charade, which could be 
summarized as, "All those fascist Republicans should be 
rounded up and shot!"

All the best to you,
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