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Apr 24, 2006



Gosh, you know, I sort of feel sorry for people who don't reread books (my personal fave reread is To Kill A Mockingbird). My mother doesn't, and I can't fathom how she goes through life without picking up an old favorite and discovering something new. I think, especially, that books with many layers benefit from rereading -- Ticknor certainly falls into that category. You want to savor language, voice, story, even humor, and sometimes one pass through an novel isn't enough.

I'm a bit bemused, of course, by the long-versus-short book debate. I guess I don't have a preference (as I look at the stacks on my desk, it's an even mix long and short). Short, I will say, is often more difficult because of the author must employ economy of language. Long books allow the author to indulge every whim -- and that's not necessarily a good thing. Hmm, maybe I'm a bit more of a short person, now that I consider it more fully. Or maybe just old.


I totally agree, K. And I realize, reading this back, that I might come off anti-long novel. I'm not. Not remotely. Underworld might be my favorite American novel of the last half of the 20th century. And I love the old Russians, too. Lots more. Can't think of nicer way to spend vacation than Proust in hand.

What I can't abide is needless length. Nervous twitter and filler that goes on for page after page, adding little other than a virtuoso display of the writer's brilliance. It all feels self-indulgent to me after a while. So, just so I'm clear, yes - love a good long book. But it can't be long for length's sake, as I do feel happens far too often these days.

Laird Hunt

Speaking this weekend at the University of Denver, Lydia Davis noted that one of the attributes of Proust's writing that was confirmed for her when translating Swann's Way was how extraordinarily tight it was: something that might not have come through quite as clearly for those who read the gorgeous but rather more ornate Scott Moncrieff versions. Proust, Davis realized, was among the most concise of writers! And somehow or other, strange as it might initially sound, it strikes me that Proust's concision and Heti's are not so very far apart. Which is to say that her line, like Proust's, doesn't proceed via any kind of fumbling or flailing -- it is carefully built out of neatly interlocking component parts. The seams are so tight they're virtually unnoticeable. It's an impressive piece of work on many levels.


Laird, I think you're right on in your comments. And yes, Proust often can be taken as being languid, loose, prolix in its way. But I do think there's a discipline behind every word - a discipline that's also fiercely at work in Ticknor - that makes it extremely difficult to eliminate anything. Contrast that the with the endless, tangential digressions of the some of the authors I note above, books one could quite handily take a weed whacker to ...


A response, Mr. Sarvas, on the issue of heft and significance -- specifically, as it pertains to "Ticknor," is, as time permits, forthcoming. :)


Expected nothing less - would have been disappointed, in fact, by your absence!


Heh...when you diss WTV **and** DFW in the same post, I can't let that stand. :)


Very interesting, Davis's comment. I think I have to retire to my cork-lined room to contemplate it further. I would have loved to see her speak, btw. Her Proust is sublime. She also writes some mean short fiction herself, if you don't know.

Laird Hunt

Indeed, we had Davis out (at Denver) for her fiction -- Proust was a great extra. I wish I'd thought to recommend Ticknor to her -- I think she would love it. Well, there's always email.

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