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Sunday, April 12, 2009

LibraryThing Early Review

It is always a bonus to read a book in translation from another culture, and I am always delighted when they cross my path. Hoffman's Hunger was written in Dutch and was also a best-seller in German. For example, English-speaking writers seem to write freely about non-English characters, but it feels funny to read an American character sketched by a Dutch writer. That is one sort of insight that can be gained from reading literature in translation.

Another foreign-feeling emphasis comes in the concentration in this book on toilet activities. Granted a story about physical hunger standing in for emotional hunger would generate a certain amount of digestion-talk, but to me it feels like conversations I have with Italian acquaintances, in which I have to give up my Anglo bodily-functions reserve.

Then there is the thriller aspect - not only foreign characters, but foreign characters in countries foreign to them. Like a taking a little trip!

It took me a long time to get around to reading this book, but I guess I was ready to really enjoy it when I got to it. Now my mission is to figure out which friends to lend it to, or how to recommend it. Let's see - a great book for Europhile-traveller/foodies, a quick read and not challenging (except for the digestive parts) so good for vacation reading, but for readers, OK mom, maybe a couple of my best friends from high school...

I would definitely be glad to encounter another of Leon de Winter's books. No better praise than that.

The marigold is wondering nervously:
There are only 2 reviews on LibraryThing, ARC says due out in 2007, but the ARC itself was sent out in the summer of 2008. Has this book been, in fact, published?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Modernism - Why?

I realized I need to say a little more about Modernism. Movements do not spring up in a vacuum. Harold Bloom, in his brilliant book The Western Canon, posits literature as a dialectic - or argument - the geniuses of one generation fighting off the influence of the previous generation by creating something new. I love this idea and find it useful when thinking about any part of culture. So...

Modernism was a deliberate attempt to distance the arts of the 20th century from any work that had come before. The screaming pace of industrialization and the brutality and loss of the first world war, led artists to decry the effete and upper-class-feeling decorativeness of the immediate past, not to mention THE PAST in a general way. Pared down, egalitarian, daily experience, communicative - these were the sought-after qualities. Nothing was meant to feel "styled" for effect.

Then...Post-modernism is a response to Modernism. For Post-modernists, Modernism is a style, too, despite its anti-style stance. All of the work of man can be seen to be constructed within a style paradigm, even if that style paradigm says it is about plain-ness. Therefore it is an historical style against which an artist can position his or her work, and can be referred to together with any other historical style in a world view that encompasses the idea of culture as a construct.

The marigold wonders nervously:
that does make it more clear, doesn't it?