Sunday, August 20, 2006

Two two two in one

Really loved Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter. For some reason I was dreading it, thinking it was a war story; rather, it was a book set in colonial Africa. Rather simple plot, the complexities of love and the erosion of empire, but nicely written.

"He couldn't tell that this was one of those occasions a man never forgets: a small cicatrice had been made on the memory, a wound that would ache whenever certain things combined -- the taste of gin at mid-day, the smell of flowers under a balcony, the clang of corrugated iron, an ugly bird flopping from perch to perch."

"He felt no jealousy, only the dreariness of a man who tries to write an important letter on a damp sheet and find the characters blur."

"What an absurd thing it was to expect happiness in a world so full of misery. He had cut down his own needs to a minimum, photographs were put away in draweres, the dead were put out of mind...But one still has one's eyes, he thought, one's ears. Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either extreme egotism, evil -- or else an absolute ignorance."

As you can see, a bit depressing and full of retrospection, and, at the end, the protagonist commits suicide. I know, a spoiler -- but anyone who's read more than a handful of melancholy books would know it was coming.

Also just finished A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess. In all truth...respect the writing, enjoy the overall theme of the book, but damned near unreadable at points. Not that Burgess can't string a sentence together. Rather, this is attributable to the fact that to bolster the atmosphere of teenage disillusionment he's created a lexicon of slang that is, well, a bit opaque. You can figure out what the words mean, but it's like trying to learn a different lanugage. Disorienting, challenging (perhaps his point entirely), but I dare you to try and translate this excerpt:

"The like minds of this Dr Brodsky and Dr Branom and the others in white coats, and remember there was this devotchka twiddling with the knobs and watching the meters, they must have been more cally and filthy than any prestoopnick in the Staja itself. Because I did not think it was possible for any veck to even think of making films of what I was forced to viddy, all tied to this chair and my glazzies made to be wide open. All I could do was to creech very gromky for them to turn it off, turn it off, and that like part drowned the noise of dratsing and fillying and also the music that went with it all."

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