The opening of Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, forthcoming fall 2013.
I’ve been intensely curious about Pynchon’s next novel since learning its setting—nervously, because it overlaps disconcertingly with my manuscript, and with intense curiosity: how will Pynchon, whose work is so artificed, and who uses the epic so artfully to bolster passages of unabashed sentiment, work closer to his present home?
I love the complexity of point of view in the first paragraph, how the reader’s knowledge is assumed, and how the shift from the narrator’s perspective more directly into Maxine’s happens through the expression of resentment of a unspoken sentiment by an absent speaker.
Zig’s “Doesn’t suck”—yeah, we’re ready for that (though, Zig?)
The blurry reflections from apartment windows—I’m so on board for that patience. That’s from someone who knows, loves their neighborhood, its brick and mortar and texture of light.
The cops dealing with bagel deficiencies—I hear a syntactic echo of Harold Brodkey:
The local macrobiotic restaurant was crowded with people dealing macrobiotically with the virility and exoticism factors
Most of all I’m struck by the quotidian-ness that it is so warned against by the cinematic, put-us-in-the-action, what’s-the-conflict school of How To Write (and of course the page has plenty of conflict, or things impending—the first paragraph’s resentment, and the reader’s knowledge of 2001 bearing down. But after a page, are we even to the end of the block?)
For me, it’s the pear trees. I’m sold because the days of white blossoms are so few, and a boy named Zig probably thinks he’s being pretty nine-year-old cool to grant that the moment doesn’t suck.
Back Bay roofs from the Hynes Convention Center
I attended five panels. Two I left early. Two I would have gladly sat through for another hour, or reconvened. Two I overslept. In a panel titled “Argumentative Fiction,” Marlon James asked why Katie Roiphe discusses only the Davids and Jonathans, and not Junot Diaz, and why she does not compare Portnoy to Yunior. Two panels that I wanted to attend were Friday morning while we shoveled snow and snow fell so fast that in the ten minutes we took to change from our shoveling clothes a quarter inch had covered my car. On the Mass Pike braking was impossible, one lane entirely snowed over. We arrived, parked underground, found the narrowness of our spot and the florist’s truck next to it hilarious.Read on →
My review of Dear Life is up at The Common:
The fourteen stories in Alice Munro’s latest collection, Dear Life, are terser than her stories of a decade ago. Her 2001 collection, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, nearly identical in length, contained only nine. Many of the new stories trace characteristically oblique paths. Munro draws opening scenes with particular details that seem intended to alert the reader to crucial moments and relationships, and then, instead of continuing those relationships chronologically, she sidesteps to previous events, or heads off in directions not initially suggested. Some stories traverse so many years that their openings, while always fitting, no longer seem the only possible entry points.
[W]here 2001’s “Family Furnishings” recounts decades of family history over more than thirty pages by way of correcting the narrator’s impression of a single image, Dear Life’s chronological corkscrewing happens at times not between episodes but from one sentence to the next. Particularly in the final four, more autobiographical stories, events seem to change as they’re narrated. Munro’s process of revisiting impressions and discovering overlooked drama has never been so clear.
by Sarah Malone
Zero Dark Thirty, the title, has the cadence and slightly unwieldy precision of military lingo: code, but only cryptic until you’re in the know. It’s meant to be readily recalled and quickly repeated and understood. The tweak from the military “oh” to “zero,” with its sharper sound and richer associations—Ground Zero, Zero Hour, Zero Day, countdown to liftoff or detonation—is characteristic of the film’s method and conundrum. It wants to be authoritative (at two hours and thirty-seven minutes, it had better be). It claims authority or merit beyond drama. “Based on firsthand accounts of actual events,” announces the onscreen text at the beginning, referring presumably to accounts the audience doesn’t have access to, possibly events the audience doesn’t even know of. But far from reportage, the film is an expressionistic odyssey, as focused on a single emotional register as Maya (Jessica Chastain), the CIA agent it portrays, is on Osama bin Laden.
I wrote about Zero Dark Thirty for BWDR. I can’t think of another film that’s left me with as clear and unshakeable a feeling, and as much difficulty trying to parse the reasons for it.
Adama and Starbuck, Lord Grantham and Lady Mary; Mary and Matthew, Starbuck and Apollo—individual personalities (and general competence) differ, but their relative positions in social hierarchies, and the resulting tensions and affinities, peel away the surface of Rolls and Vipers to very similar narrative engines: caution vs. audaciousness, directness vs. subterfuge, desire for preservation vs. change.Read on →
It seems all the characters in “Bridal Discount” are talking past each other, […even] in direct conversation, […] as if only half-hearing. What kind of effect do you hope to have with dialogue like this?
Here, the time between telling and events is real. The narrator doesn’t report live, on scene, but recounts, an Ancient Mariner, her tale shaped by telling. Indeed it transpires in telling […].
[…W]e cut rapidly between direct and reported dialogue, remaining in the narrator’s cadences; and we don’t know how much she excludes. The dialogue tends suspiciously toward her point. If scenes ran longer, we would get more crackling of interaction, but we would lodge in events rather than in her telling, and the end of the main action would register as rupture rather than culmination. The story would become “what happened at the wedding,” not “I can’t shake off the wedding.”