Saturday, December 01, 2007

I've just finished a month sans internet and tv. No saintly action, just a broken hardrive and an incomprehensible language, respectively.
So I read every book I brought. Ran out fast.
One of the books I brought was this monstrosity of a thing called The Executioners Song. I'd seen the film adaptation (loose use of 'adaptation'), Cremaster 2, and I was baffled and anxious to read the book.
Of course the ridiculous, hypnotic film didn't lend much to my expectations, but I've been trying of late to catch up on the things I'm embarrassed I haven't read. The most difficult of these gaps-to-fill is the generation I guess about 2 back, Roth, the aforementioned Updike, Vidal, Mailer, et c, the so-called Great Male Narcissists.
Mailer to me seems the best, but this is a highly uninformed opinion.
So, lacking recourse to anything else at all, I looked at the twelve inches of English language books available in Radom, Poland. There was a short book by Murikami, and Mailer's latest, soon to prove last, book, The Castle in the Forest. Short books are the enemy of the bored man, so despite loving Murikami and being highly ambiguous toward Mailer, I went with the longer, cheaper book.
Lord, it was awful. Unknown to me the author died as I was reading this book, probably thinking bad thoughts about him and it both.
So here's just a small word for the man, the great novelist of his generation without a great novel. Apollo astronauts, genius double-murderers, Hitler, Mailer, the man took on the big things, wrote some really long books, and I would say none of the biggest ones are really great, but they fail because he tries too hard, too much, his great books stop just short of great because he takes off from that near-great point to leap toward an impossible height.
To read this man is to see a great writer fail time and time again to write a great book because he cannot help but try to write a book beyond greatness.
Hats off to that.


Andrew Campbell said...

Philip -- the coolest thing about Cremaster 2 is the soundtrack. Somehow Dave Lombardo, the drummer from Slayer, got involved -- and there's a track in the film which features him and a bazillion honey bees. Pretty great stuff.


Steve Bodio said...

"So here's just a small word for the man, the great novelist of his generation without a great novel."

Good line.

I think the Gilmore book best of his non- fiction-- a real WEST book.