i wanted to write about these two books because i read them this fall and they are from the same press and they were both written by "internet" writers and i havent had many blog posts for a good while.
(from right to left) lee rourke, tony o'neil, zachary german, and tao lin (photo by Chris Killen via 3:AM mag)
The Canal (lee rourke's novel)
i liked this book a lot. it felt kind of like sartre and camus and beckett i guess. also maybe houellbecq from what ive read of houellbecq. it said something about those authors on back of the book, thats probably the only reason i am saying that. i did think it was absurd though; there were lots of unanswered questions and random sometimes boring actions that led to no definite respective conclusion. very sisyphus, i guess. it was kind of a weird tragedy, in that the tragic protagonist's flaws are so opaque and so is his progression/fall. a heidegger quote is at the start of the book, i thought this was interesting. the book's main topics are boredom, banality, violence, simplicity, fear, irony, and other things.
the characters were mainly a man and a woman who sit on a bench near a canal in Britain and there are lots of Canada geese around (i dont really understand the term, but maybe i get it). it contains lots of strange dialogue. each character has dark worldviews/sentiments/etc. the man's viewpoints generally range from boredom to mild anger mixed with sadness to total absence. it was also hard to tell what exactly he felt yet at the same time i felt very within his head. i enjoyed the earlier parts generally more than the later parts, but my favorite part was one of the later parts where he finds the woman's purse and awkwardly waits outside her apartment with it (not really stalking or is it stalking?). and there was the Canada geese.
lee rourke has been around for a while. he is british. i believe he is possibly associated with 3am magazine and likes post-punk music.
Richard Yates (tao lin's new novel)
i still don't really know how i feel about this book. my thoughts have ranged from bored (while reading) and angry (while reading) and mindlessly pondering (after reading it). i don't know if i like it more than his other novel or poetry or novella. i usually like his short stories very much. it makes me think about tao lin more than about the book itself, because his work varies stylistically and yet it all is tao lin.
richard yates was an author in post-1945 America. his best was probably the easter parade, but he is most known for revolutionary road. this novel is named after him. i was kind of intrigued with the subject matter (teenage girl and mid-twenties guy) and that this subject matter does not take over the novel. the characters names are haley osment and dakota fanning. i read him say why he did this in an interview. he did it because he didn't want to have to use normal names like Jack and Jane and Bruce and Bonnie. in such novels the focus of the writer is on recreating reality, whereas in tao lin's book reality is something that is assumed and ignored and unknown simulataneously. i thought that was interesting. as usual, some of the prose was funny; i remember a line in the beginning where osment thinks, "we will have fun. we will make jokes" as he is going to meet up with her or something. i thought that was simple and funny. the girl's parents are understandably kind of creepy, probably because we are watching them through a somewhat "warped" lens maybe.
i don't know what im talking about. i wasn't blown away-thrilled with this book but i also didn't think it sucked, and i am still going to pay attention to what tao lin does next. i guess its the self-conscious way he goes about his career arc.
tao lin keeps a relatively very popular personal blog/site and also is in charge of a small press called muuuumuuu house.
the only other melville house books i have read are tao lin's other books, zachary german's Eat When You Feel Sad, and a translation of Flaubert's novella A Simple Heart. i generally feel it is a pretty solid publisher. mhp books that i plan to pick up are a translation of Dostoevsky's Eternal Husband and Rourke's short story collection.