samedi 18 septembre 2010

John Fante, ASK THE DUST, New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006 [1939]

Arturo Bandini, the novelist. Income of his own, made it writing short stories. Writing a book now. Tremendous book. Advances notices terrific. Remarkable prose. Nothing like it since Joyce. Standing before Hackmuth's picture, I read the work of each day. I spent whole hours writing a dedication: To J. C. Hackmuth, for discovering me. To J. C. Hackmuth, in admiration. To Hackmuth, a man of genius. I could see them, those New York critics, crowding Hackmuth at his club. You certainly found a winner in that Bandini kid on the coast. A smile from Hackmuth, his eyes twinkling.
Six weeks, a few sweet hours every day, three and four and sometimes five delirious hours, with the pages piling up and all other desires asleep. I felt like a ghost walking the earth, a lover of man and beast alike, and wonderful waves of tenderness flooded me when I talked to people and mingled with them in the streets. God Almighty, dear God, good to me, gave me a sweet tongue, and these sad and lonely folk will hear me and they shall be happy. Thus the days passed. Dreamy, luminous days, and sometimes such great quiet joy came to me that I would turn out my lights and cry, and a strange desire to die would come to me.
Thus Bandini, writing a novel.

John Fante, ASK THE DUST, New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006 [1939]

I worked hard. It was supposed to be Autumn, but I couldn't tell the difference. We had sun every day, blue skies every night. Sometimes there was fog. I was eating fruit again. The Japanese gave me credit and I had the pick of their stalls. Bananas, oranges, pears, plums. Once in a while I ate celery. I had a full can of tobacco and a new pipe. There wasn't any coffee, but I didn't mind. Then my new story hit the magazine stands. The Long Lost Hills! It was not as exciting as The Little Dog Laughed. I scarcely looked at the free copy Hackmuth sent me. This pleased me nevertheless. Some day I would have so many stories written I wouldn't remember where they appeared. "Hi there, Bandini! Nice story you had in the Atlantic Monthly this month." Bandini puzzled. "Did I have one in the Atlantic? Well, well."

John Fante, ASK THE DUST, New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006 [1939]

Oh Bandini, talking to the reflexion in the dresser mirror, what sacrifices you make for your art! You might have been a captain of industry, a merchant prince, a big league ball player, leading hitter in the American League, with an average of .415; but no! Here you are, crawling through the days, a starved genius, faithful to your sacred calling. What courage you possess!
I lay in bed, sleepless in the darkness. Mighty Hackmuth, what would he say to all this? He would applaud, his powerful pen would eulogize me in well-turned phrases. And after all, that letter to Hackmuth wasn't such a bad letter. I got up, dug it up from the waste-basket, and re-read it. A remarkable letter, cautiously humored. Hackmuth would finf it very amusing. It would impress upon him the fact that I was the selfsame author of The Little Dog Laughed. There was a story for you! And I opened a drawer filled with copies of the magazine that contained the story. Lying on the bad I read it again, laughing and laughing at the wit of it, murmuring in amazement that I had written it. Then I took to reading it aloud, with gestures, before the mirror. When I was finished there were tears of delight in my eyes and I stood before the picture of Hackmuth, thanking him for recognizing my genius.

John Fante, ASK THE DUST, New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006 [1939]

He hurried away, leaving her looking after him, speaking words he lost in flight. He walked half a block. He was pleased. At least she had asked him. At least she had identified him as a man. He whistled a tune from sheer pleasure. Man about town has universal experience. Noted writer tells of night with woman of the streets. Arturo Bandini, famous writer, reveals experience with Los Angeles prostitute. Critics acclaim book finest written.
Bandini (being interviewed prior to departure for Sweden): "My advice to all young writers is quite simple. I would caution them never to evade a new experience. I would urge them to live life in the raw, to grapple with it bravely, to attack it with naked fists."
Reporter: "Mr. Bandini, how did you come to write this book which won you the Nobel Prize?"
Bandini: "The book is based on a true experience which happened to me one night in Los Angeles. Every word of that book is true. I lived that book, I experienced it."

John Fante, ASK THE DUST, New York, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006 [1939]

Then a great deal of time passed as I stood in front od a pipe shop and looked, and the whole world faded except that window and I stood and smoked them all, and saw myself a great author with that natty Italian briar, and a cane, stepping out of a big black car, and she was there too, proud as hell of me, the lady in the silver fox fur. We registered and then we had cocktails and then we danced awhile, and then we had another cocktail and I recited some lines from Sanskrit, and the world was so wonderful, because every two minutes some gorgeous one gazed at me, the great author, and nothing would do but I had to autograph her menu, and the silver fox girl was very jealous.
Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town.
A day and another day and the day before, and the library with the big boys in the shelves, old Dreiser, old Mencken, all the boys down there, and I went to see them, Hya Dreiser, Hya Mencken, Hya, hya: there's a place for me, too, and it begins with B, in the B shelf, Arturo Bandini, make way for Arturo Bandini, his slot for his book, and I sat at the table and just looked at the place where my book would be, right there close to Arnold Bennett; not much that Arnold Bennett, but I'd be there to sort of bolster up the B's, old Arturo Bandini, one of the boys, until some girl came along, some scent of perfume through the fiction room, some glick of high heels to break up the monotony of my fame. Gala day, gala dream!

dimanche 5 septembre 2010

Philip Roth, THE GHOST WRITER, Londres, Vintage, 2005 [1979]

"Oh, she thinks otherwise. Of course she does. I've seen her fondling each sheet of each draft of each story. She thinks with her it will all be the religion of art up here. Oh, will it ever! Let her try to please you, Manny! Let her serve as the backdrop for your thoughts for thirty-five years. Let her see how noble and heroic you are by the twenty-seventh draft. Let her cook your wonderful meals and light candles for your dinner. Let her get everything ready to make you happy and then see the look on your stone face when you come in at night and sit down at the table. A surprise for dinner? Oh, my dear girl, that is merely his due for a miserable day of bad writing. That gets no rise out of him. And candles in the old pewter holders? Candles, after all these years? How poignant of her, he thinks, how vulgar, what a wistful souvenir of yesterday's tearooms. Yes, have her run hot baths for your poor back twice a day, and then go a week withour being talked to - let alone being touched in bed. Ask him in bed, 'What is it, dear, what's the matter?' But of course you know all too well what the matter is - you know why he won't hold you, why he doesn't even know you're there. The fiftieth draft!"
"That is enough," said Lonoff. "Quite thorough, very accurate, and enough."
"Fondling those papers of yours! Oh, she'll see! I got fondled more by strangers on the rush-hour subway during two months in 1935 than I have up here in the last twenty years! Take off your coat, Amy - you're staying. The classroom daydream has come true! You get the creative writer - and I get to go!"
"She's not staying," Lonoff said, softly again. "You're staying."
"Not for thirty-five more years of this!"
"Oh, Hopie." He put a hand out to her face, where the tears were still falling.
"I'm going to Boston! I'm going to Europe! It's too late to touch me now! I'm taking a trip around the world and never coming back! And you," she said, looking down at Amy in her chair, "you won't go anywhere. You won't see anything. If you ever go out to dinner, if once in six months you get him to accept an invitation to somebody's home, then it'll be even worse - then for the hour before you go your life will be misery from his kvetching about what it's going to be like when people start in with their ideas. If you dare to change the pepper mill, he'll ask what's the matter, what was wrong with the old one? It takes three months for him just to get used to a new brand of soap. Change the soap and he goes around the house sniffing, as though something dead is on the bathroom sink instead of just a bar of Palmolive. Nothing can be touched, nothing can be changed, everybody must be quiet, the children must shut up, their friends must stay away until four - There is his religion of art, my young successor: rejecting life! Not living is what he makes his beatiful fiction out of! And you will now be the person he is not living with!"
(p. 173-175)

Philip Roth, THE GHOST WRITER, Londres, Vintage, 2005 [1979]

"You don't like him much."
"I'm not in the business. 'Liking people' is often just another racket. But you're right to think well of his books. Not up my alley maybe, all that vanity face to face, but when he writes he's not just a little Houyhnhnm tapping out his superiority with his hooves. More like a Dr. Johnson eating opium - the disease of his life makes Abravanel fly. I admire the man, actually, I admire what he puts his nervous system through. I admire his passion for the front-row seat. Beautiful wives, beautiful mistresses, alimony the size of the national debt, polar expeditions, war-front reportage, famous friends, famous enemies, breakdowns, public lectures, five-hundred-page novels every third year, and still, as you said before, time and energy left over for all that self-absorption. The gigantic types in the books have to be that big to give him something to think about to rival himself. Like him? No. But impressed, oh yes. Absolutely. It's no picnic up there in the egosphere. I don't know when the man sleeps, or if he has ever slept, aside from those few minutes when he had that drink with me."
(p. 52-53)

Philip Roth, THE GHOST WRITER, Londres, Vintage, 2005 [1979]

"Don't apologize," Lonoff repeated, "unless you know for sure you're not going to do it again next time. Otherwise, just do it and forget it. Don't make a production out of it."
Hope said, "He only means he understands, Nathan. He has the highest respect for what you are. We don't have visitors unless they're people Manny respects. He has no tolerance for people without substance."
"Enough," said Lonoff.
"I just don't want Nathan to resent you for superiority feelings you don't have."
"My wife would have been happier with a less exacting companion."
"But you are less exacting," she said, "with everyone but yourself. Nathan, you don't have to defend yourself. Why shouldn't you enjoy your first bit of recognition? Who deserves it more than a gifted young man like yourself? Think of all the worthless people held up for our esteem every day: movie stars, politicians, athletes. Because you happen to be writer doesn't mean you have to deny yourself the ordinary human pleasure of being praised and applauded."
"Ordinary human pleasures have nothing to do with it. Ordinary human pleasures be damned. The young man wants to be an artist."
(p. 39-40)

Philip Roth, THE GHOST WRITER, Londres, Vintage, 2005 [1979]

And not just from a father who was an artist instead of a foot doctor, but from the most famous literary ascetic in America, that giant of patience and fortitude and selflessness who, in the twenty-fice years between his first book and his sixth (for which he was given a National Book Award that he quietly declined to accept), had virtually no readership or recognition, and invariably would be dismissed, if and when he was even mentionned, as some quaint remnant of the Old World ghetto, an out-of-step folklorist pathetically oblivious of the major currents of literature and society. Hardly anyone knew who he was or where actually he lived, and for a quarter of a century almost nobody cared. Even among his readers there had been some who thought that E. I. Lonoff's fantasies about America had been written in Yiddish somewhere inside czarist Russia before he supposedly died there (as, in fact, his father had nearly perished) from injuries suffered in a pogrom. What was so admirable to me was not only the tenacity that had kept him writing his own kind of stories all that time but that having been "discovered" and popularized, he refused all awards and degrees, declined membership in all honorary institutions, granted no public interviews, and chose not to be photographed, as though to associate his face with his fiction were a ridiculous irrelevancy.
(p. 10-11)

Philip Roth, THE GHOST WRITER, Londres, Vintage, 2005 [1979]

When I had recently raised his name before the jury at my first Manhattan publishing party - I'd arrived, excited as a starlet, on the arm of an elderly editor - Lonoff was almost immediately disposed of by the wits on hand as though it were comical that a Jew of his generation, an immigrant child to begin with, should have married the scion of an old New England family and lived all these years "in the country" - that is to say, in the goyish wilderness of birds and trees where Amercia began and long ago had ended. However, since everybody else of renown I mentioned at the party also seemed slightly amusing to those in the know, I had been skeptical about their satiric description of the famous rural recluse. In fact, from what I saw at that party, I could begon to understand why hiding out twelve hundred feet up in the mountains with just the birds and the trees might not be a bad idea for a writer, Jewish or not.
(p. 4-5)

mercredi 1 septembre 2010

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

More fervently than he was a Jew, Bech was a writer, a literary man, and in this dimension, too, he felt cause for unease. He was a creature of the third person, a character. A character suffers from the fear that he will become boring to the author, who will simply let him drop, without so much as a terminal illness or a dramatic tumble down the Reichenbach Falls in thhe arms of Professor Moriarty. For some years now, Bech had felt his author wanting to set him aside, to get him off the desk forever. Rather frantically hoping still to amuse, Bech had developed a new set of tricks, somewhat out of character - he had married, he had written a bestseller. Nevertheless, and especially as his sixties settled on him, as cumbersomely as an astronaut's suit, he felt boredom weighing from above; he was - as H. G. Wells put it in a grotesquely cheerful ackowledgment of his own mortality that the Boy Bech had read back when everything in print impressed him - an experiment whose chemicals were about to be washed down the drain.
(BECH AT BAY, "Bech In Czech", p. 326)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

I'm not sure there is a new wave," Bech admitted. "Just more and more backwash. The younger writers I meet look pretty old to me. You know about the minimalists?"
"And how," the chairman of the board said. "Abish, Beattie, Carver - we're doin' em all."
"Well," Bech sighed, "you're way ahead of me. Newer wave than that, you'll have to dig right down into the fiction workshops. There are thousands of them, all across the country; it's the easiest way to get through college."
(BECH AT BAY, "Bech In Czech", p. 323)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

Bech managed about sixty handwritten pages, dealing mostly with Olive's education at a Southern girl's college where the stench of horse manure incongruoulsy swept through the curried green campus and the idyllic vista of young women of good family striding to class in smart skirts and high heels. But when it came time in the novel to bring her to that capital of ruined innocence, New York City, he was at a loss for what professional field he would mire her in. The only one he knew first-hand, that of publishing, inspired great distate in our author when encountered in published fiction: he did not like much involution, whether met in Escher prints, iris petals, or the romantic theme of incest.
(BECH IS BACK, "Bech Wed", p. 238)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

The audience at Cape Coast grew restive during Bech's long adress on "The Cultural Situation on the American Writer," and afterward several members of the audience, dressed in the colorful robes of spokesmen, leaped to their feet and asked combative questions. "Why," asked a small bespectacled man, his voice tremulous and orotund over the microphone, "has the gentleman speaking in representation of the United States not mentioned any black writers? Does he suppose, may I ask, that the situation of the black writers in his country partakes of the decadent, and, may I say, ininteresting situation he has described?"
"Well," Bech began, "I think, yes, the American Negro has his share of our decadence, though maybe not a full share - "
"We have heard all this before," the man was going on, robed like a wizard, his lilting African English boomed by the amplifying system, "of your glorious Melville and Whitman, of their Moby-Dicks and their Scarlet Letters - what of Elridge Cleaver and Richard Wright, what of Langston Hughes and Rufus Magee? Why have you not read to us pretty posies of their words? We beg you, Mr. Henry Bech, tell us what you mean by this phrase" - a scornful pause - " 'American writer.' "
(BECH IS BACK, " Bech Thirld-Worlds It", p. 180)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

Wendell arranged four chairs in a rectangle, and produced a pipe. It was an ordinary pipe, the kind that authors, in the corny days when Bech's image of the literary life had been formed, used to grip in dust-jacket photographs.
(BECH: A BOOK, "Bech Takes Pot Luck", p. 67)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

For one spring term Bech, who belonged to the last writing generation that thought teaching a corruption, had been persuaded to oversee - it amounted to little more than that - the remarkably uninhibited conversations of fifteen undergraduates and to read their distressingly untidy manuscripts. Languid and clever, these young people had lacked not only patriotism and faith but even the coarse morality competitiveness inposes.
(BECH:A BOOK, "Bech Takes Pot Luck", p. 57)

John Updike, THE COMPLETE HENRY BECH, New York, Everyman's Library, 2001 [1970] [1982] [1998] [1999]

He was, himself, a writer, this fortyish young man, Henry Bech, with his thinning curly hair and melancholy Jewish nose, the author of one good book and three others, the good one having come first. By a kind of oversight, he had never married. His reputation had growned while his powers declined. As he felt himself sink, in his fiction, deeper and deeper into eclectic sexuality and bravura narcissism, as his search for plain truth caried him further and further into treacherous realms of fantasy and, lately, of silence, he was more and more thickly hounded by homage, by flat-footed exegetes, by arrogantly worshipful undergraduates who had hitchhiked a thousand miles to touch his hand, by querulous translators, by election to honorary societies, by invitations to lecture, to "speak," to "read," to participate in symposia trumped up by ambitious girlie magazines in shameless conjunction with venerable universities. His very government, in airily unstamped envelopes from Washington, invited him to travel, as an ambassador of the arts, to the other half of the world, the hostile, the mysterious half. Rather automatically, but with some faint hope of shaking himself from the burden of himself, he consented, and found himself floating, with a passport so stapled with visas it fluttered when pulled from his pocket, down into the dim airports of Communist cities.
(BECH: A BOOK, "The Bulgarian Poetess", p. 40-41)
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