Recently Read…April 23, 2012 (including 13 useful tips for writers!)
Enrique Vila-Matas, Never Any End to Paris. New Directions, 2011. Vila-Matas’ usual practice is to subvert literary forms – along with his reader’s expectations for consistent narrative flow. Originally written in 2003, Never Any End to Paris purports to be a very long lecture on the subject of irony that the narrator (a writer not unlike Enrique Vila-Matas) is delivering at a symposium in Barcelona over the course of three days. But Vila-Matas soon tucks the lecture format into the background and lets his book quietly devolve into something more-or-less resembling a traditional writer’s memoir of youthful years in Paris. Never Any End to Paris is a playful homage to Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast (from whence the book’s title is derived), with Vila-Matas’ narrator a bumbling, meek echo of Hemingway, with a bit of writer’s block thrown in for good measure. It’s mid-1970s Paris and the young Spanish narrator finds himself living in an apartment rented from the French writer Marguerite Duras, who gives him “a piece of paper that looked like a doctor’s prescription” on which she had written out a list of thirteen useful tips for anyone writing a novel: “1. Structural problems. 2. Unity and harmony. 3. Plot and story. 4.Time. 5. Textual effects. 6. Verisimilitude. 7. Narrative technique. 8. Characters. 9. Dialogue. 10. Setting(s). 11. Style. 12. Experience. 13. Linguistic register.” Needless to say, deciphering the list and turning it to good use in his novel-in-progress, proves both challenging and amusing. (For all of my posts on Vila-Matas, click here.)
Chris Darke, Light Readings. Wallflower, 2000. Darke writes about the moving image, whether it be in the cinema or in the gallery of a museum. This is a collection of reviews an essays from the 1990s, mostly from Sight and Sound. Two-thirds are concerned with cinema, especially of the French variety, where Darke’s cinematic sympathies lie. But the essays that really came alive for me were those grappling with the use of film and video by contemporary artists. Darke adroitly marries his knowledge of the history of cinema and his background in film theory with a solid understanding of contemporary art practice to produce clear-headed and articulate essays. His writings on artists such as Steve McQueen, Douglas Gordon, Bill Viola and others, made me think about their film and video art with new eyes.