Tuesday, December 25, 2007

"like a dissertation on alcohol"

This is about "Day of the Dead, The Mysterious Demise of Malcolm Lowry," by D.T. Max.

One of the most exciting things that happened to me in the last 6 years was, somewhere in there, the sudden release of my attention from a prolonged period of intensive reading.

Anyway, I began to wander through the three dimensional world noticing all kinds of shapes and textures that I hadn't the week before. Neat.

At another point, I endured a period of frantic skimming (not reading) and then, suddenly, when my time was my own, again, I tried to read a mystery novel. You can't skim a mystery novel. And I had to adjust my readerly attention. Also neat.

Brijit summarizes Max's article and calls it a "massive, well-written feature" but I read it in one evening, so I wouldn't call it massive exactly. And, if you can't skim a mystery you really can't summarize one either. But I did love it.

Max lends to the baffling air of mystery by adding a son. The current online version includes the correction. Nephew, not son.

In related news, I recently read that in the 19th C, reviewers of Wilkie Collins presumed that his novels would not be read twice by the same person, the sensation being a kind of "once in a lifetime" effect. For this 20th C reader, let me tell you, this does not hold. On the one hand, I certainly believe that people read differently in different historical and cultural moments. On the other hand, the very fact that Collins was published serially, and then in volumes, suggests that he was read twice, even back in the day . . .

I will say, though, that D.T. Max has this funny habit, in the Lowry article, of quoting full sentences of Malcolm and/or Margerie and letting them sort of just sit there, as if the language proved something or other - that Margerie was a brilliant editor who curbed Malcolm's florid prose, that Margerie was, on her own, a hack mystery writer, that Malcolm was, in the end, truly gifted, etc, etc . . .

Me, I couldn't tell the shit from the Shinola. Maybe I'm out of practice. Or maybe I just like hack mysteries too much. Anyway, best line in the whole thing is the quote that heads this post, which is pure Margerie. Malcolm being dead by that point.

And yeah, Max call her Margerie and him Lowry. How very 1940.


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