Friday, June 13, 2008

Two Books I'm Gargling

8% left to read till Tree of Smoke is done. I didn't know anything about this novel when I started. I didn't know it was a war novel about Vietnam. It's good. It's really good. It's hard to read books that are this good. It's discouraging, y'know? To write a book this good, you can't just mess around. Denis Johnson doesn't really mess around. However, I often get the sense while reading this book: who cares. This book is not as tight as a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. I only have 8% left to read and there are major characters that I still don't even, like, get. So everyone who was hopeless and went to Vietnam either died or got out and was hopeless. Sometimes I did not like Skip Sands and sometimes I liked him a lot. Sometimes I rolled my eyes and wondered what Johnson was shooting for with Colonel FX Sands, and sometimes I wanted to leave my bathtub for adventure when I thought about how tough and cool and drinkery the Colonel was.

Stacy Szymaszek's book of poetry, Emptied of All Ships, I have to read some more. I have to read it 8% more, about, even though I read it all. It's awesome. It's really cool. In the elevator this morning I thought of some of the words that are in it. The words come in short bursts, three or four lines at a time, one or two words per line. Sometimes there are more lines in one verse but there aren't normally more than one or two words per line. It's interesting what things these words do. Interesting to me. I imagine other people read them differently, but to me there is often some sort of syllogism that develops:
an oar
So. And it's heavy what happens with my eyes. Like when I was reading Ashbery this week, I was like, OH WOW NO MORE NO MORE PLEASE STOP JOHN and I forgot what the beginning of a line was by the time I got to the end of the line. But reading Emptied of All Ships I kept intentionally slowing down my eyes, trying to vacuum up all the shredded meaning for assimilation. I could have read the entire book in an hour, but I didn't let myself I read slo


Josh Maday said...

I keep meaning to write this, and now I am.

Tree of Smoke is the prequel to Denis Johnson's first novel Angels, about the Houston brothers. I don't know if you've read it yet, but it's really good. Much shorter than ToS, and tighter, I imagine. Just wanted to mention it.

Adam R. said...

I did not know that. I haven't even read Jesus's Son yet.

Josh Maday said...

Jesus' Son is excellent, too. The film adaptation of JS with Billy Crudup is very good, too. Definitely read the book, though. Of course.

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