ikstim

because it sounds like some vague literary term, or a pernicious disease

Archive for the ‘books for smart people’ Category

Flaubert, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

leave a comment »

So aside from the fact that I want to ride Gustave Flaubert’s epic mustache like a cowboy wants to ride a wild stallion, I also really like his book Madame Bovary.

Gustave FlaubertFirst published as a complete novel in 1857, Madame Bovary and her author Monsieur Flaubert there on the left were attacked for obscenity by the public, its trial and subsequent acquittal lent a fair hand in making the novel famous. It is now considered one of the most influencial books ever written and several top 100 lists, and in fact even a few top ten, stick it right up there in the number one or two spot. It most frequently stands beside Anna Karanina.

Madame Bovary is not a love story. It’s a story of realism and while you expect it would be a sweeping tale of romance wrapped up in juicy extra-marital affairs what the novel really represents is a perversion of values and how they will dehumanize those who hold such values. What we really have here is a morality tale, cloaked in the whispers and false promises of sweet nothings and satisfying trysts. And then she dies.

The main character, Emma Bovary idealizes romance and revels in secret letters, flirtations and clandestine affairs, believing them to be the very true nature of love. Then she finds herself horribly in debt, spurned by her former lovers and offering her own body in payment for bills she cannot possibly settle. Desperately Emma takes her own life, swallowing arsenic and dying slowly and painfully, her various life fluids gushing from her as a symbol of all the secrets that she kept from her naive and passionless husband. Then he dies too. It’s all quite tragic.

Flaubert did not sugar-coat or pander in his work, he started the realism movement, and influences how novels are written today. What readers come to expect from today’s authors, is a direct result of his presenting life as it is, without flourished embellishments or foolish idealism. While he presented ugly truths, he painted them beautifully, as an artist. He is precise, objective and emotionally restrained as a writer, yet he was able to take horrible things and describe them in ways that made them less ugly. Flaubert throughout his work also sought “le juste mot” the right word, rather than wrap it up in an approximate or something that didn’t quite fit, he always went for the unadorned, direct and sometimes brutal “juste mot”.

TLDR?

here:

I Am Only Blogging About Sexual Proclivities From Now On.

with 6 comments

I was looking through my bookcases earlier this week in search of something new and interesting to share with you here on ikstim. I have noticed a trend with the books that I choose in that the authors are all long dead. I think this is largely subconscious on my part as so often in my pants-free googling and what I often end up writing about is the person who wrote the book rather than the book itself. I am like the Perez Hilton of dead writers. Get your dirty literary gossip here!

So in my search when I pulled out James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the first thing I thought of was not the work, nor even various classics that Joyce has contributed to the vast “literary rainbow of books you should read to make people think you are smart” (patent pending).  I did not even think of my grad student friend Pat, who is slavishly devoted enough to Joyce to write a whole bloody dissertation on him. I thought of instead, James Joyce’s dirty letters to his wife. Of course I did, because I am nothing if not obscenely curious as to how great writers conducted themselves in the bedroom.

There are a few things you should know about James Joyce before I drop the whole “I like my wife to fart while I fuck her” bomb on you.

1.) Joyce wrote some of the most interesting and challenging books, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and  Finnegans Wake. His experimental style has given him a reputation as one of the one of the most influential writers in the 20th Century and he is often cited as a key contributor to the development of the Modernist Novel.

2.) He was a bad-ass. A heavy drinker, and completely impious, he refused to kneel and confess at the wish of his dying mother. He was also shot at one night by his room-mate, who may or may not have been aiming for a kettle that hung above Joyce’s bed. That’s some street cred right there.

3.) His wife, Nora Barnacle, was a terrifically supportive and loyal spouse. In 1941 When Joyce died and it was suggested to her that a Mass be held for his immortal soul she responded, “I couldn’t do that to him.”.

4.) His influence and legacy is impacting how people read and write today. In 1999 Joyce was listed as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century by Time Magazine, and three of his novels appear on the 100 Best English Language Novels according to Modern Library. Ulysses is ranked number one.

So one would think, with all this other interesting, influential and fascinating information and creativity that surrounds him, that I would be able to write a lengthy and lovely entry or a few dedicated to this. Instead I want to tell you about how much he loved his wife’s farts, and it was a lot. James Joyce, wrote letter upon erotic and detailed letter to his wife about how hot and dirty he thought she was. An example written in 1909:

“My sweet little whorish Nora I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue came bursting out through your lips and if a gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual, fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also.”

If those are not the words of a man who desperately loves the shit (that works on both levels – ha!) out of his wife, then I don’t know what is. There are a whole host of these letters that run the gamut from sweet and romantic, to begging for a caning, to odd masturbatory and scatological references. The shocking nature of these letters aside, they are really rather sweet, and I find it endearing that these two found each other and despite the rather icky and windy nature of their couplings were devoted and desirous of each other right up until Joyce’s death.

It is easy to get caught up in the scandalous nature of Joyce’s private life, easier than making your way through Finnegans Wake for sure, but to me it provides another layer to his writing. A glimpse of the faithful relationship he had with his wife, which putting aside the rather unappetizing things which these two consenting adults did together, inspired his work and nourished his life. Nora was his soul-mate, his muse and perhaps what he valued most, a safe-harbour, a place that he could be himself and be farted on lovingly.

Written by Lindsey

June 6, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Cookies You Can Believe In, In Bed.

with 2 comments

I was Marcel Proust in another life.  I have proof.  See, I am never going to be a great writer, I will never, and not through lack of trying, write a great novel and I will never see myself published. How’s that for positive thought? You can take your quantum physics and shove them up your ass.

The reason that none of these things will ever happen for me is because when I was Marcel Proust I used up all my writerly mojo and will never be able to write again. Being Marcel Proust has sucked my creative juices dry, so now you are left with pants-free googling anecdotes and semi-coherant rambling in my attempt to emulate having talent.

Looking at pictures of myself and Marcel Proust, you can see the resemblance, he looks all pasty and thoughtful, see? I am also pasty, and while not terribly thoughtful any more, I do like cookies.

And boy-howdy here comes more proof, when I was Marcel Proust in my former life, I also liked cookies. I liked cookies enough that I was able to write a novel in seven volumes about cookies. I wonder how many more times I can write cookies into this paragraph? Cookies.

Also, guess what I am reading? That’s right! The novel in seven parts that I wrote in French between 1913 and 1927, In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past, depending on the translation. Except, now I am reading it in English, because the ability to read this in French did not reincarnate with the rest of me.

And Then is Heard No More

with 4 comments

Phronk left an interesting comment on my first post about The Sound and The Fury. He introduced me to the idea of cognitive dissonance, and the theory that we enjoy something that much more if it was a challenge to attain it. This interested me very much, and true to my nerd-cred, I took off my pants and googled.

I was intrigued, was my general dislike of the book because I felt like an outsider to the smart kids club due to my not fully understanding the structure of the story? In Aesop’s fable of the Fox and Grapes, the fox is unable to get at a certain bunch of grapes because they are too high for her snotty little fox nose to poke at. As a way of soothing her frustration, she tells herself that the grapes are probably not all that great to begin with and therefore why should she even bother wanting them? Is The Sound and The Fury my bunch of unattainable grapes? Am I the fox? Did I desire something and then criticize it because it seemed unattainable?

See, I wanted to like The Sound and The Fury, I wanted it to be the best bunch of grapes that I have ever eaten, so to speak. I wanted it to live up to the expectations I had of it, I knew it would be a challenge to read, and boy-howdy was it ever, but I wanted to come out the other side feeling as though I was some how wiser, or as though it had imparted some great lesson to me.

Instead I felt as though I had missed something, that I wasn’t as prepared for the puzzle of the literature as I thought I was. And to a certain extent, that yes, it wasn’t that great to begin with, so why should I feel so terrible about not loving it, about not moving Faulkner up the list of my favourite authors ever?

Phronk stated in his comment that it’s uncomfortable to know that we wasted effort on something that sucked. He’s right, it’s terribly uncomfortable, it sent me right into a Faulkner-esque spiral of reflection and self doubt, one that I still haven’t fathomed myself out of yet. Logically, I think that it’s alright that I was disappointed by the book, that I didn’t like it, and that you can’t win them all. Then my romantic, literature loving brain is pitching a right tantrum hollering at me about “BEST BOOK EVER!!! TOP 100!!! CLASSIC!!! MAYBE YOU’RE JUST TOO STUPID TO GET IT!!! UGH I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVE TO LIVE WITH YOU, YOU UNCULTURED CRETIN!!!”

I have to talk that bitch down all the time.

Written by Lindsey

March 3, 2010 at 9:22 am

Told by an Idiot, Full of Sound and Fury

with 3 comments

Reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury, is like driving with my octogenarian grandmother. Dreadfully slow, confounding, and you’re never quite sure if you are going to make it out alive. What makes it worth it though is, occasionally the sweet lady looks over and says something that is so inspiring, or so beautiful that you buckle your seat belt, and hold white knuckled to the door handle.

A stream of consciousness tale told in four parts, and published originally in 1929, it appears on several lists as one of the best books of all time. The story also managed to play a role in Faulkner’s Noble Peace Prize in literature, which he was awarded in 1949.

The Sound and The Fury is a difficult story to provide an effective synopsis to, because for the most part, its not easily readable, nor, at times, does it make much sense. For the sake of brevity, I am going to break it down into it’s four parts, and attempt to give some sense of what the hell was going on in there. If The Sound and The Fury is your most favouritist book ever, and you find my synopsis overly simplified or missing the point altogether, bear with me and comfort yourself with the knowledge that MY most favouritist book is Go Dog Go.

Part One.

Narrated by Benjy Compson. His narration shifts over a twenty year span.

Caddy smelled like trees until she knocked boots with some guy from town and now she doesn’t smell like trees anymore.

Caddy, by the by, is the main figure in the story or more correctly, the idea of Caddy is the main figure in the story.  She is never met on her own, and is a different person in the eyes of each of the narrators.  She is only shown through the biases of each of her brothers, and ultimately does not exisit as a person, only as an individual’s perception of a person.

Part Two.

Narrated By Quentin Compson.

My sister Caddy is a whore, and I am going to toss myself into the river, from a height, weighted down by irons because of it.

Part Three.

Narrated by Jason Compson.

Money.Money.Money.Money.Money.I Hate Caddy, and myself, but mostly Caddy.Money.Money.Money.

Part Four.

The only chapter that makes any sense as Faulkner uses a more traditional writing style. The focus is the matriarch of the Compson’s servants, Dilsey . Dilsey and her family are used to provide a narrative comparison against the declining Compson family. I didn’t really figure out the story until the last few paragraphs, which is maybe what was intended all along. It illustrates the decay of the wealthy Southern family, and the idiocy that each of the brothers display in turn – Benjy’s mental retardation, Quentin’s declining mental health and obsession with his sister’s sexuality, and Jason’s obsession with wealth (Jason is also really mean).

/synopsis

Faulkner had originally intended to have the story printed with different coloured inks to represent the shifts in time and perspective, but used italics instead. Then he broke his own rules, and stopped using punctuation.

While the story, from what I could glean in the nearly six (six!) weeks it took me to read The Sound and The Fury, is a tragic tale of the downfall of a prominent Southern American family after the Civil War. The type of story, that being full of sadness and melancholy self reflection is right up my alley, but it’s delivery made it nearly incomprehensable. Also, Faulkner was mostly drunk while he wrote it, I tried being mostly drunk while I read it. It didn’t help.

All of that being said. I TOTALLY understand why people will tell you this is their favourite book, or will sing it’s praises as one of the most important pieces of American Literature Ever! Getting through this book is like winning the blue ribbon at a hotdog eating contest. You finish, you feel like you have really accomplished something, but you feel bloated with vague twinges of shame – mostly because you don’t really understand why you ate all those hotdogs in the first place.