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Something Hyper

I’ve managed to finish five more books, only one of which made my original list. The likelihood of this practice continuing is fairly strong.

Bulgakov, Mikhail. The White Guard. 320 pp.
Maxwell, William. So Long, See You Tomorrow. 144 pp.
Nabokov, Vladimir. Despair. 176 pp.
Nabokov, Vladimir. Pnin. 208 pp.
Nabokov, Vladimir. The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. 206 pp.

I started The White Guard last fall, but it didn’t hook me as much as The Master and Margarita, so it was cast aside in favor of my coursework. Naturally, it didn’t take long for me to get involved with the story this time around, as the combination of historical perspective and autobiographical insight gained momentum after the first quarter of the book. It’s a different reading experience than Master—there are no flights of fancy, rather a resounding core of familial loyalty—but it’s very close in execution and the best of this round.

I had tried reading So Long, See You Tomorrow after proofing a book on William Maxwell, but my attempt stalled before I had to return it to the Champaign library. If I’ve learned anything from my summer reading push, it’s that I’m rarely capable of coming back to a book that I’m not wholly invested in, particularly a “quiet” (the academic term for “non-eventful” or, more bluntly, “boring”) novel. I don’t think this book found its position between fiction and memory until the final few chapters—too much dry exposition in the build-up—but said position was worth returning to this book a few years later. Maxwell’s attempt to find the absent shades of human interaction in a newspaper recap of an unfortunate crime hits its mark when he finally embodies those involved and then rethinks his personal involvement (or lack thereof) in response to this fictionalization. I’m not sure if I’ll read any of his other novels, although I’ve always liked the title of Time Will Darken It, but I do have a collection of his short stories.

The trio of Nabokov books was largely arbitrary, decided by BC library availability and used copy selection. (Invitation to a Beheading and Ada are the next two I’d like to read; The Defense and Glory may take precedence given my newfound ownership of these titles.) The bittersweet wit of Pnin still lingers a few weeks after finishing it, as Nabokov succeeded with the postmodern frame of narrative usurpation and the sentimental resonance of the title character. It’s close behind the previous three Nabokov works I’ve read and high on my re-read pile. In some ways The Real Life of Sebastian Knight seemed like a dry run for the more involved authorial postmodernism of Pale Fire, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel. I’d rehash the main themes, but the back of the book does that better than most and I don’t want to plagiarize. Despair, however, broke my habit of not starting a new book before finishing my current title, because the first seventy pages confirmed Nabokov’s introductory note that though Hermann and Lolita’s Humbert Humbert are both “neurotic scoundrels,” “Hell shall never parole Hermann.” I don’t think that the book would have worked if Hermann had a more human core to his actions, but the one-sidedness of the moral landscape of the novel places it a notch below his other works. Despair’s foreword does provide a bit of a laugh when Nabokov notes how “a Communist reviewer (J. P. Sartre)” wrote “a remarkably silly article” about the book in 1939. Parenthesized, ouch. I’m going to try to slow down my personal Nabokov seminar for a bit while I spend time with other authors, but those four I mentioned above are effectively added to the big list.

My reading pace initially benefited from the conclusion of my summer research course, but then we drove through the Midwest for a week and a half, effectively killing that momentum. Driving and reading don’t mix well, but I enjoyed seeing the majority of the readers of this web site for the first time in months. Logging almost 3000 miles has its rewards—I’m trying to keep the veneer of insects on the front bumper as long as possible—but next time I think I’d prefer to Segway across America.

My record shopping adventures didn’t find a remarkable 2006 release that I’d somehow missed (although Cursive’s Happy Hollow has positioned itself in the “very good” stack), but I did manage to pick up some excellent records—a 180-gram LP of the Timeout Drawer’s Nowonmai, the Isis live 2LP, Sufjan Stevens’ Seven Swans LP, and a smattering of new and used CDs. I’ve been tempted to change my top 40 of the 2000s feature to include 2005 releases and some albums I overlooked (one of which I just mentioned!). Don’t wait around for that, but if you’ve been searching for the Signal Drench 100, here it is.

ExplodingNow! is Dusty’s new long-form blog to complement the more direct mp3 blogz0r. I recommend both. Bellevegas.com sells a wide selection of Belleville, Illinois related shirts and features Phil Baker as a model. If you’re looking for my super-secret mp3 directory, maybe you should check here. I'm trying to add more random, rare stuff as I go.

I’ve missed out on much of the NHL off-season excitement during my travels, but as a Red Wings fan, there really hasn’t been too much to get excited about. Steve Yzerman, my favorite athlete, retired, ending his brilliant career. His series-winning slap shot against the Blues in 1996 is my single favorite sports memory. I remember staying up late with my dad to watch the conclusion of that double overtime thriller and being almost as thrilled as Yzerman’s memorable celebration. Perhaps lost in that celebration is how that marked the first (and only) time that Yzerman had beaten Gretzky in a playoff series, having lost to the Oilers in 1987 and 1988. Yzerman’s retirement didn’t come as a surprise by any means, but given that he was the most dangerous player for most of the Wings’ first-round series against the Oilers, I thought that he might stick around. Shanahan moved to the Rangers for four million. Lidstrom is somehow making less money than Zdeno Chara. I’m still holding out hope that the Wings will swing a trade for Jean-Sebastien Giguere or Martin Biron (a trade not involving Kronwall, thanks) and crossing my fingers that Ken Holland doesn’t invest in Belfour or Hasek. I’d rather have Legace back than either of those guys; even if Legace is an easy scapegoat for a disappointing first round, he didn’t implode like Hasek or suffer injuries and setbacks like Belfour.