The OF Blog: Excerpts from books currently reading or about to read

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Excerpts from books currently reading or about to read

The corpse gaped up at its killer, who squatted over it with a panel of pine steadied on the ruffled velvet covering his thigh, intently sketching the dead man's startled, stupid expression with a nub of charcoal tied to a thin stick.  It had taken no small effort to locate this particular body, the first man the artist could be sure he personally had killed in the battle.  The youth had not died in a manner any would call brave or noble, instead fumbling with his intestines like a clumsy juggler as they fell out of his split belly, and he looked even worse with the grime and blood and filth and the reek of shit and sunbaked offal, but soon he would become a saint.  Which saint exactly, the artist had yet to determine, but a saint to be sure; it was the least he could do.

I ovoga puta se, doduše, radi bez anestezije, bol koji jadna knjiga trpi nije nišsta manji nego kod sirovog čupanja, ali se zato bar rana brzo obradi, a i isečeni listovi ne završe na bunjištu, već / ako je to uopšte neka uteha / neretko budu čak i posebno ukoručeni, kao kada biste amputiranu ruku povezali s veštačkim krvotokom, tako da ona nastavi svoj zaseban život.

But there is no anaesthesia this time either.  The pain the poor book undergoes is no less than would have been inflicted by a crude tearing, but at least the wound is enacted rapidly, and the amputated pages do not end up in the bin.  With great luck they may even - if it is any kind of consolation - go through a separate binding process, just that sheaf of them, and get their own new covers:  rather like providing an amputated hand with some artificial blood circulation so that it can continue to live separately from the body.

Les soldats qu'il avait commandés en Sicile se donnaient un grand festin pour célébrer le jour anniversaire de la bataille d'Eryx, et comme le maître était absent et qu'ils se trouvaient nombreux, ils mangeaient et ils buvaient en pleine liberté.

La primera vez que Jean-Claude Pelletier leyó a Benno von Archimboldi fue en la Navidad de 1980, en París, en donde cursaba estudios universitarios de literatura alemana, a la edad de diecinueve años.  El libro en cuestión era D'Arsonval.  El joven Pelletier ignoraba entonces que esa novela era parte de una trilogía (compuesta por El jardín, de tema inglés, La máscara de cuero, de tema polaco, así como D'Arsonval era, evidentemente, de tema francés), pero esa ignorancia o ese vacío o esa dejadez bibliográfica, que sólo podía ser achacada a su extrema juventud, no restó un ápice del deslumbramiento y de la admiración que le produjo la novela.
Isaac McCaslin, 'Uncle Ike', past seventy and nearer eighty than he ever corroborate anymore, a widower now and uncle to half a county and father to no one
this was not something participated in or even seen by himself, but by his elder cousin, McCaslin Edmonds, grandson of Isaac's father's sister and so descended by the distaff, yet notwithstanding the inheritor, and in his time the bequestor, of that which some had thought then and some still thought should have been Isaac's, since his was the name in which the title to the land had first been granted from the Indian patent and which some of the descendants of his father's slaves still bore in the land.  But Isaac was not one of these:  - a widower these twenty years, who in all his life had owned put one object more than he could wear and carry in his pockets and his hands at one time, and this was the narrow iron cot and the stained lean mattress which he used camping in the woods for deer and bear or for fishing or simply because he loved the woods; who owned no property and never desired to since the earth was no man's but all men's, as light and air and weather were; who lived still in the cheap frame bungalow in Jefferson which his wife's father gave them on their marriage and which his wife had willed to him at her death and which he had pretended to accept, acquiese to, to humor her, ease her going but which was not his, will or not, chancery dying wishes mortmain possession or whatever, himself merely holding it for his wife's sister and her children who had lived in it with him since his wife's death, holding himself welcome to live in one room of it as he had during his wife's time or she during her time or the sister-in-law and her children during the rest of his and after

A tingle.  Fine, colorless hairs bristle on her arms, thighs and back.  A scratching at the pane:
(movement)  more a soft clawing in the distance with the window as sounding board, rattle of an all-but-dead time she throws back with the sheet, lifting her spine and buttocks out of their damp imprints in the mattress.
Squeak of box springs.  Her hand trembles, gropes under the lampshade.  The switch.  Light up what remains.  What she has already begun to think of as this skeletal residue ground into the window.

A destiny that leads the English to the Dutch is strange enough; but one that leads from Epsom into Pennsylvania, and thence into the hills that shut in Altamont over the proud coral cry of the cock, and the soft stone smile of an angel, is touched by that dark miracle of chance which makes new magic in a dusty world.

Each of us is all the sums he has not counted:  subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.

The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung.  Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years.  The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time.

This is a moment:


Here are eight passages from seven stories (and four languages) that I hope to finish reading by the end of the month.  Some of these I'll add to the next review poll next weekend; others perhaps are already there or will never be there.  Many of these authors are famous, some even classic; others are awaiting discovery.

Which of these do you know?  Which of these appeal to you, making you want to know if these are beginning lines, middle lines, or conclusions (or better yet, pause points) to captivating stories?  Most of these I have read before; some will be discoveries.  Which passages make you want to learn more (if you ask nicely, in a couple of days, I'll reveal the books you don't already know)?



8 comments:

Aishwarya said...

I recognise only 2666 from this set. I'm curious about some of the others - the third and last ones in particular.

Larry said...

Well, the third one is the same as the second, just it's a translation. The last one is from one of my favorite Southern writers.

James said...

I liked the first, but didn't know what it was until I Googled it. Then I just sat back and sighed, thinking, Well, isn't that a shame? I was excited about the first book from the author, but three attempts to read it proved that it just wasn't for me. Makes me hesitant to try this one.

Larry said...

Well, you could always try #3-8, I suppose ;)

James said...

I just finished The Part About the Critics last month. I also read a significant amount of the next "part" as well, but decided I would rather space them out instead of losing interest by reading that massive book in one go.

Jason said...

Got two of them:

The last one because my parents lived in Asheville NC for a time, and I felt I should read their local boy, or at least the first page of his novel (which was excellent)...

And ol' Isaac McCaslin's story. First time through that opening story was pretty rough for me, with the wheeling and dealing I barely understood. Be on the lookout for the excellent obscure word "fyce". By the time you get to "The Bear", things become a bit easier to process (though still not easy!).

Mike said...

picked up 2666 as well, even though i havent read it yet. The Book by Zivkovic is surely 2/3?

1 has me fascinated, and my googling skills are limited and impatient. Same with the second to last. The last didnt hook me at first, but i have come back to it...

Larry said...

Here's the list:

1. Jesse Bullington, The Enterprise of Death

2./3. Zoran Živković, The Writer/The Book/The Reader

4. Gustave Flaubert, Salammbô

5. Roberto Bolaño, 2666

6. William Faulkner, Go Down Moses

7. Eric Basso, first story in The Beak Doctor

8. Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel

 
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