The OF Blog: Connections

Sunday, October 09, 2011


Lately, I've been absorbed with some reads that "connect" for one reason or another.  Since people love lists, here are a few of them:

David Abulafia, The Great Sea:  A Human History of the Mediterranean

Anonymous, Psalms; Proverbs; Ecclesiastes; Song of Solomon (King James translation)

Vladimir Nabokov, Despair

Amy Waldman, The Submission

Thomas Ligotti, The Nightmare Factory (collection)

Olympe Bhêly-Quénum, Chant du Lac

Elena Poniatowska, Querido Diego, te abraza Quiela

Jean Ray, Les Contes du Whisky

Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

Those of you who have read more than a couple of these titles will recognize immediately that there is very little that connects these titles, at least on the surface.  What connections could possibly exist between a new general history of the Mediterranean over the past 20,000 years with Ligotti's weird/horror fiction?  Or what ties bind Nabokov, Morgenstern, and Waldman?

In many regards, there are no solid connections except through the medium of the reader involved, myself.  Reading is not a passive act; I do not "receive" the information, but instead have to actively process it.  When I am in search of something to spark thought, re-reading the poems and "wisdom" material of the Bible certainly contains food for thought.  But sometimes the inspiration comes from odd sources.  Reading Jean Ray's early short fictions, in this collection all tales are connected in some fashion to whiskey, did lead to some interesting dreams that I largely forgot upon wakening a couple of weekends ago.  There is a beauty to Nabokov's prose, even in the translation he and his son Dmitri did of this early Russian-language work, that scintillates and makes me listen to the inner harmonies behind the prose.  In French, the same held true for Bhêly-Quénum's work dealing with the traditional beliefs of Dahomeian/Beninese villagers that a particular lake was "possessed" by local gods.  There is a charm in Morgenstern's debut novel that appeals to those who like to witness spectacle unfolding, yet the horrors of xenophobia, as illustrated in Waldman's debut novel, certainly spark a reaction of a different sort.

Readers,  perhaps, ought to be protean in their reading material.  Instead of trying to "connect" with characters that resemble characters from earlier reads, maybe "connections" could be formed out of the disparate genres that one can encounter in most corners of any bookstore.  Stories can be all things for all people, n'est ce pas?


James said...

Alas the connections I form in my reading are far more mundane, having little to do with myself, the reader, and having more to do with format or concept. These connections exist through coincidence, becoming apparently only because of the order in which I read the books.

Given that it is nearing five in the morning and my eyes are drooping, there is little in the way of thought to spare toward the consideration.

Jason said...

Cool post.

btw though, I found Nabokov's Despair crushingly disappointing, the first evidence for me that the master was not infallible.

Felix said...

I think this could give some further insight to the general connectedness of art, if it wasn't so painfully stinted in this form:

The article is mostly some exposition and a single argument of what is actually much more complex and nuanced. Well, what can you expect.
Even if you find some of it absurd at first, the essence is quite substantial.

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