Monday, May 11, 2009

The Musical Sound of the Ever-Expanding Sea

I was noticing to myself yesterday (or really, have been noticing this fact on and off for the last 11 days or so), that normally, by this time of the year--for the last two years anyway--my contribution to the ol' blog here would be multiple-times weekly reports from all the amazing concerts I've been attending in Berlin. Of course, I'm not in Berlin (and not even in New York, as was the pre-recession plan for my summer, where I could be currently getting at least something of a Berlin fix with the Boulez/Barenboim/Staatkapelle/Mahler thing going on at Carnegie Hall), and not going to any concerts, so that obviously precludes my writing any concert reports. And the combination of not having internet at my apartment and not wanting to go to campus any more often than I have to will probably even limit my internet usage (emailing and blogging) to only a couple days a week. Which is perhaps most similar to the Portland months, except that Portland was such a nice city to walk around in that I ended up going to the library to internet almost every day. At any rate, I do like having the internet as a place that I go to, since it has a non-standard preposition that way.

But I am left, Berlin-less, concert-less, and scratching my head and just what I'll have to say for myself, especially if my current shiftless laying about extends for many weeks. So here's a couple things I've meant to blog recently but haven't gotten around to just yet:

1) I recently read Richard Powers's Operation Wandering Soul, as part of my 2008-09 quest to become a Powers completist. I'm now 6/7 of the way through Prisoner's Dillemma, and will have only Three Farmers on Their Way to a [the?] Dance left before being totally caught up. I think the completist impulse is common enough, but the only (fiction) writer that I can think of that I've actually read everything by is Thomas Pynchon. So it'll be good to have a second name to add to the list. And Pynchon and Powers get compared now and then, so it's within profile (a couple nights ago I was out with the miami poetry collective, and someone was actually asking about books we'd read recently, and I mentioned liking Paul Auster's most recent novel (a gift from the parents for the winter solstice co-opting seasonal gift-giving holiday), and immediately commented on how in-profile it is that I like Auster (and Powers, and Pynchon). But Powers has written several bonafiedly amazing novels, any and all of which I whole-heartedly recommend: The Goldbug Variations (a spontaneous gift from Dad not associated with any holiday), Gain (probably my favorite), and The Time of Our Singing are all great novels that I'm sure with more distance will be recognized as great novels of the era. Galatea 2.2. is good, and better if you've read the other books that he refers to in them. And Plowing the Dark isn't great, I don't think, but not bad, same with The Echo Maker.

But Operation Wandering Soul was particularly notable because its main character is an ex-French horn player. There's a small scene where said character is in Boston, in the winter, holding his horn at a T station outside the conservatory, having decided (or deciding) to quit playing forever which hit particularly close to home for me, for obvious reasons (all I did was shift the scene from Huntington Ave over to Commonwealth Ave and it was pretty much dead-on in resonance). So, yeah, it's kind of awkward to find a protagonist of a novel you're reading share a basic piece of backstory that is inescapable for yourself as well (I'm still incapable of explaining myself as a writer or a poet or even a graduate student without mentioning the failed French horn venture). I figure there's some chance that I'll eventually write the "French horn Poem" as some kind of major opus, or if I ever have that idea for the next great American novel, some character will have to play or have played the French horn, but to know that it's already happened, and in a great book by a famous author doesn't help my odds any.

But what can I do? When I still was a horn player, I always found amusing the number of people I met that were ex-horn players or closely connected to an ex-horn player. And now I'm numbered amongst them, and any literary value thereof has already been tapped by a better writer. Crap.

2) The beach in Miami, always beautiful, is especially so right around now. This is something I didn't know about last summer, since I was in Berlin by now. Not that I wouldn't rather be in Berlin, but you know, I'd rather be independently wealthy too and that's not the case either, so... But the air and sun are hot, but the water is still relatively cool, so it's pretty much the perfect combination, which somehow isn't the same as November, when the air is cool and the water is still pretty warm. So, yeah, May in Miami has its perks. I live slightly closer to the beach this year than last as well, so it's that much easier to get myself over there, and I don't this year experience the same kind of "what am I doing here?" quandaries when I get there like I was last Spring. Which is nice.

3) As usual, I felt like, when I was starting to number these things, that I had more news and notes to plug in here than I actually do. That happens with incredible consistency, so far as I can tell. I'm sure there's something else, I just can't remember what...


Blogger Jack said...

That's a shame that Richard Powers preemptively stole your character template. But maybe now you can write about a young writer who finds that his character template has been preemptively stolen by a famous novelist.

I liked The Gold Bug Variations, but I gave up on The Echo Maker because it was taking too long to get started. (Also it was last summer, and that's definitely a winter book.) Powers seems to write like Brahms wrote symphonies -- intelligent; built on strong, concentrated themes; broad; really long; and rich but a little predictably orchestrated. He's waaay more generous than Pynchon, though -- I don't see the comparison there.

5/11/2009 11:08 PM  

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