Uit: The Unpunished Vice
“Sometimes I read now to fill up my mind-banks with new coins – new words, new ideas, new turns of phrase. From Joyce Carol Oates I learned to alternate italicized passages of mad thought with sentences in Roman type narrating and describing in a straightforward manner. To me the first half of D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow shows how far prose can go toward the poetic without falling into a sea of rose syrup.
Each classic is eccentric. Samuel Beckett is both bleak and comic. Karl Ove Knausgaard is both boring and engrossing. Proust is so long-winded he often loses the thread of an anecdote; too many interpellations can make a story nonsensical – and sublimely interesting, if the narrator possesses a sovereign intellect. V. S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival is both confiding and absurdly discreet (he doesn’t mention he’s living in the country with his wife and children, for instance; nor does he tell us that his madman-proprietor is one of England’s most interesting oddballs, Stephen Tennant). I suppose all these examples demonstrated to me that any excess can be rewarding if it explores the writer’s unique sensibility and goes too far. The farthest reaches of fiction are marked by Mircea Cărtărescu’s monumental Blinding and Samuel Delany’s The Mad Man and Compass by Mathias Énard – and there are no books more memorable.
Almost every literary gay book gets sent to me for a blurb, and I’ve become a true ‘blurb slut.’ It’s a bit like being a loose woman; everyone mocks you for your liberality – and everyone wants at least one date with you. I like to help first-time authors (if I admire their work), but serious writers aren’t supposed to be so generous with their favours. Now that I’m old I turn down most manuscripts, and I always remind publishers that I might not like their new books if I do read them. A good blurb is pithy, phrased unforgettably, at once precise and a statement that makes broad claims for the book.
Reading books by friends is a special problem. They usually want a review, not a mere blurb. If I have mixed feelings about a friend’s book, I phone him or her rather than write something. In a conversation one can judge how honest the writer wants you to be. He or she will clam up right away or press for a fuller statement. Sometimes I give writers reports as I read along; most writers can’t wait for a week to get a full report.
Reading books for pleasure, of course, is the greatest joy. No need to underline, press on, try out mentally summarizing or evaluating phrases. One is free to read as a child reads – no duties, no goals, no responsibilities, no clock ticking: pure rapture. Proust’s essay ‘On Reading’ is a magical account of a child’s absorption in a book, his regret about leaving the page for the dinner table, even the erotic aspect (he reads in the water closet and associates with it the smell of orris root). Perhaps my pleasure in reading has kept me from being a systematic reader. I never get to the bottom of anything but just step from one lily pad to another.”
de wind voert het geluid weg
een geroezemoes van de havenfaciliteit
de hele stad op korter
wordende dagen – lichtsnoeren
naar buiten gewend
om de duisternis te verdrijven
(alsof ze daar woonde!)
de containers wagen zich
dichter en dichter bij de dorpen
kranen loodsen ze daarheen
de dijk houdt
het bier zo koud als lucht
alleen de bediening aan de bar
belooft troost in haar decolleté.
Vertaald door Frans Roumen