Book Jones Books

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Book Review: The Book of Evidence/The Sea by John Banville

Confessions of Things Past

In the Introduction of the new Everyman's Library volume of John Banville's  novels, The Book of Evidence and The Sea, Adam Phillips writes, "The drama of these novels...is the drama of self exposure." In both fictions, the narrators confess their past and in so doing explicate the existential morass in which they seem to be mired. Whether Banville's protagonists are absolved in the end is ultimately a judgement for the omniscient reader.

In the earlier work, The Book of Evidence (perhaps a fitting title for any of Banville's subsequent novels), Freddie Montgomery, a character based on the convicted murderer Malcolm Edward MacArthur,  addresses his confession from his jail cell to his soon-to-be judge and jury-- a written testimony of his alleged crime. Although the reader has no reason not to believe him, Freddie is, nonetheless, an unreliable narrator. But it's not until the ambivalent last line of the document that the reader feels free from any postulation and is reminded that ultimately, remorse is all that matters.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Poem Zero

maybe the ones who have left
us early by the malice of their own
hand knew what matters most:
procreation; the evolution of
planetary life amply illuminated, steeled
to survive in our natal fount or
with mastery of the universe poised
at the precipice of infinitude.

the greatest of these is escape
abandonment of the world one
has been born to 
and from.

swarm behavior
there is no heaven

practice makes perfect
preppers will kill you
one good turn deserves another
dust to dust
white sky

due to:
8 billion humans
5 billion years
smokey the bear
ember orange horizon
super volcano

orbital decay
"war is hell"
"mars needs women"
reality trumps fantasy
euphoria is temporary
mortality is enough
i'm writing a poem that no one will read
i'm writing an ur-poem
poetry has never existed  

because I'm writing a poem.

©2015 by Michael Jones

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Literature Limning Art

While reading The Sea by John Banville recently, I came upon a passage in which the author describes in detail a painting by the French post-impressionist Pierre Bonnard. The narrator, Max Morden,  has been at work on, as he says "...a monograph on Bonnard, in which I have been mired for more years than I care to compute."

Nude in the Bath and Small Dog (1941-46) Oil on canvas. Pierre Bonnard
Later in the book he describes the painting entitled  Nude in the Bath and Small Dog (although he gets the title wrong) started by Bonnard 1941 and finished in 1946. the subject is the artist's late wife, Marthe de Meligny (her real name was Maria Boursin). Banville's Morden describes the work thus:
"...she lies there, pink and mauve and gold, a goddess of the floating world, attenuated, ageless, as much dead as alive, beside her on the tiles her little brown dog, her familiar, a dachshund, I think, curled watchful on its mat or what may be a square of flaking sunlight falling from an unseen window. The narrow room that is her refuge vibrates around her, throbbing in its colors. Her feet, the left one tensed at the end of its impossibly long leg, seem to have pushed the bath out of shape and made it bulge at the left end, and beneath the bath on that side, in the same force field, the floor is pulled out of alignment too, and seems on the point of pouring away into the corner, not like a floor at all but a moving pool of dappled water. All moves here, moves in stillness, in aqueous silence. One hears a drip, a ripple, a fluttering sigh. A rust-red patch in the water beside the bather's right shoulder might be rust, or old blood, even. Her right hand rests on her thigh, stilled in the act of supination, and I think of Anna's hands on the table that first day when we came back from seeing Mr. Todd, her helpless hands with palms upturned as if to beg something from someone opposite her who was not there."
Anna is the narrator's doomed wife, a supplicant to both cancer and the allusive stamp of Mr. Todd, her physician. The painting seems an apt analogical device for Banville's short yet profound novel he called The Sea; as Pierre Bonnard himself wrote of his chosen vocation, "There is a formula, which fits painting perfectly: many little lies to create a great truth."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The BJR Journal: Do You Hear What I Read?

Columnist Jones
I've written in the past about listening to audio books in the car, about how it may double the number of books one can plow through in a year. But the quandary one faces in the audio realm is choosing just which books to listen to rather than read. It can make the difference between discovering a treasure or writing one off. The analogy may be drawn between reading a paper book and consuming an electronic book on your Kindle or the like: certain books really should be read on paper, i.e.; graphic novels, books with copious footnotes, books by Mark Z Danielewski (you get the picture). Some people also feel that proper respect be given to particular classics, that they must be read in paper form and not on e-book or audio. A friend of mine feels this way about Proust. With Proust there is nothing really lost if you read him on Kindle or even listen to a reading by the right vocal actor, it is simply a matter of perceived propriety, of deference to a revered master of the form.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Jinn and Chthonic


Author Salman Rushdie, has always been a teller of tales, and by that I mean fairy tales steeped in ethnic tradition, myth, and fable. He has taken Magical Realism, a genre rooted in South American literature, and made it his own, planting its seeds deeply into the soil of south Asia: specifically Mother India. Rushdie has a gift for allegory, especially concerning the twin towers of religion and politics. His 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, was castigated by virtually the entire Islamic state.  Ayotollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of Iran at the time, issued a Fatwa on Rushdie after certain dream elements in the novel were misinterpreted as being blasphemous of the prophet Mohammed. Even after Rushdie expressed regret that his words may have caused any "distress...to sincere followers of Islam"*, the Ayotollah refused to lift the Fatwa, saying "Even if Salman Rushdie repents and becomes the most pious man of all time, it is incumbent on every Muslim to employ everything he has got, his life and wealth, to send him to Hell."**

Rushdie has said the novel-- which has a clear comic tone and features dual characters, thespians both, who, after their plane explodes and they fall to earth, are miraculously transformed, one as an angel, the other a devil-- is really about "migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death, London and Bombay." His latest novel, Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, narrated, at times, in the third person plural by a representative of some future society, is again an updated fairy tale, a play on the Arabian Nights (1001 = two years, eight months and twenty eight nights) starring dark jinn and jinnia, the Jiniri of Fairy Land.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May by Mark Z. Danielewski

The Question (and Xanther) Song


Two of the reviewer's own Narrative Constructs* discuss the latest book (?) by Mark Z. Danielewski

TQSNarconQ: Will Mark Z. Danielewski change the way we read fiction?
TQSNarconA: There's a question I'm sure has been asked since the publication of his groundbreaking text , House of Leaves. He has definitely changed the way people read his fiction. His prose is a mash-up of style: Joycean, Pynchonesque; tone: Jacksonian, P.K. Dickish; and form: graphic novel, expressive typography, use of signicons (signs+icons), and fonts as identifiers. However, I don't think his influence is strong enough to trigger a paradigm shift in literature.

TQSNarconQ:  What has he written for us lately?
TQSNarconA: His latest work is entitled The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May. It is the first volume (840 pages) in a proposed 27 part epic work revolving around 9 core characters.

TQSNarconQ: Why is it called The Familiar?
TQSNarconA: As far as I can determine the title most likely refers to the meaning:

familiar: noun

9.Witchcraft and Demonology.
  1. an animal, as a cat, that embodies a supernatural spirit and aids a witch in performing magic.
  2. familiar spirit.
 excerpted from Dictionary.com
TQSNarconQ: Wow, sounds spooky, what's it about?
TQSNarconA: Well as I said there are 9 core characters, 9 points of view (not including the 3 Narcons, or Narrative Constructs, absurdly structured voices who barge in on the tale periodically), but 3 are immediately related to each other. So there are 7 distinct story lines, which may (at least I hope) by the end of the 27th volume, merge into one coherent narrative. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Review: One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York by Arthur Browne

Samuel J. Battle with Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia


The Heat From Harlem


One Righteous Man, the story of Samuel Battle, the first African-American to penetrate the thick white wall of New York's finest, is the history of race relations in the Big Apple, most specifically the neighborhood of Harlem; it's a shameful history, as one might have guessed, laying bare the insecurity, hubris, and ignorance of the non-black citizenry of New York from the fin-de-siecle through the decade of Civil Rights. 

Though its author, Arthur Browne, a veteran NYC journalist (a Pulitzer winner who co-authored I, Koch), presents a microcosm of the wider world, an America of the Jim Crow South and Northern urban instability in cities like Chicago and Detroit. It is also the history of prohibition; the birth of organized crime, and the slow death of Tammany Hall. It's the tale of racism in Sport as well as the reawakening of African-American culture in literature, art, and music. Battle's story is as much an emblem of his times as the badge he wore was an emblem of protection.


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