The Lotus Eaters

Amazing story, grabs you and shakes you like a rabid dog with a new toy. Spent my Saturday morning devouring half of this and the remnants of my Sunday evening finishing it. Vietnam photojournalist as main character, along with her lover(s). Helen is shown in the first chapter as a war-charred photog gone native, staying local because of her inherent love for the swamp smells of combat in Vietnam. She tricks her hubby Linh into evacuating with the remainder of the retreating Americans while she sticks around for the last photo of the hand-off of power.
Then, a dizzying attempt to recreate how they got to be exactly where they are. Helen as greenhorn arriving in the country as freelance photog, hungry for action on the battlefield and on the manfield. Sam Darrow is happy to oblige on both fronts. Fast forward to madly in love, Helen & Sam are two peas in a pod, way too similar to work realistically. Darrow dies in a plane crash, his remains meant to be unburied but his wish is unheard. Helen ends up back in southern Cali, faced with a box of Darrow’s belongings that she must sort and deliver in person to his wife & son.
Some brief glimmers of amazing prose, strung out on a tantalizing story that had me stoked over a 36 hour period…. yeah, I’d recommend it. The ending was a wee bit trite, but editors clearly lost that battle.
****
Reco’d by Momma Massie

The Imperfectionists

A collection of short stories about various characters working for an English language newspaper run out of Rome. We start with the poverty-stricken old man, Lloyd Burko, a correspondent in Paris, trying to piece together one last story, his wife living across the hall with another man, he eats chickpeas from a can, eventually moves in with his son. We end with the wealthy and weak willed publisher, Oliver Ott, whose dog is killed in the office the day he announces he is shutting the paper down, then moves back to Atlanta, staring out the window over steamy Atlanta, wishing each day to be over.
Two strong characters were Hardy Benjamin, the scrappy financial writer who allows herself to take care of an Irish boyfriend who takes advantage of her but she refuses to view love as a financial transaction. And Herman Cohen, the corrections editor who takes great pleasure in humiliating anyone with a typo in their story, whose friend Jimmy comes to visit and bursts Herman’s bubble about how talented Jimmy is (he can barely scrape together a paragraph).
Not many happy marriages. Intersections of lives of people who work together. Snippets of good writing interspersed. But not a fan of the “where are they now” recap for each character at the end.
Arthur Gopal the obituary writer interviews Erzberger who mentions:

My past – it doesn’t feel real in the slightest. The person who inhabited it is not me. It’s as if the present me is constantly dissolving. There’s that line of Heraclitus: ‘No man steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.’ That’s quite right. We enjoy this illusion of continuity, and we call it memory. Which explains why our worst fear isn’t the end of life but the end of memories.

Kathleen, editor in chief, before confronting her husband Nigel about his affair:

“But still, the point of any relationship is obtaining something from another person. Why do you kiss someone? To give pleasure or to take it?”

***
Reco’d by Milnor

Adventures in reading Ulysses, part 2

I’ve suffered, I’ve sweated, I’ve pushed my eyes across mountains of barely comprehensible text. But I made it through part two, across the desert of the Circe episode and fallen into what seems to be an oasis of poetry in part three. The second section of part three is written as essay question and answers, and one answer rhapsodizes over the wonders of water. Coming so quickly on the heels of my Melville adventures, I was particularly soothed by it:

“What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, returning to the range, admire?
Its universality: its democratic equality and constancy to its nature in seeking its own level: its vastness in the ocean of Mercator’s projection: its unplumbed profundity in the Sundam trench of the Pacific exceeding 8000 fathoms: the restlessness of its waves and surface particles visiting in turn all points of its seaboard: the independence of its units: the variability of states of sea: its hydrostatic quiescence in calm: its hydrokinetic turgidity in neap and spring tides: its subsidence after devastation: its sterility in the circumpolar icecaps, arctic and antarctic: its climatic and commercial significance: its preponderance of 3 to 1 over the dry land of the globe: its indisputable hegemony extending in square leagues over all the region below the subequatorial tropic of Capricorn: the multisecular stability of its primeval basin: its luteofulvous bed: its capacity to dissolve and hold in solution all soluble substances including millions of tons of the most precious metals: its slow erosions of peninsulas and islands, its persistent formation of homothetic islands, peninsulas and downwardtending promontories: its alluvial deposits: its weight and volume and density: its imperturbability in lagoons and highland tarns: its gradation of colours in the torrid and temperate and frigid zones: its vehicular ramifications in continental lakecontained streams and confluent oceanflowing rivers with their tributaries and transoceanic currents, gulfstream, north and south equatorial courses: its violence in seaquakes, waterspouts, Artesian wells, eruptions, torrents, eddies, freshets, spates, groundswells, watersheds, waterpartings, geysers, cataracts, whirlpools, maelstroms, inundations, deluges, cloudbursts: its vast circumterrestrial ahorizontal curve: its secrecy in springs and latent humidity, revealed by rhabdomantic or hygrometric instruments and exemplified by the well by the hole in the wall at Ashtown gate, saturation of air, distillation of dew: the simplicity of its composition, two constituent parts of hydrogen with one constituent part of oxygen: its healing virtues: its buoyancy in the waters of the Dead Sea: its persevering penetrativeness in runnels, gullies, inadequate dams, leaks on shipboard: its properties for cleansing, quenching thirst and fire, nourishing vegetation: its infallibility as paradigm and paragon: its metamorphoses as vapour, mist, cloud, rain, sleet, snow, hail: its strength in rigid hydrants: its variety of forms in loughs and bays and gulfs and bights and guts and lagoons and atolls and archipelagos and sounds and fjords and minches and tidal estuaries and arms of sea: its solidity in glaciers, icebergs, icefloes: its docility in working hydraulic millwheels, turbines, dynamos, electric power stations, bleachworks, tanneries, scutchmills: its utility in canals, rivers, if navigable, floating and graving docks: its potentiality derivable from harnessed tides or watercourses falling from level to level: its submarine fauna and flora (anacoustic, photophobe), numerically, if not literally, the inhabitants of the globe: its ubiquity as constituting 90 percent of the human body: the noxiousness of its effluvia in lacustrine marshes, pestilential fens, faded flowerwater, stagnant pools in the waning moon.”

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

Delightful collection of short stories that left me giggling at bits of each one. Reminded me of Thomas McGuane at the beginning then got super-weird but good until the final story which seemed unreadable, thus skipped. I admit my shortcomings.
The Brown Coast: Bob is separated from his wife, goes to fix up his uncle’s Florida house, pulls buckets of sea life out of the ocean to fill the fish tank, is tempted by the neighbor’s wife, demolishes the tank one morning after her donation of a sea slug kills all of his fish; waves of sea life crash over the wife & her hubby who are sleeping on his floor.
Retreat: Older brother summons his younger brother to join him on a mountain retreat. They go hunting, shoot a moose whose meat starts to turn immediately before they begin to eat it.

I found him living above a candle store in a dingy apartment that he shared with a dying collie. The animal had lost the ability to urinate, so Stephen was always having to lug her downstairs to the grassy verge beside the sidewalk. There, he’d stand astride the poor animal and manually void its bladder via a Heimlich technique horrible to witness. you hated to see your last blood relation engaged in something like that. I told Stephen that from a business standpoint, the smart thing would be to put the dog down. This caused an ugly argument, but really, it seemed to me that someone regularly seen by the roadside hand-juicing a half-dead dog was not the man you’d flock to for lessons on how to be less-out-of-your-mind.

Executors of Important Energies: poignant story of adult man struggling with his father’s dementia, ultimately returning to a peaceable state with him in the car of a hustler, trying to find his hotel.
Down through the Valley: A husband picks up his daughter and wife’s lover from a mountain retreat after he busts his ankle and cannot drive. At a pit stop, the hubby saves the wife’s lover from an altercation and gets knocked out.
Leopard: Kid has an anomaly on his lip (hamburger shaped defect) and wants to stay home from school, feigns sickness. Stepfather smells bullshit, sends him on the mile walk down the driveway to fetch the mail, kid pretends to faint, gets checked out by a cop, who drives him back home, stepfather orders him inside and he ignores.
Door in Your Eye: 80 year old man goes to live with daughter, is home-bound, observes a neighbor whom he suspects of being a whore. When a man attempts to set fire to her house, he ambles over to tell her he got a complete description, ends up finding out she sells drugs, not her body.
Wild America: pretty cousin steals semi-desirable boyfriend away from chubby cousin, who hooks up with an older man on the river but is saved by the presence of her father come for his biweekly visit.
On the Show: 7 year old son whose father is on a blind date at the county fair has a dirty encounter in a portapotty.
***
Reco’d by Glenn C.