Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

With all books, there is a difference between author and narrator. Sometimes the difference is slight, sometimes great. Omniscient narrators tend to reflect the author’s stance about the story more than, say, first-person narrators, which often strike poses very unlike the authors’, excepting the case of confessional “fiction” (which is not actually fictional). At first I thought the narrator of Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West (Modern Library, 384 pages) spoke without irony, without distance being injected between his voice and the author’s feelings about the story. As I read on, I felt more and more an ironic distance between McCarthy and the narrator. I felt as if McCarthy were telling me to resist this narrative for its excesses, its hyperbole and its superstition and fatalism. Continue reading

Burr: a novel by Gore Vidal

The passage of time edits history. The roughness and corners of detail wear away under the constant erosion of recall and interpretation. Eventually, unless events or people are sufficiently insignificant so they can be merely forgotten, the process rounds off what remains to form mere icons, summaries that become anodyne cartoons of once complex events and motives.

I can recall the celebrations that surrounded the bi-centennial of the American Revolution. At the time, I thought I knew something about the history. Names such as Washington, Jefferson and Adams became commonplace for a while. A couple of years before, Gore Vidal had published his novel Burr (Vintage, 448 pages), which I had not read. Having just finished it, nearly forty years Continue reading

The House of Meetings by Martin Amis

House of Meetings (Vintage International)House of Meetings (Vintage International)The House of Meetings (Knopf, 256 pages) is a narrative delivered as a long letter from an unnamed narrator, an 86-year-old Russian man, to his step-daughter Venus, living in Chicago. He is in the midst of traveling back home after many years in the U.S. The point of his journey is to revisit a work camp in the Artic where he had been held prisoner and slave laborer in the 40s and 50s. Particularly, he wants to visit the “house of meetings,” where, late in the labor camp era, the Soviets had begun allowing some prisoners to meet briefly with their wives. The narrator’s brother, Lev, Continue reading