Sunday, July 24, 2005

Back In Action

I have returned from my two weeks of fun with the Military. Hopefully I'll be operating in full swing within a few days. I updated my reading list after finishing The Moviegoer which was somewhat disappointing in the end. The philosophy was a bit too convoluted for me, but I appreciate Percy's skill in writing, especially his ability to maintain the present tense first-person narrative. Also, despite my distaste for the muddied philosophical waters of the book, I loved the drama, especially of the Dostoyevskian ending. I'd still recommend it, though not as highly as I could O'Connor.

Moving onto my new book, William Kennedy's Ironweed. One word is all I can really use: WOW. I tore through this book in a couple of days and was absolutely floored. I'm tempted to go out and buy the entire Albany sequence and read the rest of his books. Kennedy's skill as a writer in 1983 has no contemporary equal in anything I've ever come across, and I must say I think the award of the Pulitzer Prize to this book was well-founded. The symbolism is remarkable, particularly the use of "weeds" throughout the entire book, a metaphor bordering on a conceit for it's continued prevalance, and certianly a focal point enhanced by the title of the book itself. There's so much going on in the story that I don't know where to begin. The human depravity and suffering is so real you can hear it, feel it, taste it, smell it. Kennedy's description of alchoholic bums on a binge is as realistic and captivating as any character formation I've seen. A critic on the book jacket said that Kennedy's variety in voice and mood is equal to Joyce, and I'll dare to agree, despite my almost idolatrous admiration for Joyce.

Kennedy's prose can't be encapsulated or described in any easy way, because it can be as terse and disconnected as the voices of his characters, or as milky and flowing as Melville's. His paragraphs sometimes trail off into an awesome kind of prose-poetry that I've never found anywhere else, and for me, this is the chief selling point. It's an awesome story, told well, written superbly, with all the symbolism and character painting one could want from a great novel, with powerful moral impact and emotional content. Still, the greatest element in the book is Kennedy's own voice, an authorial voice so powerful and unique that one cannot help but be constantly aware of it, yet one which is somehow never distracting for all that. And the crowning garnish is the lyrical prose-poetry, playing upon the use of musical lyrics and songs in the storyline, that Kennedy uses to polish a few of his paragraphs off, creating an impact that rivals the greatest of the greats, including the master Joyce.


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