Thursday, February 27, 2014

I'm back. And now I'm reading.

To restart this thing, I’ll have some conversations with books. Too pretentious. Let’s say I’ll talk to myself about books. There you go.

Please keep in mind that I’m a bit of a jealous reader. I’m not proud of it, but it’s part of my reading experience. I have an underlying current of “if I’d written this, would it have gotten past what my internal editor thinks an external editor would pass on?” Which is a complicated way of saying, “I could have written this,” but not. So it’s a kind of honesty test for me and the text in question.
Don’t get me wrong. I very much enjoy it when what I’m reading is clearly beyond my present capacity or so outside my wheelhouse – “wheelhouse” is a cliché now, no? – that I couldn’t even approach it. If it’s the former then I read to steal (turns of phrase, ways of thinking – if those two are different). If it’s the latter, I’m just amazed.

Franzen’s Kraus Project

Interesting idea. Good for him that he can get this kind of thing published. Just wonder who, other than me, the audience might be. A translation of a fairly obscure writer with personal footnotes that explain concepts and context and offer an interpretation on them.
I have the feeling most people who pick it up do so because they’ve read Franzen before.  I have not, but I have read Kraus before. First a collection of aphorisms, then a “Lesebuch” published by Suhrkamp. Their version of an overview/best of.
(And I’ve read several Tucholsky collections, who is a contemporary who wrote similarly pieces, i.e., a satirical cultural critique published in an independent format, in Tucholsky’s case, Die Weltbühne.)
The pieces in here are new to me. Wait, no. I’ve read the Nestroy thing before.
I’ll just do a little here, today, because I haven’t gotten very far and because I think I won’t see it through if I don’t start.

From note 1: “Although Kraus would probably have hated blogs, Die Fackel was like a blog that pretty much everybody who mattered in the German-speaking world, from Freud to Kafka to Walter Benjamin, found it necessary to read and have an attitude toward.”

A) The Fackel, from what I can tell, was very much like a blog. So, I’m guessing, were other newspaper opinion pieces, from Dr. Johnson’s Rambler through modern online bits. I don’t think he’d have hated the existence of blogs, but he would have disdained the laxity in thinking and spelign. I partially take it back. Maybe he would have hated the sense of entitlement that goes with people publishing their words and expecting immediate affirmation. (Not me, of course, though a comment would be nice.)
B) And “everybody who mattered in the German-speaking world” might need some clarification. I think “who might be remembered by an early 21st-century American reader” is implied. I’m not sure the trinity of Freud, Kafka, and Benjamin were the great public-opinion shapers we think.

Enough for now. More soon.