Where Does the White Go When the Snow Melts?

Snow is falling but it’s hardly visible because my (Mis)reading’s background is white. I don’t see it melting. The screen remains white. I don’t like it at all! So meanwhile, onto other things: I’m done reading E.L. Doctorow’s The Waterworks the other day. The 300+ page novel works like a detective story. New York in 1871: a freelance writer disappears after seeing his dead father, a corrupt tycoon in his lifetime, on the street. The missing man’s editor and a cop looks for him. The mystery turns out to be connected with the city’s corrupt political and business elite and some sort of nefarious surgeon. Good start and buildup but unsatisfying ending. It loses its power in the last hundred pages. However, the depiction of all those poor street urchins (feels like Dickens) makes it a worthwhile read. The Waterworks also offers an informative showing of city life in 19th Century America. ■



  1. Since you’ve shared the books you’re reading, I’ll share my own. I’m finishing up James Wood’s “The Broken Estate.” I’m midway through Gogol’s “Dead Souls.” The next book on my list is either “The Leopard” by Lampedusa or Witold Gombrowicz’s “Cosmos and Pornographia”.

    I recommend an essay on Flaubert in Wood’s “Broken Estate.” In it, he posits the thesis that Flaubert made the novel problematic stylistically. No author would write a novel unaware of her style after Flaubert. Wood believe that Flaubert maintained a rigorous astheticism, a dogma of asthetic realism, a strictly controlled world of details. Enlightening.

    Have you never read “Dubliners”? Or is this your second reading? There is a short short story in there, I forget the name. The main character has a child who his wife is taking care of at home and he fantasizes about being single and having freedom like his buddy who he’s thinking about in a bar. Joyce comes as close to perfection in fiction as Tolstoy or Checkov, except he doesn’t sustain the ideal long enough. In Ulysesses and Finigan’s Wake the art becomes a tail-devouring snake or “ouroboros”.

  2. Sadly, I have a lot of catching up to do with my readings. I took up the wrong course in college. We had this one literature class and the only thing I remember about it was our doing this perfectly forgettable play. Fortunately, I’ll be remedying that next school year.

    Haven’t read anything by Joyce yet. The Dubliners will be my first. Haven’t read any work (including individual essays/reviews) by that James Wood too. I heard he’s quite controversial.

    Read Gogol’s Dead Souls some months ago. Quite interesting although the second part somewhat pales with the first. I never finished the second part. I like Gogol’s shorter fiction better (The Overcoat, The Nose, et al.). I have this unhealthy penchant for his self-depreciating kind of black humor, the kind that spawned Dostoevsky, et al.

    My first brush with classic literature was with the 19th Century Russian masters. But my first “serious” engagement with books was with cheap science fiction pocketbooks and comics. Aliens, spaceships, and different dimensions… Quite mundane now that I think of it. But it was wonderful back then. I still love the genre though and read such books (the better ones) once in a while.

  3. An Argentinian fellow is doing a graphic novel based upon my Las Vegas stories. Collaborating on the work has been really intoxicating.

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