How much time do you spending weighting the arguments for and against bringing a certain book with you to the seaside? For me, it’s not so much the actual worry of whether I’ll make a mistake, as much as it’s pleasurable to think about books, about their advantages and disadvantages where everything comes into question (is 400+ pages too much for a “summer” book? is it wiser to read a linguistically rich and “heavy” book on vacation, when I can devote to it my full attention, or is it better to contribute to the lightness of being on vacation with as light and un-burdensome literary content as possible?), etc.
3 Winners of Free Travel
very long some time of thinking about this important question, I chose to read “Victory over Japan” by Ellen Gilchrist, “The Keep” by Jennifer Egan, “U potpalublju” by Vladimir Arsenijevic, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick and “Ljubav na posljednji pogled” by Vedrana Rudan. I read the first two at the beginning of this summer, and the last three were winners of free travel in my suitcase to beautiful Jelsa in the Croatian island, Hvar.
Each of these books kept me in their wonderful literary cosmos for a period of time, making life more colorful. Of these five, Ellen Gilchrist is definitely my number one stylistically and I’d give half my soul to write like she does. OK, maybe a third of my soul. See how precious my soul is?
Victory Over Japan
Ms. Ellen’s is one of the freshest voices I’ve discovered in the past few years, pungent and direct, witty and imaginative, full of surprising twists inside a sentence. An opening of one of her stories is: “Rhoda woke up dreaming,” and in another story, the 14-year old Rhoda is reading poetry that amazes her, so she wants to kiss the book and look at the author’s photograph, imagining what it’s like to be the poet. “It was a photograph of a small bright face in full profile staring off into the mysterious brightly lit world of a poet’s life.”
Going beyond the pure pleasure of reading her inventive prose, there’s another interesting aspect to her stories – the world of Southern United States. Gilchrist writes about high-class, white, spoiled Southern Americans who so much remind me of my archetypal idea of this part of the world – Scarlett O’Hara. So are Gilchrist’s characters strong, independent, obnoxious, endlessly charming and silly women who spend their days loitering without intent, drinking, catching men, “staring off into the mysterious brightly lit world” of their wild imagination.”Victory Over Japan” obviously blew me away.
“The Keep” was another kind of interesting. I’ve already read Jennifer Egan, so I’m familiar with her analytic, “punctual” prose, amazingly rich vocabulary (I should write a 1000+ word post dedicated only to words I learned reading her books) and close consideration of her characters, their every move, thought and motivation. However, this time I was less taken aback by her style and more by the actual story. I decided no spoilers in this post, so I’ll only mention that “The Keep” holds some very interesting, “Gothic” secrets that slowly unfold as the story advances.
In the Hold
“U potpalublju” (in translation: “In the Hold”) is the first novel written by a very eloquent, well-read, interesting Serbian writer who’s, to me, even more interesting to listen to. His debut novel won the most prestigious Serbian award, NIN, and he has been known ever since as “the youngest writer who won NIN”. “In the Hold” is an interesting collection of vivid, eloquent musings of a disappointed young man living in a depressed Serbia during the “Yugoslav” wars. His wife is expecting a baby and he’s thinking about the deaths and departures of his friends, most of whom were junkies before they left abroad or to eternity. I like his prose, but it was hard to really love the novel, mostly because I found the narrator and his wife mildly irritating.
Love at Last Sight
Interestingly enough, Vedrana Rudan’s main character was also irritating, but neither that nor Vedrana’s repetitive, exhausting use of hard-core swearing and curse words prevented me from enjoying her humorous, long, full-of-fun-digressions complaint on behalf of women whose husbands beat them. Vedrana Rudan is a famous Croation author known for her “poisonous” tongue used mostly to hate husbands who beat, husbands whose wives are sick of them, America’s politics, Balkan wars, Balkan stupid/evil/corrupted politicians and sometimes children who make their parents’ lives a living hell. My only advice to her, if I could dare give advice to accomplished writers, is to cut down on cunt/dick repetitions, so more people can recognize and enjoy her ripe, strong literary skills.
Last, but not least, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” was a very good choice for my magical seaside vacation. Though not as beautiful and dreamily melancholic as the movie, it has the right mix of adventurous and philosophical to help my gazing at the cloudless blue sky a memorable, battery-filling experience that’ll keep me floating for the rest of my (sadly) working year.