Monday, 28 March 2011

What do you see in a text?

Independent reading differs on many levels from academic study. In many ways, you are laying the groundwork for yourself, whereas reading fictional texts purely for academic purposes is a very different process.

Many academics, however, think that there is only one concrete way of reading texts: that an undergraduate - or even postgraduate - education is fundamental to derive meaning and understanding from them.

Others would bring the word 'subjective' to the fore. Literary texts convey different meanings to different people. Some people, for instance, may find reading Kafka a very funny and humorous experience whereas others may find it deadly serious.

When I read Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea I saw my life in it on a very molecular level. Antoine Roquentin daily life strongly mirrored my own, in addition to his thoughts and insights. To any student studying the novel this is all a mere oversight - it is all about teasing out the existential dilemmas.

I read an interview with Michel Houllebecq and he stated that an "ordinary reader" puts a far greater emphasis on "characters" which, to literary critics, is something that is downplayed, with greater emphasis put on the themes and messages instead.

To an "ordinary reader" approaching literary material, the narrative is of greater importance than any element in the subtext. Who is to say that their perceptions aren't as valid as those of an academic critic?

The intent of the author can also be discounted if one is to take this into consideration. Any intent he or she may have wished to connote to the reader is irrelevant if the reader takes a different perspective to the text.

This perspective is, a lot of the time, completely incompatible with the parochial literary institutions in the UK. After spending so long in their ivory towers many of these courses shut themselves off from other methods of reading that differ from the established doctrine that has been practiced time and time again since the dawn of the 20th century.

Friday, 25 March 2011


When I wrote a pretty mediocre short story at the age of seventeen called 'Strnadenforp's Drunken, Cerebral Outsider', I set the story in an unspecified harbour/beach in a Scandinavian location. I had no idea what 'Strandenforp' meant - it just had a good ring to it.

However, I had unwittingly, by a stroke of chance, used a Swedish word. After watching a few Ingmar Bergman movies I discovered that 'Stranden' meant 'Beach' (and let's face it - most Bergman films are set in gloomy beaches, so I was bound to pick up on this word).

This isn't the only time such coincidences have happened to me. I find it incredible how, for some unfathomably latent reason, I christened this story with a Scandinavian word, a word I had never encountered in any shape or form in the past. The music of chance.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Review #21

El silenciero (The Silencer) - Antonio Di Benedetto

There are certain novels I have encountered that seem to be specifically written for my consumption, containing so many of my thoughts and obsessions that it seems perfectly plausible that I may have felt inclined to writing them. The novels in which I see myself in tend to be existentialist, populated by isolated, misanthropic specimens. Nausea struck a chord with me, and now The Silencer has done so too.

The novel deals with a character whose life is constantly hampered and afflicted by noise. Set in an indefinite location in South America during an indefinite time in post-war years, he lives with his mother, works at an advertising agency, has intellectual discourse with an eccentric acquaintance called Besarión, but the noise produced by a mechanical factory is a constant source of agitation. Having married a love interest, he flees his city with her, all in the pursuit of eliminating all noises and obtaining total silence.

In the second half of the novel, this urgency becomes more extreme and the protagonist starts resorting to tactics of eliminating noise that border on the psychopathic. Every location he arrives to with his wife appears to be unsuitable and noisy, and all of his previous preoccupations are replaced by this abhorrence. He eventually sets fire to a dance hall and, upon being imprisoned, the noise keeps haunting him, jostling him and infuriating him to the point of despair.

The main appeal in Di Benedetto's writing lies in its beautiful laconism and economy. Very short and fragmented sentences create a splendorous reading experience suffused with nuances and subtleties. Its narrative is everyday and quotidian to begin with as well, but as the novel takes its course it gains a greater sense of urgency and eventfulness.

One of the ironies is that, like most of the books I read, I had to overcome a variety of noises and sounds to finish it. Like the character, any 'imposed sound' is a nuisance that prevents me from existing and, like the character, from reading and writing.

Sadly, none of Di Benedetto's novels have been translated into English and I suspect that I am one of the few Anglo people to have read him. Apparently, his excellent book Zama is been translated into English, which may just bring him the posthumous fame and recognition he so evidently deserves.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Four films in a week

On Thursday
Broadway Danny Rose by Woody Allen

Hilarious and witty.


On Saturday

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould by Michelle Hozer and Peter Ratmont

Overlong and tepid.


On Sunday
A Short Film about Killing by Krzystof Kieslowski

Moving and ravishing.


On Monday
Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky

Hypnotic and Beautiful.


Thursday, 10 March 2011

No one suspected that he was a Marxist.

'The Arnold Homecastle Story' (1987) by Joe Sacco

Saturday, 5 March 2011

'Strictly Genteel' (All versions mix) by Frank Zappa

200 Motels is a really crappy little movie, but this is fucking amazing.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Iván Izquierdo

My new satirical audio blog 'Iván Izquierdo'!

This was just done for laughs and also because, at the time it was conceived, I didn't really have anything better to do. It really is very amateurish.

The scary thought is that people like these really exist. There are so many of them in Chile that, for the layperson of the country, it may seem that this is a real person who geniuenly means what he's saying.

Even if can speak Spanish, many of the topics will be so obscure and pertain to Chile so much that you probably won't understand them.