Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gute Bücher

Walked toward Mehringdamm planning to buy plastic sandals. Stopped by the new used book store, Gute Bücher, in what used to be the Thai grocery store, near the corner of Mehringdamm and Yorckstrasse. The owner was opening up for the day, setting out books on tables outside. I said I had finished the book I had bought the other day and would bring it back so he could sell it again.

'Which book was that?'
'Beyond Black, by Hilary Mantel.' It's not exactly the case that I couldn't put it down, since I had to put it aside for all kinds of reasons, but I finished it, which is more than can be said for most of the books I start. It has a glowing comment on the cover by Philip Pullman, 'one of the greatest ghost stories in the language,' which seems strong for a book that gets steadily less frightening as one reads on. The story is that of a medium who is pursued by fiends.

The owner and I, anyway, talk on. His name is John Russell. He explains that he wanted to live in Germany, and it's hard for Americans to get permission. So for a while he and his friends ran an online bookstore, and they all managed to survive selling books online. He then got the idea of having a small shop, which you can afford to do here, he explains, because it's so cheap: he's paying 500 euros a month for the shop, on a year-and-a-half contract. He's not sure if it was a good idea, it's just about breaking even but it's much more work. The main thing is, though, that it allows him to stay in the country.

I am very impressed by this. Every so often I pass empty commercial premises for rent and think of opening a shop and then don't.

   Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

I come home and get an e-mail from a reader asking why there is little display of emotion in The Last Samurai.

mens conscia something something something tristatur


Levi Stahl said...

Though some early scenes were electric (and some of the incidental realism of the women's environment was casually impressive) I found Beyond Black somewhat frustrating, for the further I got into the book, the more what initially seemed to be organically strange, perhaps inexplicable oddities of the spirit world were reduced to artifacts of a traumatic personal history. Sensible, perhaps, but rather less interesting.

I do, however, love Mantel's memoir Giving Up the Ghost, precisely because it doesn't offer answers.

Anonymous said...

but the last samurai has the most display of emotion out of any book I have ever read. I think someone needs to study hard the politics of emotion--when and where did anyone decide ideas and knowledge exchange is not an emotional act? I know that when I handed in my linguistic anthro project this morning online I thought it was very emotional, I think if I was a boy I would say even hormonal.


nsiqueiros said...

Did the reader mean "little display of emotion" as in the book itself had no emotion, or did they mean "little display of emotion" as in the main characters very seldomly displayed/expressed their emotions?

If the reader mean the former, then I disagree. The book has a lot of serious emotion to it, as well as a lot of humorous emotion too. That's one of the things I personally like about the book: its balance between seriousness and lightheartedness.

If the reader meant the latter, I would have to say that the main characters don't display their emotions all over the place because it wouldn't be very realistic if they did. Maybe the reader is a big soap opera fan and is disillusioned into thinking that every thought and emotion must be outwardly expressed by every character. The emotions the characters are feeling are displayed to the reader due to the first person narration of each character, and though they don't always express to each other what they are feeling, the emotion is there.

The part with Ludo and Red Devlin choked me up pretty bad, I have to admit.

Maybe the emotion the reader thinks the book is lacking is really lacking in the reader.