Monday, June 16, 2008

USED BOOKS: Sartre, Italo Calvino Tim O'Brien

-Jean Paul Sartre
Invisible Cities
-Italo Calvino
Tom Cat in Love
-Tim O'Brien

Sartre's Nausea is a gripping, twitchy little novella confirming the ways one person of unpleasant station can make them self sick , nervous, an odious presence by lingering long on the ambivalent shrug .No one else could write a better tale of an intensely self-aware intellectual whose physical discomforts translate into a changed worldview. Not a lot of laughs, but Sartre does insert his descriptions of bad faith of an intellect aware of his stagnation but whose dread saps strength, and will from him, makes him powerless to do even the simplest exchange. There is, of course, transcendence of a sort, but none are comfortable with its results. The peculiar interest here is the lingering on the problem and an inspection of the illness that infects the spirit as a cumulative consequence of an individual denying their potential and getting by with a bare minimum of engagement. Sartre’s fiction and his plays are for those who have an avid interest in those who live in just one room of the many in life’s vast mansion.

Still, we mut assume that some of us like to get out of the house, let alone leave our room, and enjoy a book reflecting a similar attitude. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino appeals to Universal wanderlust, the tourist who wants to transcend the visitor status and gathers an intriguing set of tales. Marco Polo telling tales of his travels to fantastic cities to Kublai Kahn, who is stupefied and enthralled, until he queries Polo of the veracity the tales, and the veracity of language, becoming, finally, a dialogue between not which representation is real, but which one is more useful in a scheme of things that presents itself only a line at time, charts on an unfolding map.

Spinning tales of where one has been and what one did while they were there is an fine , delicately balanced craft where the plausible context and the impossible coincidence must balance each other in that strange space of gravity that keeps the reader in suspense, wondering what is real and what is of made up of whole cloth. Tom Cat In Love Tim O'Brien ‘s novel of a very smart guy who’s incapable of telling the truth the first time he tells an anecdote, is a superb comedy of manners. A college novel, a grandiloquent professor of linguistics puffs up his chest as he brags of his genius and his conquests of the ladies, until he is exposed, over time, as a liar who has comic complications that might rival Harry Crews worst southern dysfunctionals. Funny, bitter. There is not, though, a sympathetic personality in the lot. O'Brien, however, writes a very fine, faux- Nabokov prose of self-puffery.