Category Archives: fiction

The Duke’s Children

“There was a deuce of a row,” said Maule. Then Mr Spooner, who read his “Bell’s Life” and “Field” very religiously, and who never missed an article in “Bayley’s”, proceeded to give them an account of everything that had taken place in the Runnymede Hunt. It mattered but little that he was wrong in all his details. Narrations always are.

–Anthony Trollope, The Duke’s Children (1880)


[Fat said,] “That’s what he deserves: a Great Judge exactly like himself.”

“That’s not a bad theological idea,” I said. “You find yourself facing yourself.”

–Philip K. Dick, VALIS


“Herr Dr Feld now brought a new magazine into existence. It was richly endowed and appeared irregularly, not because it lacked money but, rather, because its publisher and creator considered irregularity a quintessential characteristic of refinement.”

Perlefter, Joseph Roth

Roth and Mann

I’m about 2/3 through Perlefter, and it’s kind of reading more like notes for a novel than a novel itself. But there is some clever writing in it, and some funny stuff. How about this?:

“…and as a result one saw that she had a high, pale, arched mathematical brow and small, pretty earlobes whose delicacy was lost in consideration of this significant forehead. Every young man grew afraid of this head.”

or this?:

“After [Fredy] had definitely decided on the female sex he slept with one of the servant girls and earned himself his first sexually transmitted disease, of which he was quite proud and of which the entire family knew but about which nobody spoke.”

But seriously, try The Radetzky March, Right and Left, or The Silent Prophet, for your introduction to Roth. Silent... is a novel inspired by Trotsky, was written before his murder, and includes an already chilling fictional version of Stalin. Right… deals with two brothers divided by the advent of the Nazis, likewise written while things were still unfolding.

On the other side of the ledger, I have been trying to read Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, but at not quite halfway, I have given up. It’s so much a novel of ideas, of the discussion of ideas, that I just don’t see any reason to continue. I hate theory and abstraction.


This is the story of a snake, a bear, and a little girl. Three great friends living together on the forested slopes beneath a mountain. There is a glade within the forest. Evergreens surround the meadow-grass, fireweed, and bee balm. The mountain’s snowcap is visible on clear days. Warmed by the sun, the three friends lay in a lazy pile near a broad, flat boulder. The bear licks the bottoms of the girl’s bare feet. The coiled snake dozes on the boulder. Summer is over but the days remain pleasant.

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Joseph Roth: Perlefter

I’ve just begun Roth’s Perlefter, a novel he abandoned several years before he died (a state I see as categorically different from a novel unfinished because of death…) So I can’t say if I will like it or not, but I already love this from the (apparently) unfinished first chapter: “Professor Tobias was the only man in our town with a top hat. As he had holes in his pockets he needed to wear such a hat. On his head he comfortably hid an inkwell and a feather. This had the disadvantage that he could not offer greetings to anyone.”

If you’re new to Roth, go for Rebellion or Hotel Savoy for early work with an absurdist bent, or Right and Left or Radetzky March for the later realism.

Netflix’s ‘House Of Cards’

House of Cards on Netflix

In its current form, television offers artists exponentially more time to develop a narrative. Over the course of multiple seasons, TV makers are painting compelling characters and weaving their storylines in significantly more layered and complex ways than filmmakers could ever hope to. And talented people are jumping on the train.

Indeed, if the literary equivalent of film is the short story, the literary equivalent of television series is the novel, and both filmmakers and their audiences are starting to realize it.

(via Neon Tommy)

Cosmological Coincidence

Cosmological coincidence: The ratio of the strength of the electric force to that of the gravitational force between two charged particles is very close to the ratio of the size of the Universe to the size of an electron. First noted by Paul Dirac.

[DIRAC and HEISENBERG are wallowing in a springtime meadow.]

HEISENBERG: [Gazes skyward in a distracted fashion. Lifts one arm and slowly undulates hand.] Hey, did you ever think that maybe the ratio of the strength of the electric force to, like, that of the gravitational force between two charged particles is . . . very close to the ratio of the size of the Universe to the size of an electron? Dude?

DIRAC: [Pauses before replying.] Yeah, man. I noted it.


Screen shot 2013-01-21 at 10.10.09 PM

With David Bowie’s “Star Man”. Et cetera. 2007.

“I’m David Bowie!”

“Yeah! Me, too!”

Please do me this one favor and watch all of this and you’ll be glad that you did.

Monsters! I’m David Bowie!