Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine


Here’s an olla podrida of links to book-related articles–gleaned from many man-hours of meticulous surfing–which I thought were worth sharing:Starting on a note of unrelenting gravitas, we have Fintan O’Toole’s appreciation of John Banville’s latest novel, The Sea, in Prospect. There may not be a lot of yucks in O’Toole’s writing but he’s still one of the best critics we have.Also from Prospect, a magazine I’ve actually just come across but seems pretty good, is an article that attempts to present Christopher Hitchens as something more than a martini-addled defender of Rummy & Co. According to David Herman, “Despite his US citizenship, Christopher Hitchens should be considered the finest English critic of his generation�of the literary, not just political, type”.If one belligerent Hitchens were not enough for the world, the Guardian presented a slightly ill-tempered public “reconciliation” between brothers Peter and Christopher at the Hay Festival. One thing that struck me, in the light of C. Hitchens hissing ‘You’re a real thug, aren’t you?’ at George Galloway after their spat in Washington, was the way he reacted to a complaint from the audience:”Female audience member: Excuse me. I’m not usually awkward at all but I’m sitting here and we’re asked not to smoke. And I don’t like being in a room where smoking is going on.CH: Well you don’t have to stay darling, do you? I’m working here and I’m your guest, OK? And this is what I’m like; nobody has to like it.IK: Would you just stub that one out?CH: No. I cleared it with the festival a long time ago. They let me do it.FAM: We should all be allowed to smoke then.CH: Fair enough. I wouldn’t object. It might get pretty nasty though. I have a privileged position here, I’m not just one of the audience, so it would be horrible if everyone was like me. This is my last of five gigs, I’ve worked very hard for the festival. I’m going from here to Heathrow airport. If anyone doesn’t like it they can kiss my ass.”Charming, darling…Another indefatigable smoker, M. Houellebecq, wrote a book on H.P. Lovecraft before his novels brought him both fame and notoriety. As we await with some trepidation Houellebecq’s next major work (will he live that long?), a translation of this early study has been released to fill the gap.After reading an extract in the Guardian Review, I won’t be rushing out to buy this slim volume (150 pages with the dubious supplement of an introduction by pulpmeister Stephen “I Don’t Even Remember Writing the Tommyknockers ” King). This might be down to Houellebecq’s misanthropy as a stylistic device starting to wear thin with me or that such writing in a non-fiction context is not that enlightening. Perhaps it’s simply down to the fact that I have no interest whatsoever in H.P Lovecraft. However, one passage from the extract did catch me eye:”Few beings have ever been so impregnated, pierced to the core, by the conviction of the absolute futility of human aspiration. The universe is nothing but a furtive arrangement of elementary particles.”So, assuming the translation is accurate, it seems he had the title for his breakthrough novel (called Atomised for some reason here but faithfully translated as The Elementary Particles in the U.S.) years before he began writing it.There’s also major question mark over whether we’ll be seeing any more novels from Thomas Pynchon. He’s no spring chicken. But considering that most people haven’t finished Gravity’s Rainbow yet that mightn’t be such an issue. Bookforum has a special section on Pynchon, which features authors such as Don DeLillo, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Richard Powers respectfully discussing the influence TP has had on them. There’s also a good essay from editor Gerald Howard on the story behind the publication of Gravity’s Rainbow (whose working title, we are informed, was Mindless Pleasures). In particular, I enjoyed his account of rereading the book more than 30 years after its appearance. It has the tone of somebody who’s ordered something adventurous from the menu and is now proclaiming, to a sceptical table, that yes, this gelatinous bean-curd stew really is delicious!“My first reaction: Jesus, this is a tough book. The prose was gorgeous, with a density of allusion and implication and hyperalertness that almost no one writing today would even attempt, let alone pull off. If you did not pay maximum attention and, paradoxically, avoid, Keats-like, an “irritable reaching after fact,” you were going to be lost. And as a fifty-four-year-old with responsibilities rather than a feckless twenty-two-year-old luftmensch, I had stuff to do that confined my reading to the 10 PM �midnight slot. I’d stumble off to bed, my brainwaves commandeered by Pynchon’s insinuating narrative voice, to a night of uneasy dreams that fed off some of the most disturbing latent content modern fiction can provide. It was a strange six weeks, and I had the sense that I was leading a kind of secret life in my own Zone.”Now, doesn’t the above account just make you want to race off and fish out that fat paperback with its wacky tales of coprophagia, Poisson distributions, and giant Adenoids invading London?