Thursday, July 2, 2009

Independence Day

Independence Day by Richard Ford is the novel to begin reading now. It is far superior to The Sportswriter although this one is also quite good. You don't have to be a fan of books with funny sales scenes (in this case, real estate) or a fan of baseball hopeful of renewal via vicarious pilgrimmage to Cooperstown, New York. You don't even have to yearn for a great novel of South Jersey although I'm sure that thought is inspiring!

Last night, I glanced at a copy I own of The Lay of the Land, the third in his Frank Bascombe trilogy, but it didn't grab me. I'm finished Pop Apocalypse by Lee Konstantinou (and I do approve of his messages) and searching for another book to begin. So I'm between books and reading beginnings: Philip Roth's Everyman, Albert Camus's The Fall ( a reread after 20 years or so), and William Vollmann's Riding Toward Everywhere.

It looks like the Vollmann is taking the lead because he is writing about hobos and hitching and hauling ass across the West on freight trains. I'm early in the book, and I've learned Vollman has had a series of small strokes in his past, something not at all shocking when one considers his prolific output. I notice he is published by Ecco Press, and if I'm not mistaken I just read a nice, short article on David Halpern, who founded Ecco in the early seventies; the article is in the back of the most recent Poets and Writers. Halpern has had a life worth vicariously living too!

Back to Vollmann, I've always been interested in his writing career and amazing output although I have not read many of his novels. Ice Shirt is the only one I can remember reading cover to cover although I always check them out at the bookstore when I stumble upon another fat, Vollmann book. I've also always been intrigued by Deep Springs College in Deep Springs, California, and I know Vollmann studied there. A little like St. John's but much smaller, the school sounds like one of those very special places.

Anyway, so far, I appreciate Vollmann's honesty and humility in this book. He is 47 and he needs a bucket for a boost to catch a train; to understand their place on the rails, his friend has coined the term "fauxbeaux." Vollmann sounds fragile and humane. He has punched out 1000s of pages of prose and yet we don't here him brag or boast like various politicians or other celebrities. None of those smiling phonies would have the courage or capacity to live like Vollmann, and yet his voice too is but one among billions.

Does anyone hear a freight train in the distance???

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