Friday, July 15, 2011

Some notes on Chapter 2

To bounce off Señor Sparks's questions in his last post: "Any thoughts on this? Are we left to drown on our own? Will we need to wipe an oily residue from our skin upon completion?"

I think our page-a-day (or chapter-a-week) pace helps us not drown. Reading only as much as I want each evening, closing the book when I feel "full" (or sense my brain's getting overloaded), I've reached the end of chapter 2, and I can say that I've thoroughly relished every page of the book so far—yup, all 37 of 1198 of 'em!

The "I" of chapter 1 recedes in chapter 2, and what we get is a wonderfully focused account of the narrator's invalided, opium-befogged mother and her loyal visitor, Mr. Spitzer. The prose is like a dream, and it describes a life that is largely indistinguishable from dreams.

Dreams are dangerous, of course; any fiction is like a dream already, and to have a dream contain a dream is to compound your challenges as a writer. Yet chapter 2 proves tremendously exciting. Its labyrinthine sentences packed with invention; every reiteration of the life-is-a-dream motif ("My mother pretended that the real was the dream, that the dream was the real," "My mother slept for years, her eyes protected from the vulgar sunlight because already her visions were too many, the mirages, the maelstroms...") had the strange (and good) effect of keeping me focused. And—best of all—the whole thing comes to a very satisfying conclusion. I felt like I'd read an entire novella within the novel. Will every chapter be such an exquisite adventure?

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