The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

May 23, 2016


Henry James’s classic novella is a horror story and the reinterpretation – and sometimes it even seems: the parody – of classic horror stories at the same time. In the outer layer of narrative, we get to know a group of elegant society people who spend their evenings telling ghost stories. Then one day a member of the group announces that he’s in possession of an especially eerie story, left to him by an old acquaintance. Answering the curious urges of his friends, the man sends for the story, and when the old, yellowed document arrives, he reads it out loud to his company.

From this point on, the characters of the framing story are not mentioned anymore, and the rest of the book consists of the (ghost) story itself, as experienced and put on paper by the heroine of the story. The main character in the inner narrative is a young girl with a vivid imagination, who bravely accepts the post of governess in Bly, somewhere in the innocent English countryside – even if the the circumstances surrounding the position are somewhat suspicious: as the girl learns from her prospective employer, the previous governess lost her life, and the employer also adds that he needs an employee who is willing to solve every problem on her own, and never, ever troubles him with requests or complaints.

The young governess is flattered by the trust of her employer, and she’s sure she’ll be able to handle her tasks – but soon she realizes that she’s not altogether prepared for what awaits her in Bly. On the very day of her arrival she’s troubled by an unpleasant premonition, which disappears for a while when she gets to know her enchanting, innocent, intelligent pupils, Miles and Flora, who seem like a dream come true for any governess. The idyll, however, doesn’t last long, because the governess soon starts to notice uncanny apparitions: she sometimes catches sight of a strange man and a woman in and around the house, and soon she convinces herself that the apparitions aim to do harm to her lovely pupils, and that it’s her most noble duty to save them from the evil spirits – who, it seems, are not noticed by anyone else – or aren’t they?

Henry James builds tension in this story in a masterful and most deliciously confusing fashion, and leaves you completely at a loss. For one thing, he keeps planting contradictory details in the story: it’s enough to think about such small details as the fact that the governess once claims that she wouldn’t be able to describe the physical appearance of the ghost she encounters because he’s so plain and bland, and then in the next sentence she goes on to elaborate on the ghost’s characteristics, down to the most minute detail.

Besides this, James continuously makes you entertain doubts about the honesty, innocence, motivations and sanity of the characters: in one moment the pupils seem to be wonderful angels, and in the next moment, they appear as manipulative little devils, harboring dark secrets; in one moment it seems that the only aim of the governess is to save her charges from every imaginable danger, and in the next moment she seems to be a deranged, attention-seeking young girl willing to go into any length just to arouse the interest of her employer; and Mrs. Grose, the old housekeeper of Bly sometimes behaves as if she believed the wild stories and conspiracy theories of the governess, while at other times she treats the governess as if she were dealing with an unpredictable, dangerously insane person.

James also uses a whole array of narratological tricks – it’s worth noting, for example, that the story abounds in unfinished sentences, and the conversations between the characters are either so intricately wrought yet unrevealing, or so full of double and triple meanings that it’s often impossible to decipher the true meaning and intention of the speakers. Besides all this, James also makes use of the usual elements of classic ghost stories – the walls of the idyllic country house hide shameful secrets, there are midnight apparitions galore, and the candles always go out in the worst possible moment.

And all this results in a deeply unsettling, unfinished story that (until the very last moment and even after that) offers at least two possible interpretations, a story which leaves you wondering: is it even a ghost story, or is it something else entirely? And since Henry James casually leaves the framing narrative unfinished, we never learn about the reactions of the people who listened to the story, and we get no road-sign whatsoever as to how the main story could be „correctly” interpreted. This is, in the end, an extremely smart, bewildering story – I suspect it’s too smart a novella to offer up all its layers in a single reading. I’ve already read it a couple of times, and I don’t feel I’m at the end of it yet.

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

May 16, 2016


Of course it was the title that got me. I’m inexplicably drawn to good titles, and in this case, too, I didn’t care a whole lot about what this novel might be because one look at the title was enough to convince me that this is something I want to read. And in hindsight I still say: this is an excellent title, not the least because through the course of the story these simple words gather new meanings and start to carry a lot of irony – that post-postmodern, sympathetic irony, which is something I deeply like.

The novel, true to its title, tells the story of a sad, super modern love story, in which Lenny Abramov, an almost middle-aged, unattractive, clumsy, but super-kind, caring, emotional, intelligent and honest man of Russian-Jewish origins falls in love with Eunice, a young, extremely hot Korean-American girl, who is emotionally wounded and is not particularly intelligent, either.

Their relationship follows the usual (?) way of the relationships of couples who don’t really fit – there’s a whole lot of power games going on here, and manipulation, exploitation, fighting, and sex withdrawal – and there’s also a whole lot of real tenderness and emotion. Lenny and Eunice both desire something real, something that resembles happiness (to which they don’t feel entitled), they both wish to express their innermost self to the other but are afraid of the exposure and vulnerability that comes with self-expression. Like I said (although there’s really no need for me to say it): it’s a super sad, true love story.

Their doomed love story is told from two perspectives: through Lenny’s diary entries, and through the various online content produced by Eunice – because Lenny is an old-fashioned man, someone who still writes a diary with pen on paper, while Eunice belongs to the new generation – she freely admits that she has never learned to read properly, and that all she can do with texts is scan them for information.

And here’s the bridge to the other aspect of the novel, because this is not only a love story. This is also a partly cynical and partly sympathetic satire about the over-digitalized generation and the demise of America.

As regards the over-digitalization: in the novel everyone carries a gadget called äppärät – a more advanced version of today’s smartphones, through which you can truly reach, share, and rate everything. (For example, the hotness of the guys and girls who happen to be in the same pub as you. And, naturally, everyone is interested in their rating – after all, if you rank last in the hotness list that evening, it’s probably better for you to just go home.) In the world of äppärät users, looking into each other’s eyes, or communication with real words is a rarity, and no private life whatsoever exists as even the supposedly private gathering of old friends is streamed live by one friend who hosts a popular online show.

I’m not one for criticizing online life mindlessly, as I don’t think it leads to inevitable doom, and I don’t like mindless criticism in novels, either. What I like is when someone does his criticism in a scary and smart way (like Dave Eggers in his novel, The Circle). And what I also like is what Shteyngart does here: in fact, he’s not even criticizing – rather, he captures the beauty and fragility of those rare moments when the characters accidentally communicate live and use real language, when they say an old, almost obsolete word, or when they read sections from The Unbearable Lightness of Being to their lover in bed (this is beautiful even if I don’t happen to like that novel). What Shteyngart does is a reversed criticism – he never says how shallow online life is, instead, he shows how beautiful it can be when something happens not online but in reality.

It feels to me that Shteyngart deeply loves language, and the question isn’t so much whether there’s still a chance for romantic love, but whether there’s still a chance for using real language.

And as regards the demise of America: that part is somewhat less sympathetically satirical – the America of the novel is a country ruined by debts, manic spending and credit card usage, fully at the mercy of Chinese, Norwegian, and Arabic debtors – a country where a person’s value is determined by his credit ranking. Now, this is truly scary, and leaves me feeling unhinged. Which is the feeling I ultimately left this novel with.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

May 11, 2016


This is such a fantastically enticing novel that halfway through I started to worry that I might just finish it too soon if I’m not careful, so instead of continuing, I decided to pursue a whole array of (half-)substitute activities – I went to the movies, finished two other books, went rollerskating, and so on – just so that the moment when I reach the end might come as late as possible. (If I want to perfectly honest, I first started to worry somewhere around page 10, but the danger didn’t seem that imminent then, given that I still had 760 pages to go.)

But after a while I couldn’t put off finishing it any longer, and the self-denial of the previous days took its vengeance: I read the remaining half in two endless reading sessions. This is not the most perfect way to put it, though – it implies effort and suffering, when reading this novel is, in fact, the exact opposite of that. Pure joy and bliss. And what I didn’t experience when I read Tartt’s The Secret History a couple of years back – the most welcome feeling of forgetting myself – now I got this, too.

This complete relinquishing of the self for the time of reading, this most basic, most urgent curiosity (and then what happened? And what happened after that?), this feeling that I want to learn and know everything: all the streets of New York where the protagonist walks; all the pieces of furniture he touches; the deserts of Las Vegas he inhabits; the feverish cold he lives through; that certain magical bench in Central Park; love’s red hair and thousand-colored scarves; the feeling of walking through icy puddles in soaked-through shoes in Amsterdam around Christmas; the self-destructive, murderous anger, doubt, and remorse of the protagonist. Everything.

I think such strong desire to know absolutely everything is only possible while reading fiction – and what luck that in this novel, we get to know almost everything.

Because this is a slow story, one in which there’s time for events to unfold, for the characters to grow up, and also for them to just fool around sometimes and not move the story forward at all – and when there was a couple of weeks’ or years’ worth of jump ahead in the story, I was almost disappointed because I would have preferred to know even those things that happened in the periods not covered.

So what’s this novel about? As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t really matter, because it’s written so beautifully and precisely, with such perception and strength that it could be about anything, and I would enjoy it.

But anyway: it’s about Theo Decker, a screwed-up, drug-addicted young man suffering both from PTSD and from a hopeless love towards a miraculous, elusive girl. From the (very long) back-story we learn that Theo loses his mother in tragic circumstances when he’s still a child, and in connection with his mother’s death, he acquires a world-famous painting (this is the Goldfinch), which in turn becomes the most important object in his life.

That piece of art, beauty, reality, purity and bliss to which he can always return. That object he can think about in times of distress because even the thought of its existence is enough to fill his life with something other than pure terror and anxiety.

One of the chapters opens with a quote from Nietzsche: „We have art in order not to die from the truth.” And if I wanted to simplify it, I could say that this whole novel is a beautiful and heart-wrenching illustration of this sentence.

The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter

November 18, 2013

TheMagicToyshopI used to have this fallacy that I like Angela Carter only with my brain – I used to think that she was a writer whose works provided the perfect pretext for any enthusiastic English major student to talk about symbols, metaphors, intertextuality and all kinds of gender-stuff. I really liked both of her books I read so far (this one, which I first read during my university years as compulsory reading, and The Bloody Chamber, which I read a couple of years later, just because I wanted to read it), but I liked both of them only in and with my mind – I didn’t love them because I thought they were much too cold. Anyway, I re-read The Magic Toyshop this year, and I no longer have this fallacy – now I love Angela Carter with all my being.

I guess I mentioned a couple of times already that I absolutely love coming-of-age novels, and without the least bit of planning, I always happen to read a coming-of-age novel every two or three months, because I like (and need) to re-learn (or re-experience) what it’s like to grow up. And The Magic Toyshop can also be classified as a coming-of-age novel (of sorts), but it’s completely different from any other teenager-novel I know. The coming-of-age novels I know usually concentrate on the changes that happen to a young person’s mind when he’s growing up (even if these novels also deal with first dates and first kisses). But The Magic Toyshop is such an incredibly bodily novel that I find it breathtaking and scary even as a grown-up.

The novel’s protagonist is Melanie, who, during the 15th summer of her life, slowly realizes that she’s no longer a girl – she’s an almost-woman now. Melanie spends the last innocent-idyllic summer of her life with discovering herself and her body, and with day-dreaming about a perfect man – a phantom bridegroom who will step out of a fairy tale (or a glossy magazine) one day and to whom she will lose her virginity (or better to say: she won’t lose her virginity to him – she will give it to him, gently, in between fluffy-white pillows and cool sheets). Melanie’s daydreams and her games of make-believe are weightless, and they are without consequences, but everything changes when – because of the sudden death of her parents – Melanie and her younger siblings are forced to move to one of their late mother’s relatives, Uncle Philip. Philip is a toy-maker, and he’s the owner of the titular magic toyshop. However, he isn’t your typical benevolent, jovial uncle – instead, he’s a ruthless tyrant who terrorizes his family in every imaginable way. And his toyshop isn’t your typical Disneyland-like, merrily-magical place – instead, it’s a place where magic is dark and destructive; where the toys are so lifelike and perfect that it’s just too uncanny; and where human beings are forced to act as if they were lifeless toys.

And it is here, in Uncle Philip’s magic toyshop that Melanie – who grew up as a spoiled child, and whose days so far have been filled with the dreams and concerns of a child – starts to learn about the nature of the „real” reality – she’s forced to learn about this. Partly because Philip doesn’t let her stay in her childhood world any longer, and he uses Melanie to act out his dark and violent fantasies on/with her (not literally, but metaphorically – but in his world, metaphors and symbolic deeds carry way more weight and meaning than any real act). And partly because Melanie gets to know Philip’s family: being accepted into the family circle of Philip’s wife, Margaret, and Margaret’s younger brothers, she observes and experiences such intense, passionate, undisguised, both enticing and repulsive feelings and relations that all her childish ideas about life, emotions and – most importantly – about physical attractions and repulsions are shattered for good.

In just a couple of months, Melanie learns that sexuality isn’t always like the way she imagined – it’s not necessarily pure-beautiful-nice. In the course of her coming-of-age, Melanie has to realize that it may easily happen that the other is filthy, or less-than-gentle, and she has to realize that the (possible) future/consequence of having to raise a herd of unruly kids in a dingy, murky flat, as the wife of a grumpy man is always already present – even when she and Margaret’s brother, Finn have kissed only once.

Finn, by the way, isn’t the oh-so-strong man of a romantic novel; he’s not a man who can make a woman swoon by simply looking at her. Oh no – Finn’s presence and his clumsy-yet-knowing advances aren’t so deeply unsettling and uncomfortable for Melanie because he’s – say – frighteningly masculine – but simply because he’s real, and he’s unlike any phantom bridegroom out of a magazine Melanie used to dream about. (Actually, Finn repeatedly scorns Melanie for speaking as if she were quoting from a women’s magazine, for instance, when Melanie tells him something like this: „I’d love to be in love with you, but I don’t know how to do it.”)

I have to add, though, that there’s hardly any actual physical intercourse in the novel, but every single detail (the objects, the settings, the food, the toys) carries a whole lot of erotic potential – to the extent that it’s frightening even for an adult, let alone for a 15 year-old girl, who’s a virgin. (I don’t know if all of Angela Carter’s novels are this physical-sensual. All I know is that The Bloody Chamber is also like this.)

But despite all its darkness, this is an extremely vivid, exuberant, vibrant novel. And above all: it’s beautiful. And now I don’t see it as the work of a cold-headed genius – but simply as the work of a genius.

Daisy Miller by Henry James

November 4, 2013

daisymillerThe protagonist of Henry James’s novella is Daisy Miller, a pretty, fun-lovin’, silly American girl who’s traveling through Europe with her mother and her brother. Daisy is a rich and elegant socialite, but she doesn’t belong to the elite class per se – she’s much too indiscreet and rebellious for that. For instance, she doesn’t hesitate to talk to people she hasn’t been formally introduced to, and she’s also happy to go for solitary walks with a man who is neither a member of her family, nor her fiancé. At the beginning of the story, she gets acquainted with Winterbourne, an American man who’s been living in Europe for a long time – and who is therefore no longer up-to-date as to the proper American manners. Winterbourne is immediately enchanted by Daisy’s beauty and her easy-going, open personality, but he doesn’t fully abandon himself to his budding passion – instead, he starts to over-analyze everything and he starts to wonder whether Daisy is indeed as innocent and nice as she seems.

Winterbourne keeps wondering about this question throughout the story, and even though he accidentally falls in love (?) with Daisy, he cannot come to terms with the basic impoliteness of Daisy’s conduct. (Of course, he only frowns upon her behavior when she’s being impolite in someone else’s company – when they first meet, he’s more than happy to accompany the girl on a trip to a castle nearby, after half an hour into their relationship.) So anyway, when they meet again in Rome some time later, Winterbourne merely watches with a condescending smile on his face how Daisy runs to her ruin, and he doesn’t even try to understand her behavior.

When I read about supposedly unruly, I-have-it-my-own-way characters like Daisy Miller, I often wonder if their behavior can really be considered rebellious and shocking, just because they live the way they want to live, say what they want to say, and ask what they want to ask – even if this is not acceptable in their social circles. And I wonder whether being rebellious and shocking is something they consciously do. In the blurb of my copy this question is asked downright: is Daisy Miller deliberately going against the norms of the society she lives in, or is she merely unaware of the norms she’s supposed to adhere to?

Well, I think neither of the above is true. Daisy Miller knows the rules she should adhere to (and sometimes it seems that she’s troubled by the fact that she’s shunned by society because of her lack of adherence), but it’s not due to some youthful folly or defiance that she keeps breaking the rules – it’s simply because for her, it’s truly and utterly incomprehensible why she shouldn’t spend her time with someone whose company she enjoys.

Sure, the morals and rules of the end of the 19th century were somewhat different from the rules we have now, and when I read novels dealing with similar themes in the past (I mean the theme of the clash between the American aristocracy and an independent woman – see Edith Wharton’s novels), sometimes I used to think how good it is to be alive here and now, in a world much less suffocating. But now I read this novel in a different way – I didn’t keep thinking about how lucky I am to live in a part of the world where presumably no-one is shunned and/or destroyed for the exact same crimes Daisy commits – because I figure that the Daisy Millers of the present also shock the others, only with different crimes. And I find this idea almost unbearably sad because a Daisy Miller never goes out of her way just so that she can shock people – she simply wants to live, innocently, harming no-one, and she does live, as long as “they” let her. And even though, like I said, the male protagonist’s greatest dilemma is whether Daisy is innocent or not (not necessarily in the sexual sense), I felt that she is.

By the way, Henry James – contrary to me – doesn’t get overly moralizing, and I don’t think he tries to teach me any kind of lesson or great truth. And because of this, I prefer him to, e.g. Theodore Dreiser, even though their styles and world-views seem to be somewhat similar.

And as regards the author’s style – it’s often mentioned about James that deciphering the meaning of his sentences, and understanding his subtle references is a feat in itself. Well, it’s quite probable that I overlooked a whole lot of the hidden references and other subtleties, but I was surprised by the fact that after the first couple of pages I had no trouble at all following his lovely, meandering, endless sentences. Translating his work must be a nightmare, but reading him in English was much less difficult than I expected.

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

October 28, 2013

brightEvery time I re-read this novel, I love it better. I used to like it mainly because of the second-person narrative, but I’ve read several second-person novels and stories since the last time I re-read Bright Lights, and now I don’t automatically swoon if I see something written in this narrative mode. The book has to be good in itself, as well. And fortunately this is a good book.

The novel’s unnamed protagonist (oh, no, he’s not unnamed – he’s you) is a young man in his twenties, and actually his life is (could be/could have been) quite good: a nice apartment in Manhattan; a prestigious job; parties every night; a beautiful wife; and everything you need to fulfill the American Dream, 1980s edition. But the novel opens when everything is already falling apart: his wife left; the prestigious job doesn’t seem to be secure anymore; and it seems that the „nursing a hangover during the day – going out to party during the night” routine the protagonist has been pursuing is not a way of life you can keep up forever.

While following the desperate, grieving, nameless hero (or nameless ourselves) among the sharply shining skyscrapers of Manhattan, through the elite clubs and bright-or-dodgy streets, you learn what you can of course learn from a whole lot of other novels, but for me, this theme is inexhaustible: you learn how very easy it is to screw things up; and also that there are periods when you can’t see anything clearly because your dreams – which will never come true, or not the way you want them to, or not at the right time – simply blind your vision; and also that being in your twenties can be an awfully melancholy, angry, clueless life period – even if you pretend that you’re having a helluva lot of fun.

And this is not a good novel because the second person narrative somehow brings all this close to me. This is good anyway – sad and beautiful (I just realized now that McInerney can often write with the poignancy and tenderness of F. Scott Fitzgerald); clever and funny; and oh-so-true. It speaks to me more than ever before.

True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole by Sue Townsend

October 21, 2013

trueconfessI have no idea how and why this messy and less-than-funny installment of the Adrian Mole series came to see the light of day (a wild guess: someone somewhere probably thought that it would be a good idea to publish a random something in between two “regular” books), but I’m not going to search the web to find it out, because I don’t think there’s any conspiracy in the background – something the importance of which I might have missed. I’m pretty sure that an average Adrian Mole novel is not as mind-boggling as, say, a novel by Thomas Pynchon, and a Mole novel can usually be understood without perusing a Townsend-wiki. I mean – I assume I understand this book. And since I understand it, I cannot but wonder: what the hell is this incoherent, cheap stuff?

The novel consists of three markedly different sections that aren’t especially good or coherent on their own to begin with, but when it comes to answering the question of how they are connected, I’m really at a loss. If I’m in a benevolent mood, I can say: very accidentally. And if I’m in more of a grumpy-critical mood, I can say: not at all.

The first part of the book mainly consists of excerpts from Adrian Mole’s diary, describing different eras of the protagonist’s life. A couple of these are more or less funny, but they never make me laugh out loud, which is strange, because I’ve been known to laugh a lot while reading the first two Adrian Mole books.

Then comes the second part: it’s mainly made up of the travel notes of Sue Townsend (or her fictional alter-ego): how she spent her time in Mallorca, how she went with a bunch of other writers to Russia, or how she experienced a totally random this-or-that. To be honest, Townsend isn’t particularly funny here – or perhaps she developed a sense of humor which I don’t find funny at all. Sure, I’m not into every kind of humor in the world, but as I said, I distinctly remember that I used to find her kind of humor very funny in the first two Adrian Mole books, not very long ago, and I don’t think my sense of humor changed that much in the meantime.

And then there’s the third part which features excerpts from the childhood diary of Margaret Thatcher, written in the trademark Adrian Mole style. Of course, Margaret Thatcher’s childhood abounds in different kinds of joys and moral difficulties than the childhood of Townsend’s immortal Adrian Mole. For instance, we learn that one of little Margaret’s favorite pastime activities is reading books about chemistry; or that she goes through a major crisis if she steals a single raisin from a bag of raisins; or that she condemns her mother because she works a mere 16 hours per day; or that on Mondays she says: “finally, it’s a school-day again!” Oh, yes, and we also learn that she already hates working-class people, and that she firmly believes that everyone who’s poor has only himself to blame. You get the point – she’s portrayed as an abominable workaholic/perfectionist/moral champion, and everybody in their right mind makes sure to steer clear of her. Well, okay. I admit that some of her diary entries are mildly (very mildly) comic, but in the end I don’t like this at all. It’s too cheap, too direct, and not at all witty. Townsend did a much better job criticizing Margaret Thatcher in the first two books of this series.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino

October 14, 2013

winternightBefore getting down to any details about this novel, I just want to say quickly that this a magnificent and enchanting work of fiction. Or metafiction – as you wish. And indeed you can make your choice, because as it happens, you are the protagonist of the book.

As you might have noticed if you had read a couple of my reviews that I have no problem with metafiction or any kind of meta-stuff in general; I even like that sort of meta-literature which excludes the reader from itself, and which is mostly about the writer who would like to experiment with forms, points of views, narrative techniques or anything else, without thinking about the consequences. I love to read other people’s experiments, and I love to see how someone fools around and plays with ideas or styles just for the hell of it.

But Italo Calvino is way more polite (or way more cunning) than this. He doesn’t exclude me from his fiction – on the contrary, he makes me the protagonist: an adventurer, an explorer, a detective, and a young lover, and he tells me: “this is you”. And because I happen to be a sucker for books which tell me that they are about “me”, I immediately fall for this novel. (Even when I’m re-reading it for the third time. And I’m pretty sure I will fall for it again the next time I re-read it.)

It would be good to know what’s so very-very appealing and tempting about a novel which starts by saying that I’m just starting to read it, and then offers me some advice about the best position in which I might read it, and tells me that I should take care of my bodily needs before really getting involved in it, and then goes on to elaborate on the feelings I experience while I’m reading the first couple of pages.

Really – what’s so stunning about this? Perhaps I really love to read about myself, and I really like to be the main character. (On the other hand – who doesn’t?) Or perhaps the novel amazes me because it implies that someone’s paying attention to me and knows me inside out. Or maybe it’s fascinating because it gives me the illusion I used to know well when I was a more naive reader, but I don’t experience too often nowadays (even though I’m always looking for it): the illusion that I’m within the story; that “I” am “you”, and “I” am “me” at the same time; that I’m inside and outside at the same moment – I’m paying attention to the story, and I’m observing myself as I’m paying attention to the story. Or maybe it’s so enticing because it promises that it will tell me why and how I read, and what’s so good about reading.

I said in the beginning that Calvino is a polite writer, and that his metafiction is not in love with itself but always makes sure to include me. But in fact, this is not politeness – this is trickiness of the highest order. I know he will fool me, yet, I let myself be fooled. And I know he knows that I know that I’m being fooled. And I know that I’m alone while reading, but I let him persuade me that in fact I’m not alone.

So, yes, I know he’s not only playing with his text. He’s playing with me as well. But I don’t mind – I just hugely enjoy it. And anyway, if we “must” be postmodern-smart-playful, then I think the best, most entertaining and most uplifting way to do it is to do it together – the writer and the reader.


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