Recent Reading

The Good Soldier Schweik— I bought a copy at a used bookstore on our recent trip to Virginia/DC, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s sort of a World War I classic that’s fallen off the radar about a Czech soldier who’s basically an idiot who not so stupidly manages to avoid ever making it into combat. SchweikThe novel starts in Prague, and weirdly, the humor reminded me of Kafka, and there’s probably a thesis in comparing Schweik and K. from The Castle; where K. employs all the intelligence at his disposal in struggling against a vast, almost metaphysical bureaucracy to gain admittence to the caslte, Schweik uses his idiotic blank grin and the deep incompetence of the Austrian army bureaucracy to constantly frustrate their efforts to get him to the front. Seems like it’s often called an anti-war novel, and the novel does preach at times, but Schweik’s honest idiocy seems impervious to all kinds of cant, and he seems like as basic and original a comedic character as Don Quixote. It ends abruptly when the author died of TB.

The Last Tycoon— We got this in our great plundering of Terri’s parents’ book and record collection last weekend and I blew through it in a couple of evenings. It’s F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final novel (which ends abruptly when the author died of a heart attack) about a movie tycoon. Seems patterned after any number of film tycoons, but the one that comes to mind most to me is Irving Thalberg. It’s pretty uneven at times, and you suspect that it would have been seriously rewritten and cleaned up a lot once it was finished. But that in itself is part of the charm; the edition I read had author’s notes and outlines of what Fitzgerald expected to happen, so you get the interesting task of finishing the novel for yourself, as well as an interesting vivisection of a novel in progress. The main character Stahr is a workaholic producer who, while driven into the future out of dissatisfaction with his past a la Gatsby, seems to genuinely love his work, and the scenes where he is prodding his writers and directors to work creatively are alone unlike anything I’ve read elsewhere and are themselves worth the price of admission.

I Will Soon Be Invincible by Austin Grossman — a friend recommended this novel about superheroes and supervillains that are all too human. I liked it a lot (I blew through it it last night and this morning), but if you’ve seen The Incredibles, imagine it as novel, make it slightly moodier and less cartoony, and you’ve got the idea.