Sunday, January 15, 2006
I struggled with Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles. He's a beautiful writer and the book is a perplexing, lyrical hallucination that stubbornly refused to take shape for me. He is certainly original--a series of short scenes that veer back and forth between dense realism, and a nightmarish fantasy buoyed up by a dark humor--a kind of relish. His father turns variously into a bird and a cockroach, wastes into nothing, rises up as a kind of terrible prophet, and disappears again. The narrator attempts to act, but mostly watches as the city--the world--wrenches itself into fantastical shapes around him, during which it is difficult to understand what bearing these nightmares have to any sort of particular reality. None is the likely answer, or, rather, who cares? Schultz is hunting other beasts here--a drama of the imagination that is potent and engaging:

"They were the distant, forgotten progeny of that generation of birds which at one time Adela had chased away to the four points of the sky. That brood of freaks, that malformed, wasted tribe of birds, was now returning degenerated or overgrown. Nonsensically large, stupidly developed, the birds were empty and lifeless inside. All of their vitality when into their plumage, into external adornment. They were like exhibits of extinct species in a museum, the lumber room of a birds' paradise....Only now, from nearby by did Father notice the wretchedness of that wasted generation, the nonsense of its second-rate anatomy. They had been nothing but enormous bunches of feathers, stuffed carelessly with old carrion....."

The recommendation for it came from a friend of mine who is a poet and who, I suspect will be delighted by my verdict of its powerful incoherence.

In that vein, I am reading DH Lawrence's Apocalypse, about the astrological symbolism of the Book of Revelations--heady stuff, with steady doses of Lawrentian bile to hold your attention. More on that as it develops.


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