grist

 

Wednesday, February 01, 2006
I am a terrible procrastinator for Christmas shopping (not so terrible that I haven't finished yet), but always the late, last rushed rollick through the stores to find suitable presents. This year, I resolved to get novels for everyone--all that I had not read, so that I could request book reports from everyone and build out my list. I spent a lunch hour in the bookstore and, in one of those rare confluences of energy and abundance, found so many books that I had enough to give out and a few left over as well.

One I just finished was Albert Camus' Exile and the Kingdom, a set of six short stories, uneven in quality both within and across the stories. But there is something compelling about reading minor works--when you can see the awkward threads, the experiments, the mis-steps that show tendencies not yet matured. Camus is kicking around ideas here, pushing the language around. The stories are not the cold little gems that writing programs seem to be generating. Uneven as they are, there are still striking moments in them, when he rises up past the stories and into something more--vague and hyperbolic and yet still substantial, blooded:

Is there another love than that of darkness, a love that would cry aloud in daylight? She didn't know, but she did know that Marcel needed her and that she needed that need, that she lived on it night and day, at night especially--every night when he didn't want to be alone, or to age and die, with that set expression he assumed which she occasionally recognized on other men's faces, the only common expression of those madmen hiding under an appearance of wisdom, until the madness seizes them and hurls them desperately toward a woman's body to bury in it, without desire, everything terrifying that solitude and night reveals to them.



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