Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Philip K. Dick, How is it That I've Just Finally Gotten to Reading You???!!?

Funny how a writer can be at your periphery for years (such was the case with Nabokov for me), and once you finally get to their work you are stunned by how you had ever managed to dodge reading them before then. Philip K. Dick has proven in my first reading of him to be that kind of writer. Most everyone has heard of him, and he has a huge following, but he's easy enough to ignore as a genre science fiction writer.

Perhaps this commonplace dismissal is best described by Kurt Vonnegut, who once said of his own label as a science fiction writer, "I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled 'science fiction' ever since [the novel "Player Piano"], and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal." And I agree with Vonnegut's assertion and consider its truth a shame, because while I can see how a lot of science fiction doesn't demonstrate the mastery of prose that you find in more turgid canonical works, it still often demonstrates a uniqueness of insight, of explicating the magical mysteries of our human condition and wondering who we are, that to me always matters more than artful and mellifluous composition / an author's meditative dexterity.

But, while not Nabokov, Philip K. Dick was above the median writing abilities of, even other widely read, science fiction novelists if you ask me. He has a straightforward way of expressing his narratives, but this always feels natural enough. There's no stilted or affected quality to it.

Moreover, I read on the back cover of my copy of "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" (which is the novel of his I read, likewise) an endorsement of his stating, "Dick [was] many authors: a poor man's Pynchon, an oracular postmodern, a rich product of the changing counterculture." In particular I'm struck by the parallel to Pynchon, which is apt, actually. I hate to refer to Dick as a "poor man's" anything, but still Thomas Pynchon is a worthy comparison. This is especially true as goes each writer's deftness with absurd puns meant as satirical stand-ins for the kinds of needful-things products that define American consumerism.

In "Palmer Eldritch" what we are presented with is a world of unreality. The people of earth live under the auspices of the UN (become a kind of world government), and given the unsustainable population explosion, said people are frequently conscripted to live in the less hospitable terrains of other planets and so forth in our solar system (Mars and the moon, most notably). So to escape the monotony of existence in these desolate places the colonists take mind-altering substances. They're illegal, yes, but more or less tolerated by the UN because of the otherwise intolerable conditions of the colonies. "Can-D" is the drug of choice at the story's outset, sold covertly by the forces of Leo Bulero, owner of P.P. Layouts, which manufactures, among other things, human-like dolls in which takers of "Can-D" will assume conscious control during their fantasy, drug-induced moments. This in itself is a very trippy idea, certainly, but the story only becomes more so as the plot thickens -- a readily apparent defining characteristic of Dick's work.

The story centers primarily on Barney Mayerson, a precog under the employ of Bulero and P.P. Layouts. Mayerson is exceptionally skilled at precognition. His job requires that he look into the future and see what trends will become popular, and then allow for P.P. Layouts to capitalize on them by purchasing exclusive rights (a kind of question-begging proposition in itself, although not quite because Mayerson checks to see if products are hits or misses rather than what is verifiably trendy, cornering that market in advance).

Cue the return of Palmer Eldritch, a wealthy industrialist and space navigator who returns to our solar system after a decade of traversing other regions of space, most notably the Prox system, crash landing on Pluto. More importantly it's what Palmer Eldritch has brought back with him, a new drug called "Chew-Z." What ensues is a battle between Bulero and Eldritch for rights to the drug market in our system. "Chew-Z" promises to be much more than "Can-D" ever could, of fact which Eldritch demonstrates to both Bulero and Mayerson in separate moments. What it also seems to be is much more than just a drug, a means of living forever, if only seemingly within the illusion of the drug's escape.

More than anything, both the characters in the story and the reader are left to wonder what is reality after a certain while into the narrative. Which brings to mind, if "Inception" wasn't inspired somewhat by the works of Philip K. Dick I'll eat every shoe I've ever owned.

(Disclaimer: Matt Rowan will not actually eat shoes belonging to himself or anyone else if proven incorrect in the preceding assertion.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"Pale Fire" and its manifold weirdness which makes it unlike the others: Part II - A Dash of Plot Summary

In part because Kevin asked for it and in part because I can't stop thinking about this friggin' book, I have opted to write a second, follow up post about "Pale Fire." This time, as the title suggests, concerning primarily a few main points of its plot (because I really wish to not give all that much about it away, seeing as reading the novel is, without a doubt, better than my rehashing of it).

But before I get to that I wanted to mention I've found it really interesting that there's a debate about Nabokov's intent with respect to the earnestness of the poem "Pale Fire" itself. I'm told that previously it was considered a satire and John Shade himself a stand-in parody of various notable 19th-2oth century American poets mentioned in Kinbote's notes, one of whom in specific was Robert Frost (and the stygian quality of each poet's surname seems awfully coincidental, if nothing else). But there's a new school of thought, which it seems Nabokov might well have agreed with -- if his son is to be believed, that argues the poem was done with no such satire in mind. It was meant to be interpreted as a sincere attempt, whether one thinks it hit the mark or not. Although I wasn't completely taken with the poem myself (especially in a more lyrical sense), I can say I thought it was interesting how it told its story, with a lucidity of pith that wasn't -- by all I've read of him -- Nabokov's default mode, writing-wise. (Though the poem's still characteristically Nabokovian, I do believe.)

All right, so to at last get down to the point of this post, let's run through the key story line points that define "Pale Fire," shall we? Dr. Kinbote is, as far as we know, a real person, an academic who admires the poetry of John Shade, a canonical poet. (I say "as far as we know" because there are those who speculate about his reality, of whether he is a conjuration of Shade or any number of different possibilities.) The novel is broken up as mentioned in the earlier post by three sections, Kinbote's foreward, the poem itself, and Kinbote's subsequent notes which tell the bulk of the story. That story mainly involves Kinbote's homeland, Zembla. He makes it very clear his hope in John Shade's poem was that Zembla would be realized in wonderful prose, which is why he went to such lengths to tell its many stories and describe its scenery with persistence to the venerable poet during the pair's walks. It's also clear, frequently, that despite his fluency, Kinbote hardly understands the finer points of human interaction. He rarely gets hints that he's not wanted. And when he does pick up on them, he's usually contrived an excuse for Shade, disparaging whoever else (usually Sybil, Shade's wife) is culpable enough to attach blame.

Zembla's king, of whom Kinbote makes no bones he is a devoted subject, has been forced into exile in a recent uprising by ostensibly proletarian forces more or less supported by the USSR. This then leads to the parallel running narrative of Gradus, a villainous anti-royalist, sent after the king to, apparently, kill him. Fairly early on it's said that Gradus is John Shade's murderer (and yes, the climax of the story leads to the death of John Shade, but I don't consider this a spoiler; Shade's being dead is revealed in the foreward), and so in Kinbote's notes the two men's narratives run parallel, with Kinbote noting where each was in relation to the other (Shade completing his epic poem and Gradus' movement about Europe and elsewhere abroad) as they moved towards their fatal collision. All of this, believe me, has one questioning the sanity of Kinbote, who seems rather loony, I don't mind saying.

Another final point as regards plot and narrative structure is how unconcerned, almost dismissive, Kinbote seems to be apropos of the poem's real content. I began to feel, and there should be no mistaking this, that Nabokov was pointing out the absurdity of any serious literary critique, certainly of the academic variety, and his notes were principally meant to showcase how much of oneself said academics put into their "objective" analyses of authors' works. (Make no mistake, I see that I myself am doing the very same thing, here and now, even; but I do hope it's clear likewise that I am aware of how much of myself I cloyingly put into these analyses. The point is: please do not reject me).

Have a very great Sunday everybody!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And Reading "Number9Dream" is Done, an Engaging Novel

Everybody's talking about "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet." Good for them. Good for David Mitchell, what's more. I hope he finally wins a much deserved Man Booker Prize. I've got my copy, happy to say. But now I haven't read it as of yet. I did, however, just finish reading the last of the novels I had left to read of David Mitchell's compendium that precede "Jacob de Zoet." (Does that make sense?) Well, it's called "Number9Dream." It was good. I liked it. But we'll get to that.

I think since "Inception" hit the scene and has been one of the top movies of the summer (and certainly a movie I enjoyed quite a lot) "Number9Dream" proved to be a fairly nice follow up to that. Mitchell's not quite as concerned with literal traversal through one's subconsciousness (By the way: is it possible for that to truly be literal? I guess . . .), but the notion of dreams, as the title certainly expresses, does play its own part. Mitchell, more or less, overtly expresses his influence by direct reference to Philip K. Dick in "Number9Dream," and his novel -- as much as any of Mitchell's others -- demonstrates this affinity for the much ballyhooed cult sci-fi writer with its surrealist plot turns and ambiguity, all of which have an advanced-technology bend to them, so that even though the setting is ostensibly present day Japan it still feels as if it is actually a place far more futuristic (as is sort of my impression of Tokyo, anyway) than our contemporary world, capiche?

(Ed. Matt's Note: It certainly doesn't hurt that I was reading "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" in concert with "Number9Dream" -- as specifically goes divining parallels between the two authors.)

The novel primarily concerns Eiji Miyake, the illegitimate son of a prominent Tokyo citizen whom the story centers on, to the extent that Miyake is trying to discover who, then, precisely this citizen, i.e. his father, is. What's somewhat interesting to me is how little, in the end, I felt the notion of numbers mattered to the story. They appear constantly, seemingly betokening any twist of fate, positive, negative, or neuter, that Miyake encounters, but even at that still do not -- from what I gleaned -- illuminate any greater truth of the story by their significance. 9 might as well have been 1568. But maybe that was the point. What do I mean? Just that we can find numbers everywhere and they can seem to follow us if we are looking for them to do so, and we can contrive meaning to attach to them for that.

It's probably in existential terms what amounts to an attempt at making sense of the absurd. (Camus help me out here.) The only meaning is that which we attach with our own personal consciousness (or the influence of others and theirs), if I'm correctly taking the existentialist tack, which I suppose I am. It's just that the novel is awash with references to the number 9, some seemingly important others less so, and I can only derive from this then that they are subsequently meant to mute each other's significance with their over-saturation. Of course I might just be a little too lazy in scrutinizing its significance, also. There's my little caveat copout, of which any reader who reads me blog consistently knows I am so fond of dropping at the end of these expositions-0-mine. So sue me.

What remains true in my opinion is that David Mitchell is a world-class story teller, who is among my favorite, possibly all time, in fact. There's still something Nabokovian to his writing, although my attitude about this being the case has diminished some from my originally asserting it in my post about "Black Swan Green." Moreover, he can take narratives and archetypes that may feel stale or false in the hands of someone less gifted and keep you engaged and enraptured till the story reaches its terminus. How Mitchell spins a story line that involves Yakuza mobsters, Miyake's romance with a talented-to-the-point-of-precocity young musician, his estrangement from his mother, factotum-lifestyle in the big city, and the overarching hunt for his father is beyond me, but he does.

So while "Number9Dream" is probably my least favorite of David Mitchell's works I've read to date, it was by no means bad, and is certainly worth your time. Absolutely it is worth your time, actually.

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Pale Fire" and its manifold weirdness which makes it unlike the others

Others of Vladimir Nabokov's novels is how I mean "unlike the others," to clarify. -- Ed. Matt's note.

"Pale Fire" isn't just different structurally, although it is different in that way (set up to resemble a critical edition of an epic poem), but it's wildly different in shear scope of its introspection, given the strange mania of the narrator, Dr. Kinbote, who is, similar to a great many other Nabokovian characters, an obsessive. Nabokov's novels are never short on introspection, to be sure, yet this one is brimming with it. In fact, it's that strange detachedness belonging to the erudite narrators of Nabokov's stories, with their simultaneous zeal for the things that they find interesting, that keeps me coming back. All great writers are, of course, uncommon, and Nabokov's novels demonstrate time and again exactly how true that is of him, as well.

But to return to structure for a moment, it is the novel of an epic poem, but only as that's been rooted at its epicenter. The epic poem, which is also featured in its entirety, has the eponymous title, "Pale Fire," and is penned by the introverted but seemingly magnanimous poet laureate of Nabokov's imagination, John Shade. (Suddenly Paul Auster's characters' names appear to have a recognizable antecedent.) Shade is, meanwhile, the embodiment of Dr. Charles Kinbote's obsession, an affliction that has numerous layers, most of which still in one way or another return to his preoccupation with Shade and Shade's oeuvre. As is alluded to with the introduction, penned by Kinbote, and made undeniably clear with Kinbote's subsequent "notes," the story's true focus concerns not Shade but his ebullient biographer and one-time neighbor, i.e. Kinbote himself. Sybil Shade, John's wife, alternatively, struck me as representing the interests of John with respect to his dislike of Kinbote and people who act like him. People who find their way into one's life with fairly self-serving purposes at the heart of this endeavor. The whole "where were you before I made my money" sort of phenomenon.

Still, to be fair to Kinbote, I don't think that notion accurately describes his motivation, or at least not entirely. What he wants is something deeper, perhaps more nefarious, than basking in the reflected light of John Shade (no irony very intentionally intended). Maybe a more apt comparison would be to say Kinbote is a learned, slightly less cartoonish hanger-on like Bill Murray's ludicrously multi-phobic, dependent Bob was to Richard Dreyfuss' pompus psychiatrist and straight-man foil in the movie "What About Bob?" He's a man who has produced his own narrative, of a strange land called Zembla, which he deeply wishes would resonate with Shade, so that in some form or another it manifests itself in the poet's work. This desire shows itself to be something akin to the way we find meaning in all the terms we come across in life, and even more so to the minutely detailed way in which scholars of any discipline parse meaning from the important works of genius considered venerable-nearing-sacrosanct in their respective fields of study. Kinbote also proves that the line between the artist's culling a reality and one's own attempt at crafting a reality, as I guess would be the case of certain kinds of madmen, is -- as the adage sort of goes -- very thin. (you know, more precisely the line between genius and madness, which is specifically the old adage.)

I can say it's very hard for me to restrain myself from giving away crucial plot points (twists and so forth), even though with Nabokov, I think, twists are less important as a plot device (as a method of keeping the reader reading) than what they mean to the individual (as he seems to prefer the first-person narration) laying out the tale, whatever it be. Twists in that respect then, seem more a way of conveying how perception is the truth of any revelation, because what is the case is only the case insofar as you believe it to be thus. It's hard not to get a sense of the unreliability of Nabokov's usually self-interested narrators. Kinbote is no exception.

Perhaps in a separate post I will more carefully analyze the various principal plot points that define this masterwork. I haven't decided. I don't know if that's really necessary for my own self, in terms of feeling I've adequately gripped the text. But it is one of those novels that leaves you feeling there are so many places in which to invest your attention. A certain kind of madness has that effect on me, compulsion to continue to wrestle with its "meaning."

Novels and so forth are Rorschach Tests, by the way.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

More Lorrie Moore with "Self-Help"

I don't know if Anis Shivani would lump Lorrie Moore in the category of writers like Denis Johnson and Lydia Davis -- writers who he says university writing students are trained to like because they're easily "imitable" -- but Moore does teach at a university, so maybe. Whatever, it's no matter. I will say no more about Shivani's views for the time being. The previous post exhausted that topic to the extent that I am interested in it.

Lorrie Moore, meanwhile, remains an interesting subject -- one whom I only came upon earlier this year thanks to a friend's tip. She is a very unusual writer, and for that she is frequently polarizing, inasmuch as her career trajectory has disappointed quite a few people to this point while others have found her departure from the abstraction of her first story collections refreshing. I might be counted in the latter group, but I also find merit to Dan Green's arguments in the middle of the three links above.

Green notes, in effect, that all of the uniqueness that defined Moore's initial efforts has slowly been lost to traditional narratives, which she might have succumbed to for any number of reasons. One is that she's become, as a professor at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, too immersed in the academic realm of MFAs and the sort of fiction writing / reading encouraged in that milieu. Green notes that things have been lost in her style. And they have been, but I think crucial things have stayed the same.

Her humor is still sharp, as I see it. It's all her own, too. A really great wit defines the ironic turns of her characters' narration. And to depart from Green a little further, I found a friend of mine was correct when she complained "Self-Help" is best likened to candy that's too sweet or a really rich desert. The second-person, instructive narration is good in small doses but, in my humble opinion, becomes the bad sort of gimmick by the end. (Quick aside about gimmickry so called in fiction: I've always felt what separates a gimmick from a narrative device is the subjectivity of the reader -- BUT -- with respect to the subjectivity of this reader (i.e. me) -- one sure fire way to fall to gimmickry is to belabor it, whatever it is, for the length of almost an entire collection of stories.)

What's my point: well, that's a little to a lot of what "Self-Help" is. Don't get me wrong. It is good, but too much good stuff, as I've said before about other things. In this case, "too much good stuff" is a bad thing. I felt overloaded and overburdened by it to the point that it took me away from the narrative too greatly. Call me lame, but that's one of the things I enjoy about Moore's newer fiction I've read.

Read it for yourself, though, and enjoy or don't as the case may be, surely. Just don't call me "Surely." -- and yes I'm aware this "Airplane!" joke is a pun of the name "Shirley" (when spoken aloud, you see, one cannot distinguish very easily between the adverb and the proper noun) -- but what you forget is that that joke isn't funny and neither is mine.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lydia Davis Has a Good "Almost No Memory"; But Anis Shivani Begs to Differ

If you just wait long enough, it's easy to find a firestorm of controversy regarding certain literary topics of interest online. The last big one I can recall was Katie Roiphe's lamenting testicles being figuratively cut off contemporary male authors, though I think she maybe put it in somewhat less crass terms. But yesterday I woke up to the lit blogosphere sirens sounding about Anis Shivani's list of the 15 most overrated authors writing these days and questioning the merits of creative writing MFAs (which that latter point is one that's been made by lots of folks I needn't link to / is a popular point to attempt to make these days). YAY! I for one am thrilled about this article, in part because it somewhat involves Lydia Davis, who is the primary subject of this post, because of her short story collection, "Almost No Memory," which about a week ago I got around to finishing. (Shivani invokes Lydia Davis as one of a slew of authors who are popular in MFA circles because they are just so easily imitable, and, thus, I guess frauds for other frauds to ape like fraudulent apes. I think this is probably too glib, personally.)

A friend of mine recently made the comment that even regarding the authors he likes best he is certain he could exposit at great length on their flaws, on what about their writing, in effect, irks him. I think this is true in my case, also. For as much as I love the authors I love their are plenty of things about their writing that is, in my mind, less than perfect. It wasn't until my friend pointed this out to me that I realized it's perfectly reasonable for this to be the case, also. It's perfectly reasonable to like and yet still take exception to the work of the writers you admire. Nobody is beyond reproach. And that's the point.

And it's in part why 1.) I can say I think Lydia Davis is on to something interesting but not always something that is interesting to me (given my own personal interests) and that 2.) for as much fun as railing about how overrated certain writers is, as I'm sure Anis Shavini felt no small satisfaction in putting things so bluntly about those whom he deems the literati's sacred cows, it also seems tremendously beside the point -- because anyone could stamp "overrated" on any writer who has ever existed, especially if they've breached the boundaries of anonymity to the capricious embrace of the general public. "Shakespeare is overrated." Google that. Go ahead, and tell me you don't get a million pages worth of tirades against him (ok, 100,000), the man who might not have existed in the first place. (Then Google, "Fraudiam Fakespeare is gay." You'll no doubt get fewer page results.) And who cares? It's beside the point. You can also find a million reasons to argue that Fakespeare is good. These lists are superfluous because in the end they amount to one thing: personal preference, however nuanced and well thought out it may be / appear to be.

There's something too "Donald Barthelme" to ignore about Lydia Davis' work. I mean that in the best possible sense, that the two authors share a certain fundamental quality that informs their work, capturing that similar muse. Or maybe Lydia Davis has been influenced by Barthelme to some extent I'm not aware of. I know that I do not know about that.

"A Second Chance" was one of her stories in "Almost No Memory" that hit my personal mark of "being interesting." Tell me there's not something Barthelme-esque in there, someplace:

If only, for instance, you could get married at eighteen twice, then the second time you could make sure you were not too young to do this, because you would have the perspective of being older, and would know that the person advising you to marry this man was giving you the wrong advice because his reasons were the same ones he gave you the last time he advised you to get married at eighteen.

I think it's a worthwhile trudge to trudge through those great many moments of disconnection if only to get to the great many few-and-further-between moments when you do find something you value in what the author has written (which is to say: finding things of value is not so much on the author to provide, but for you to determine by yourself that they have value to yourself). This is something that can't really be cherry-picked through, as I see it. You have to read the whole and sum total of a work or collection to be sure you've given it the old college try. No skimming of passages is really efficient enough. I don't know about speed-reading, since I'm not a speed-reader and wouldn't want to be one, neither, gauldurnit. I therefore won't speculate where speed reading is concerned.

Anyway, you also don't have to trudge through something that doesn't interest you. I'm just saying, hey, maybe you'll find that there's something(s) worth liking in that trudge through Wharton or Woolf or Faulkner (although admittedly I had to stop with Woolf, full disclosure being the thing what it is). And maybe that will make you feel like those minutes you spent reading said work weren't crap minutes flushed down the crapper, because you'll never ever get them back, no way. That's not how time works, physicists have theorized and perhaps proven.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Now They Tell Me I Have to Read Jonathan Safran Foer

I finished "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss, who is also -- it seems -- Jonathan Safran Foer's wife. They live together in the same home, I hear, and talk to each other as a result, or at least I'm willing to bet they do. I have no concrete evidence of their many (probable) exchanges, some of which might well be intimate! Who knows? I'm getting off topic and probably sounding a smidgen envious. Of who, precisely? Let your imagination run wild!

N-E-wayz, I enjoyed Krauss' fiction published in the New Yorker recently (before I knew she was married, or to whom, so you'll have to excuse my obliviousness), and I wanted to check out a novel of hers, accordingly. So I have, "The History of Love," as said. Plainly stated, the novel is mostly good with a certain amount of saccharine schmaltz that muddies it more than I would deem ideal. And yet, she uses "and yet" -- the characteristic expression of Leo Gursky, one of two characters the novel mainly concerns -- to great effect. I am perhaps alone in feeling the way I do about this, but I've decided it was appropriate in every instance it was employed, nicely timed and not overdone, despite its being often used. But that's just one thing.

Friends who've read both authors (i.e. Jonathan S. Foer and Krauss), who are more "in the know" about these two writers (because they've read both and not just one), tell me I have to read JSF, if for no other reason than the following: the two authors' styles and motifs are, they say, awfully similar. It's possible that this authorial tandem, husband & wife style, has been negatively impacted, creatively speaking, by their close proximity to one another, i.e. their marriage and life together. And if true, brings me to my next point: no marriages. Ok, ooookkkk, hold on. I'll agree to end the marriage ban on one condition: someone send me free books all the time. Or how about this? At discounted rates of the very variety. No? Fine. Great, once again I'm left with nothing, but oh well. At least I have books (-- not very discounted, though).

And one of those books is "The History of Love." I'm not sure if it's a complete history, the definite article preceding "History of Love" certainly implies that this is so, and yet . . .

Krauss nicely layers things. You begin by not knowing which way is up, which in my view is often a nice place to begin. The story is, at that point, the narrative of Leo Gursky, a man in exile from life lived, simply existing without companionship of near every kind. The best he can do is his upstairs tenant-mate, Bruno, a childhood friend who has reappeared later in life, after both men have resettled and long resided in America. Bruno may or may not be real (spoiler: he almost certainly isn't). Leo, meanwhile, is pursuing contact with his son, a professional author who doesn't even know Leo is his father. Leo falls into the locksmith trade, on arrival in America, because of a relative already in that business. Leo in turn becomes a skilled locksmith, the irony of which being he can open any door except those that matter most, the metaphorical ones that keep him from the people he'd like to be nearest to.

Meanwhile, there's young Alma Singer whose mother is depressed, having never quite gotten over the loss of her husband, Alma's father, and whose brother thinks he might be the messiah. Things change for the family when a letter arrives from a man asking Alma's mother to translate the novel, "The History of Love," a book which already has relevance in their lives for its making a profound impact on her father, who passed the book on to Alma's mother with the notation, to paraphrase, that it was the novel he would write for her if he could write.

I don't want to describe much more, as I feel that would run the risk of giving too much of the plot away (something I'm honestly trying to avoid in general on the old blog here). The other main component concerns the ostensible author of "The History of Love" -- Zvi Litvinoff. As you might imagine all the layers of this story converge, as each character's life crosses the others. It works in the end, though in a near dangerously schmaltzy manner, as said.

So now on to Jonathan Safran Foer, to see what I think about all that . . .