literary scandals

To pass the time–time I don’t have–I played the game “Strange Bedfellows” with my newly pruned bookcase. Here are the As & the Bs, as they cuddle up to one another on the shelves–

Carolyn Abraham
Kathy Acker
Martin Amis
Kent Anderson
Guillermo Arriaga
HE Bates
Nigel Balchin
T Behrens
John Bliebtrau
Harold Bloom
Marc Bojanowski
Roberto Bolano
Elizabeth Bowen
Charles Bukowski
Michel Butor
Dino Buzzati

There are two games to be played here. One is to guess which books I own of which author. The other is to imagine what these scandalous couples & triples might be saying to one another as they switch off the light (or in Bukowski’s case, accidentally set fire to their own vomit). Obviously, you can only do the adjacent ones, ie Acker/Amis (fun, given what he said about her) but not Acker/Butor, which anyway would be just perverted. Since the Bowen Bukowski coupling is the most unnatural & interesting, you get fewer points for doing that one. If anyone’s interested, I’ll put up the Cs & Ds next. If not, not to worry.

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17 responses to “literary scandals

  1. Josep

    I assume Butor & Buzzati are in your bookshelves. They are a good match, with their vaguely automotive names and they liking for allegorical journeys. I imagine them sitting face to face in a train through an endless steppe, totally absorbed in books, saying nothing to each other, but with the nagging suspicion that they both are in the wrong train, and that the war can start at any moment.

  2. uzwi

    Hi Josep

    >>I assume Butor & Buzzati are in your bookshelves.

    That’s the idea, yes. I think you have Butor & Buzzati dead to rights. Your image of them is very fine & would fit well into a novel by either–indeed Buzzati would probably develop it up to 80,000 words…

  3. Josep

    Thank you. I was certain you would have their books. Buzzati is a bit long-winded sometimes, indeed, but he wrote many fine short stories. I like him a lot.

  4. Martin

    How about mixing Balchin’s “Small Back Room” and Bates’s “Love for Lydia” – alcoholic scientist with false limb goes ice-skating: with heart-breaking results …

    Bowen/Bukowski: I got an instant image of Bowen’s wonderful story “Last Night in the Old House” being interrupted by a Waits-like postman – “You gotta sign for it, lady.” “Never mind that – I’ve just found this glove. Is it yours, by any chance?” You need the Waterford crystal, Cicely Courteneidge voice for full effect.

    Your shelf is a lot longer than mine. I don’t know Bojanowski or Buzzati!

  5. uzwi

    >>Your shelf is a lot longer than mine

    Not so very long now, Martin. Prolonged dumping has left me with about 350. I stored some, but we all know that “storage” is just a cool-off period, a stage on the way to the dump. There are a couple of dozen review copies downstairs; & a small heap of poets under the desk waiting to be carted off to whatever unpleasant fate the universe holds for them.

    My heart feels light. I could go further. I feel the call of the zen of no books.

  6. Josep

    “I feel the call of the zen of no books”.

    Here’s a pseudo-haiku (by a minor poet soon to be carted off):

    Many books I wrote,
    but now
    only the silverfish
    is devouring them.

  7. lara

    In the middle of Acker now, I can only presume she’d ask Martin Amis to “lick my cunt harder, Mart” and perhaps she’d add, if she was feeling kindly, “you can do it”. But I leave it to you for his response… I ain’t gotta clue. Would he just do as told?

    I’m kind of struggling with Acker, having been tempted to her by a comment by Tim Etchell in his blog/notebook on Somali pirates & Acker. I really wouldn’t want to read what she’d write about it… I’m kind of tiring of her cunt if truth be told. Would Martin?

  8. uzwi

    Lara, I don’t seem to be able to add anything to that.

  9. lara

    What did he say to her anyway? (And I hope I’ve got the right Acker, though mine has no ‘e’ in Kathy)…

  10. Brendan

    Acker writes a book called ‘Times Arrow’; Amis ignores her.

    Harold Bloom keeps everybody up all night pontificating about Western Culture and complaining of gout.

    As for guessing, I’ll do Bolano: Nazi Literature in the Americas and By Night in Chile. I don’t particularly like Bolano, but the final line of the latter is one of the best ever written.

  11. uzwi

    lara & brendan: it’s what he says about her. Talking about Brian de Palma’s “intransigent, blinkered and marginal” vision (in “Brian de Palma: The Movie Brute”, The Moronic Inferno), he claims there’s no literary equivalent “except perhaps Celine, Burroughs–or Kathy Acker”. Because it lacks some kind of balance, & because it produces structures which can’t be shown to be rational in some male, vaguely Menippean way, his contempt for this kind of “vision” is boundless.

    “Kathey” was a misprint. Sorry.

  12. Val

    I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve only heard of 2 of those authors and haven’t read either one. What does that mean?? And, no Iain Banks? But, but, but…

  13. uzwi

    Hi Val. I was saving Iain for my forthcoming list “some good science fiction”…

  14. Val

    Ah hah! I’m very much looking forward to that list.

  15. Martin

    Lara, I don’t think I can add anything, either.

    Certainly, no one’s asked me to do that for them on this particular rainy morning: perhaps it’s fear of swine flu. But the day is yet young.

    Val: don’t worry. I think it’s left a lot of us scratching our head or squinting at the shelves in Borders!

  16. John Dallman

    Ah, you play the bookshelf game too. My personal favourite pairing starts with L.Sprague DeCamp’s biography of H P Lovecraft. The sparks it thows off sitting next to Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr Hoffman are quite something.

  17. uzwi

    Hi John. Good to know I’m not alone. One of my ongoing projects is Sylvia Plath & Brian Plummer (Tales of a Rat-Hunting Man); meanwhile–I’m not making this up–Ted Hughes is having a 3-way with Isherwood & Auden. All kinds of grotesqueness is taking place on bookshelves. They are following the advice of Denis Johnson’s Francis X Sands: “Get in there. Have intercourse with snakes. Eat human flesh. Learn everything.”