Which have nothing to do with each other, other than my having read them all recently one after the other, my having desperately wanted to read them, them all coincidentally being review copies, and them each in their way having a little something to say about art and reality and how perception gets caught between, but then, aren't all novels about pretty much just that?
1. Theft, by Peter Carey.
2. Last Evenings on Earth, by Roberto Bolano.
3. The Helmet of Horror, by Victor Pelevin.
1. I'd in my head constructed marvelous things to say about Theft, but sadly, I didn't write them down as they occurred to me in the shower, so while a few thoughts are still buzzing around my brain, they've lost their context. Still, big ideas these were, and they're not to be dismissed lightly. Like, what's the difference between art and counterfeit art? And how can you tell the difference? The question bothers me tremendously because it seems intention is everything, and there is a difference, but I've always espoused that art, or whatever, should be judged in itself, cold, no backstory. And it troubles me that I'm unable to do this; intent always matters no matter how much I think it shouldn't. And this takes me back some 25 years or so to the day I innocently posed a question during, I dunno, a class discussion of current events or something — the question: what's the difference between thinking you're happy and really truly being happy? Which is juvenile, but dammit, I still don't know the answer and I still want to know the answer. Because there is a difference. But what? What?
I should read more by Peter Carey. My Life as a Fake opened my eyes to the way I read, and I don't know if that's due to Carey's skill as a writer, the way he enfolds and reveals themes, or if it's the themes themselves that get under my skin. Both the books of Carey's I read involve putting one over on the establishment — not exactly an ambition of mine, but it rubs up against the problem of what is really real versus what is perceived to be real, which, I guess, is something I grapple with to some degree or other on a daily basis.
The crux of the book:
How do you know how much to pay if you don't know what it's worth?
Though you might not know it from my rambling here, Theft is the most traditional narrative of the three books I talk about here, like, with a plot, and arguably the best crafted of the lot too, leading you to Big Ideas and being neither too obvious nor too obscure about it.
See thoughts on Theft in all its intricacies at BookPuddle.
Read an excerpt.
Join in the discussion at Reading Matters starting June 30.
And now I must go to bed. I'll tell you about Bolano and Pelevin tomorrow.