Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Frog Hospital

Both Tao Lin and Bret Easton Ellis read Lorrie Moore books. I was at a book sale where these huge bags full were a dollar. I saw a Lorrie Moore book. I've read it since. It was, as expected, an experience. I'm not sure how to keep writing in this sort of concise, lame, entirely uninteresting tone. I'm afraid it's my normal voice.

"Scotch Mist" is on. I'm much too tired to be writing this, but I guess maybe a little depressed and want to be distracted by my keyboard. Maybe more nervous than depressed. I get so nervous at times for specific non-nerve inducing reasons and I think to myself this can't be normal. By means of transition from the last post, we might speak of how Lorrie Moore is referenced in the Tao Lin poetry collection I own. Of course I've lent it out, but because of the good graces of the internet, let us hope I can find a quote for you, rather than being reduced to sending angry text messages to the person who has not finished the book yet. This is taking longer than I had hoped. Let's hope I can find something, because, as Beyoncé would have it, blowing up someone's phone won't make matters worse. Actually um bear with me I am going to put a real lame summing up of the quote in a block box and edit it later hopefully.
presumed female tells Tao the only reason he reads Lorrie Moore is to steal from her
The Lorrie Moore of Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? at least exists as a sort of anti-Bret Easton Ellis. Her narrator is overly aware, the sort that tends to fall into the category of the novelist character, the kind of person that you just can't see having these thoughts unless she was writing a book. The phrase occurs to me now to call the novel an "autopsy of childhood." What it really is a description defier. Probably a fairly lame thing to note, but it really is difficult think about how one could actually go about describing the book. You have the fairly traditional concept of a narrator looking back, but Moore provides us with a quandary, not so much an unreliable narrator as an untelling one. It becomes difficult to truly understand how every event has been felt and what the characters truly think about each other. Perhaps we could call this a lie of omission, but it never quite reaches there. The book is more felt than understood. Sure, the plot is simple, but for me the effect was often more poetic. The type of language carved from stone, where you sit back and reflect on specific sentences.

Is my sleep deprivation showing? My lack of writing ability? Like I've stated above, I really don't know if I'm aware enough to be writing this to any degree of dignity, but I wanted to get my mind off things and feel like I had accomplished something. Line that stuck with me: "But even the italics, it seems, are losing their italics." Just looked that up as page 72 in the book according to Amazon. There was a lot of French in the book that was occasionally lost on me but that was presented perfectly, allowing for belief in the reader's ability to understand, investigate, or move around. It is perhaps in the best interests of the reader that this post is temporarily suspended until I have slept and thought more.

Okay back now. I could say the Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? is a book about identity. It's about attempting to construct who we are through investigating our past, a double-ended murder mystery, because the mystery itself is a mystery. Trying to understand how we get to the places we are in our lives. While it's a very good book, it feels disjointed. I don't think this a bad thing for the book, but it makes it less easy to review, to talk about. The future narrator reflects on a past that feels somehow disconnected. Which is perhaps the point... The sheer difference of our lives, or the lack thereof. The creation of differences in history among people we always thought would be like us. There's a bit in the book (I think...not gonna lie, I could be thinking of another book, most likely Glove Pond, but it seems to fit perfectly with this one so I really think it is in it) where there's a discussion of the people we leave behind and the choices we make to do so. It's probably a question that becomes even more pertinent now, seventeen years after the book was published, with the whole Facebook thing. (Stated like Bret Easton Ellis does "the whole gay thing." Figure that one out.)

I myself would be such a part of this. All those people you lost touch with...there was a time when they became simply ghosts on your life. Or at least, I don't know, if you were an antisocial person they became ghosts on your life. Maybe they still do if you're antisocial. I hate the phone so social networking changes the way my life would have been lived twenty years ago. I think the most interesting part of Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? is just how odd it is, how difficult to define or understand completely. The title itself comes from a painting used as a frontispiece and while it comes into the narrative of the book in a way, it's still as odd as you think of it when you first read the book. Perhaps that's why the attempt to write about the book begins with a mad sleep-deprived ramble and then becomes a sort of personal rumination.

One wonders if that's what "reviews" or "debriefings" should be. I surely did not want to write literally "I enjoyed this book and you might too" posts, but I'm still not sure how to go about writing this beat. It's the most traditional of them all and I'm not sure how to do it; odd, I know. But there's plenty to be questioned about how to write "about" a book. I think the best sort of piece is one that is both a bit of a companion to the book as well as a step up into it, like the door jamb to a house you have to raise your foot over. Of course this is a spectrum that has no wrong end. If one or the other is accomplished, I'll probably enjoy myself reading it. I'm not good enough to really do either one so I have to apologize for boring people, but I don't think anything is more boring than the way reviews are often written. The put down or thumbs up reviewing doesn't interest me. (The put down reviewing is essentially useless in my opinion.) And I'm done here. Follow me through some links starting with this one if you want to read the opinion of one of my favorite poets on reviewing practices in American poetry.

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