Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Books I've read in 2009

"Slouching Towards Kalamazoo" by Peter DeVries

Peter Devries is a writer once hugely popular, now largely forgotten -- though not completely, I still read his stuff. I'm afraid his books are no longer popular because we as a people have gotten too fat and stupid to understand them. This is highbrow humor, y'all, and it requires some cultural literacy. On page 179, a guy is talking about native Americans destroying their possessions to show off to their neighbors how much they have:

"This is conspicuous consumption. Like you ain't seen since -- since -- "

"Garbo in Camille?" I piped up.

"What? Oh, I see what you mean. All those expensive gowns, box at the opera, holidays in country houses."

"And somebody having to cough up for it?"

That cracked me up. But if you haven't seen the Divine Garbo waste away in the movie Camille you won't get it. And a lot of it I don't have the cultural wherewithal to get either, but when it works I think he's hilarious.

I must have read this book before although I don't remember much about it, because this passage is highlighted, and I was a militant vegetarian for many years:

"The idea of a Supreme Being who creates a world in which one creature is designed to eat another in order to subsist, and then passes a law saying "Thou Shalt not kill" is so monstruously, immeasurably, bottomlessly absurd that I am at a loss to understand how mankind has entertained or given it house room all this long."

And since it was already marked up anyway, I highlighted this too. The protagonist considers it the "Most Beautiful Sentence in the English Language":

"Though my grave be England, my dying place was Paradise, and Eve miscarried of me before she had conceived of Cain."

I consider it interesting.

DeVries books make good palette cleaners for me. Most of the books I read take place mostly in the emotional realm. Devries's characters are witty and urbane, but they are not warm and cuddly.

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