Dear Writer/Submission Sender:

Thank you for offering us the opportunity to review your work. We regret that we cannot publish your submission, as it does not meet our current needs. Please accept our apologies for this form letter, but the volume of submissions we receive makes it impossible to respond personally, which is a total bullshit lie! Honestly, we could easily spend the time reading your submissions and sending personalized responses. We know this because we did it for about ten years, but then we got all selfish and tired and older and wanted to spend our time enjoying life and/or reading The Bros K etc and were able to see within like six seconds that a submission would not be something we'd want to post, which made it really hard to personally respond to a submission if we only read it for six seconds and quickly scanned its literary DNA and realized we didn't have a match. 

With that said, of the recent batch of submissions, we did read two stories most of the way through, one about a very hairy beast of a dude and another involving Scottish heather with some illustrations/graphs. We wavered on these and maybe once would have posted them back when we posted things more frequently. Everything else we "looked at" more or less struck us as generally not the sort of thing we're interested in posting, which means that your submission could be perfectly great for another spot but for this spot we've tended for 10+ years to post stuff unlike your stuff, which means we're not posting anything right now, that we're passing on every single freakin' submission that comes our way, which is insane for a lit site that runs on submissions, right? It's like a car wanting to run on liquid gold but not getting liquid gold from any gas stations and therefore deciding to stay empty and parked forever. Well, not forever. We'll still look at submissions and hope something like engine-revving liquid gold comes our way. Until then, we're screwed, at least in terms of looking like a lit site with anything to offer readers. 

Thanks to the submitter who caught the typo in our submission guidelines. (You misspelled "pulling" in the fourth paragraph of your story. Just sayin'.) 

To the Canadian who included the long bio and the "pitch" in his e-mail and on the first page of the attached manuscript: you really don't need to do that. The bio is fine to include, generally (few editors really read them closely), but the "pitch" is totally unnecessary and very much not recommended. 

We wish you all the best in finding a home for your work.


The Editors
Eyeshot's Irregular Online Literary Reading Service


Dear "The Editors" of Eyeshot,

In regard to reading "The Bros K" instead of responding personally to submissions, let me inform you: Alyosha leaves his life in the priesthood. It is touching. The final trial is 100 pages too long. Skip it. Other miserable Russians eke out miserable lives as Russia enters a new era of tyranny. Rise and repeat.

Although a singular achievement in the Russian canon, I question its importance over making a direct contact with submitters to your august publication. Although I empathise with the ennui or langour you feel after a decade of selfless one-to-one feedback, "The Bros K" is less important a saga than "Resurrection" (Tolstoy) or the magical satire of "The Master and Margarita" (Bulgakov). Might I suggest reading these tomes instead? This will leave you with more time to respond personally (as droll as your form response was), with each novel weighing in at 400-500pgs approx.

Although I appreciate you wavering on my Scottish heather piece, I implore you to widen your literary horizons. Instead of passing on every submission that comes your way, perhaps publish something occasionally? Magazines with blank pages are all very well, but it is CONTENT that brings in the readers!

So here's hoping there's an end to the white, unobtruded-by-text aesthetic of Eyeshot, and a new era of actual words and pictures! Viva CONTENT!

Good luck, "The Editors"!

With love,

M.J. Nicholls


Dear Mr. or Ms. Nicholls,

Thank you so much for your kind, informative, and gently chiding response to yesterday's form-rejectionary slaughter of all submitters. Thank you also for giving away the end of The Bros K. Have you read Anna Karenina? If not, please know that she throws herself under a train at the end. What's good about such immortal masterpieces is that they withstand spoilers. Who really cares what happens? It's more about the whole movement of their worlds, the transparently flowing language, the fully evoked 3D characters, the wisdom, the heft. I haven't yet read the Bulgakov or Ressurrection, but they're both toward the top of the queue. There's so much to read, not to mention submissions from readers of our contentless "web magazine," that it gets sort of daunting for us, and surely also for readers who come to a site expecting to see something and instead see nothing. Maybe that's not daunting for them at all, maybe it's refreshing, maybe it alleviates the pressure under which we're all pressed down so steadily, the progressively encumbering yoke of all those long Russian books and books from other countries as well, for example The Instructions by Adam Levin which is a new American novel I own that's already warped the bookshelf on which it sits thanks to its half-million printed/bound words. I mean, faced with all these books, including the remaining 315 pages of The Bros K for me, doesn't Eyeshot have a sort of moral obligation to provide no content at all? 

All I see everywhere online these days is CONTENT. Endless Facebook status updates (often with links to more content); dunderheaded comments under articles comparing McNabb's return to Philly, coupled with Vick's redemption and Kolb's demotion, to -- what else? -- a Russian novel; old-fashioned news sites and blogs about news sites (and news about blogs re: blogs on corporate news site blogs about blogging, or something like that); videos of all sorts, including every range of human everything, including a nice selection of Wedding Present vids, and of course tons of ever-so-tasteful pornography available at the flick of the wrist; and finally a million zillion lit sites, responses to which bomb their way down the duotrope.com screen, not to mention blogs about rejection, helpful/condescending blogs by literary agents, and blogs by sassy attitudinal assistants to literary agents, all of whom pretend to live on whiskey. The last thing we need now is MORE CONTENT. 

When we started Eyeshot there wasn't all that much content online that wasn't unreadably formatted -- marginless stretches of text all the way across fifteen or at most seventeeen inch monitors, often on pink or pale green backgrounds. There was content back then but it was effectively contentless because who could read it? But now that people know how to format content, oh lord. To quote Mr. Will Oldham: "I cannot rest with so many singing so many songs and what a way of singing, their voices are bringing trees to their knees, with nothing to say when they're speaking." Not to say that trees have knees or that the content has nothing to say but if the voices we hear in our editorial capacity here at ye olde Eyeshot don't quite move us to make them internationally accessible and associate them with all the content already on the site, then why bother? Maybe contentless lit sites are the way of the future. 

We rode this e-lit wave before it really even began to swell and now that it's crested and broken and skidded out duneward in a soapy froth, maybe it's time to recede back to the line where sea meets sky? 

That's it! The horizon is our new role model . . . 

Thank you again for the book suggestions and correspondence. We really miss the correspondence. We used to receive dozens of e-mails a day. Dozens a day. Not so much anymore, sometimes none. Sometimes an entire day passes and only leaves fall.

So are you a boy or a girl? 

Do you know A.L. Kennedy? 

Wait. Are you A.L. Kennedy?!


The Editors

PS. We decided to add some content below, but if you're interested in contentless content, simply close your eyes as you scroll down, or click here: eyeshot.net/___.html.


Potential submitters: before submitting, please consult the Mark E. Smith Guide to Writing Guide



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To promote the Tranquility, the common defense, and the domestic Welfare. This insures the common defense insures the general Welfare and the domestic Tranquility of it. Insure the common Welfare and the defense of the provided for Tranquility provides for the general and the domestic and common insurance. The common Tranquility and the general defense and the common Welfare, the general. The common defense provides for domestic Welfare while the general Tranquility promotes the domestic defense for the general defense it provided Tranquility to. The common Welfare, meanwhile, insures the common defense, provides for the general Welfare and promotes domestic insurance. To secure the insurance provided for by the common defense securely defended by the general Welfare of Tranquility. To secure the domestic commonality is a must. 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The general Blessings and the common Blessings, the common defense and the Welfare of it. Tranquility, providing for the common defense, secures the Blessings and promotes the general defense. Provide for the common defense, the general Welfare of Liberty, securely, the common Welfare and the security of the general Blessings of Liberty. The Welfare and the common Liberty secures the Blessings of the defense of a general attitude. Basically, promoting the Blessings and securing Liberty are part of the common defense provided for by the Blessings, in hopes that the defense of the common and general Welfares agree with each other. Lest providing for the Blessings of Liberty becomes the securing of the general Welfare and the general Welfare sees fit to provide for the common defense of it. To ourselves, the Blessings appear common, so the promotion of the general Welfare is secured. The Blessings of Liberty to ourselves is secure. The common defense is secure, and the Blessings are promoted to ourselves and the general security of our Welfare. The common Blessings to ourselves feel secure and common, the defense of the Welfare to ourselves feels promotable to ourselves. Ourselves are the common defense promoted by the general Welfare, secured by the Blessings of a common Liberty to ourselves. The common defense, the general Welfare, the promoted Blessings, ourselves, of Liberty. The Blessings of ourselves feel common. To secure Liberty, the general Posterity of the Blessings, and the Welfare of it, along with the general defense of our Posterity of Welfare, a more general promotion is secured. So Liberty, a more defensive Welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty. Liberty, to secure the Blessings of our Posterity, in general, a defense of our Posterity from itself and the promotion of Liberty promote a more defensive security. The promotion to ourselves and our Posterity are a defensive Liberty, a promoted general Welfare, and ourselves to secure and keep secured our Posterity of the Blessings of Liberty. The general Welfare promoted, our Posterity secured by the Blessings. Do ordain and secure the Blessings of Liberty, ourselves for the Posterity and the general Liberty, plus Welfare. Promote the general and ourselves for the Blessings and the Liberty of it. Welfare, to ourselves and the general Posterity, to secure the general Welfare, to promote the Posterity of Liberty and the Blessings of Posterity. The general Welfare and the Posterity of Welfare, to secure the Blessings and the ordaining of it to ourselves and for Posterity. Welfare and Liberty, the Posterity promotion, the general Blessings, all promoted. The Liberty of Posterity, do ordain and secure the Blessings of Welfare. To secure the Liberty of our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Welfare for the general Blessings to ourselves and our security. The Blessings to ourselves establish the ordaining of the Welfare and its generalities. Of Liberty, to ourselves, our Posterity, Blessings secured, do ordain the Welfare to ourselves. Secure the Blessings. Our Posterity and the Liberty established by the Posterity of our general Welfare. Our Posterity ordains and does. Ourselves and our secured Blessings establish the general Welfare of our Posterity. Secure the Liberty before the Posterity establishes the Blessings to ourselves. Do ordain and establish the Blessings to ourselves and our Posterity of Liberty. And here we have the Blessings of this Constitution, to ourselves, and the securing of Liberty in order to do the ordaining and establish it. Although the Welfare is securely established of Liberty, ourselves and our Posterity do ordain the securing of this Constitution of Liberty and Welfare. Our Posterity, established by this Constitution, constitutes the Blessings that established it to ourselves and our Posterity. Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the established Blessings of Constitutions everywhere. Of Liberty, securely, establish ourselves and the secured Welfare of Liberty. Establish our Posterity and this Constitution securely. To ourselves, this Constitution of Posterity establishes Blessings and Welfare. Establishing this Constitution to ourselves secures the United States of America from ordaining the doing of the securing of Blessings to ourselves and our Posterity. The Constitution of the Blessings of Liberty secures this Constitution for the United States of America ordainly. Our Posterity, our Liberty, to ourselves, securely, this Constitution of Liberty, do ordains and establishes Liberty and Posterity to ourselves, to the Blessings, to a new Constitution, established for the United States of America. Establish the United States of America and secure its Blessings, its Constitution, and its Posterity. Do ordain and establish the Blessings of the United States of America.



Note to everyone: if you're a writer or reviewer and you're writing about a book by someone you know or have some association with via other friends or an agent or publisher or if you're writing something to please someone with the hope that this person might in turn scratch your back too, please consider revealing this association at the beginning of your review etc, the way they do in the medical field wherein physician authors must include a disclosure statement that reveals potential conflicts of interest. We have compiled a rogues gallery of the untrustable based on blurbs and/or excessive promotion that in no way seems to reflect a realistic reading experience. Selling books is important, sure, but when hype seems too high, it underwhelms the entire endeavor, which ideally is about getting at the truth, meager sales bedamned. If you have a goodreads account, add a "potential conflict of interest" shelf. If you hype something on facebook, tastefully mention that someone is your friend etc when you hype. Is that too much to ask? Does it seem naive, not taking into account that most promotional activity, especially promo activity online in the so-called indie publishing world, but also of course so often seen on the back of major publication copies, is inherently hyperbolic and untrustable?



For more impressions of new and old books, click here.

Impressions by Sallie Hooterall

Liked the PR/General chapter. Liked a description of old tattoos on saggy flesh. Liked the big fish caught in the East River. Really liked the sudden jumps 35 years into the future! Otherwise, not my bag, ultimately. Doesn't really involve music (despite cover etc) and when it does involve music it's from a troubled bidness or hackneyed adolescent "punk rock" perspective (overriding question: when does a fake mohawk become a real mohawk?!). Imagine buying a book touted as being about unicorns, with a lovely unicorn on the cover and reviews re: unicorn content, but then when you shell out $$$ and read it its unicornishness is like no more than 10%. The mock-DFW footnote-heavy journalism section irritated me (maybe also because I read it on the 2nd anniversary of DFW's death). The power point slide pages were formally clever but that's about it (also: it's Foxy not Foxey Lady -- intentional typo?). Otherwise, was always aware I was reading creative writing/fiction, a different feeling from reading something that feels like lit. Characters seemed unappealing (erection-laden men, many of them violent) and didn't deepen into 3D humanity for me. Not much (skim or even soy) milk o' human kindness, generally. Attempts for language-y exactness consistently triggered distraction and zone outs in this reader (eg, a cascade of long hair described "like a shattered window" -- oh wait! Might the "shattered" bit relates to the structure? Or, um, who cares? Does it matter in the slightest?). Speaking of structure, it didn't do it for me and didn't really seem particularly original. Few, if any, stretches of insightful essayistic exposition and extended description (what I tend to like). Thematic stuff re: time seemed pretty basic (guess what? things change with time: poignancy alert! also, did a character named Chronos really get mauled by a lionness?!) -- and beyond that I detected few suggestions of other subtextual stuff, maybe because my imaginative/generous reader sensors mostly switched off after the first 50 or so pages? (Have people really compared Egan to DeLillo?!) It's a well-loved book -- and even called "pitch perfect" in the NYT Book Review -- but I guess my ear's attuned to the music of other spheres. So be it if I'm outta fashion. As Mr. Bowie says re: the goon squad, beep beep!

Impressions by Lennon Moore

A feelgood alcoholic wish-fulfillment happy-ending hybrid of chilled-out Gogol and irresponsible Norman Rockwell. Makes you wanna down a few Pernod and visit cafes where ladies for hire hang out. A short story more than a novella. The last thing Roth wrote. Not really on the same level as his masterpiece, The Radetzky March, but a nice lil' literary sumptin' sump.

Impressions by Throop Roebling
Recommended manifesto re: primitivism, Navajo poems, Romanticism, Rimbaud, Duchamp, Dada, Surrealism, the radioactive core of inspired work, on and on. Covers too much ground to summarize. Formal swerve matches content. Wonderfully composed and inspiring, even if it sometimes seems intentionally excessively overecstatic/associative. Too many page corners turned down to count. More LOLs than expected for something so densely crafted (albeit consistently skeptical of the sterilizing codifications/commodifications of art into craft). Every page has 3+ epigrams: epigraphs waiting to happen. Eat this succulent choirpreach peach of literary enlightenment and revel in the glorious eros of errors.

Impressions by Sallie Hooterall

An admirable short novel that seemed to do what it wanted to do just fine, I guess. Mid-level misanthrophy. One minor LOL for me re: the girls basketball team. Occasionally precious A+ "creative writing 101" descriptions ("she smelled like freckles"). Felt like an overextended short story? Monotextured (that's a really wonky way of saying it maintains a similar tone/pace/approach throughout). A "terse novella" maybe would have worked better? Synonymous piling up of phrases too often made me aware I was reading contemporary literary fiction? Too often a little too cutesy for me, like it aspired to be turned into a movie by whoever did "Little Miss Sunshine"? Too often, overall, I was aware I was reading fiction, aware of the dynamics of the story, the inevitablility of old-fashioned character change, instead of seeing/believing in the characters? Maybe the characterization needed reemphasizing sometimes? Likability wasn't as much an issue for me as not really believing in the characters or the story because of the prose/tone/syntax? Sort of fell somewhere between Tinkers and Netherland for me in terms of readerly "enjoyment." By which I mean I can appreciate and admire passages, descriptions, scenes, but there's something in the helices of its literary DNA that didn't exactly twine with my readerly genes? Here's a sentence I can pull to support what I mean: "Some kids were just kiss-asses and they couldn't help it, no more than one can help being Samoan or allergic to celery." As a reader, I can't help being sort of like a walrus, whereas this book can't help being more of a manatee. We can swim together in the same waters but can't quite breed, you know what I mean? I can't help prefering another sort of fiction, something a little less "sane" in form and content, something maybe a bit more individuated at a sentence level? Also, I've always had trouble reading about kids. The few books involving young adults I've loved are way crazier than this one, with way more thematic HEFT: The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie, or His Dark Materials Trilogy. This one's not really my bag, ultimately. So I guess I should say something like sorry, it's not you, "Citrus County," it's me . . . you're readable and professionally executed and, physically, a beautifully designed book, plus you include a great line about a sky of clouds like the aftereffect of an exploded sun bomb, but I just couldn't get beyond something in your tone and tactics re: these yearning (default emotion of contemporary literary fiction), confounded, essentially good-hearted yet ultimately mostly misdirected/parentless (or nearly parentless) kids and one of their young teachers etc, and so I wish you all the best in terms of finding a devoted readership.

Impressions by Zosima Vix

A story in this early collection (1967) is titled "Is It A Comedy? Is It A Tragedy?" That's been the question for me through all the Bernhard I've read. I laugh a lot. But I laugh at rants about suicide and governmental ineptitude and general hatefulness. It's not American humor at all. It's not English humor. It's that tricky Germanic/Kafkan humor that's not really "funny" but strikes something in you that makes you make a noise like laughter. Todd Solondz does that, too (just saw "Life During Wartime"). Ultimately, the comedy?/tragedy? story (this isn't really a "spoiler") states that it's a comedy, although there's nothing particularly "funny" about a crossdresser revealing that he pushed his mother into a canal 22 years and 8 months ago. A few other stories overtly mention "comedy," something I think pretty much lacking from other books, even "hilarious" ones like Woodcutters. Regardless, intermittent ocular application of Bernhard's wholly individuated style/sense -- no matter early or later (usually considered better) Bernhard -- makes me appreciate my comparatively well-adjusted consciousness/life. I need to read this again, and since the stories are short compared to his 155-page, one-paragraph rants, I might be able to read a lot of it again before the night's over. An OK intro to his stuff (better to start with Woodcutters and The Loser). Seemed a little like story-length versions of the page-long bits in The Voice Imitator -- that is, the stories are humanized elaborations of crimes you might read about in the paper, rather than the intricate thoughtwork of superobsessive geniuses. A nicely constructed hardcover book -- cool cover, red boards, solid binding -- from a small press.

Impressions by the Eyeshot Editor

Recommended for anyone who had any experience with Frank Conroy and wondered what it might have been like to have known him better. For everyone there when he was the director, he changed lives, definitely, by inviting folks to spend two years living like writers. 

I once sat across the table from him and tried to argue about the importance of exposition when he quoted Henry James -- dramatize, dramatize, dramatize! -- and he waved a hand in the air as though calling for rescue and countered with "calumny!" (I looked up the word when I got home and e-mailed him to apologize and he responded that I needn't worry and that he appreciated my presence in his class, a phrase I'd intermittently savor and re-use in my own classes a few times). I loved the old dude pretty much immediately, but also, like everyone, was slightly scared of him, but in the way I was slightly scared of the old prep school teachers I had who were unpredictable but always entertaining and brilliant. 

It's clear I can't write about this book without improvising my own condensed Frank memoir, which is probably a testament to this book's goodness: the meaning/music of it, the co-created thematic stuff, is the thread of a reader's recollections (re: Frank, The Workshop, Iowa City, Connie, Charles D'Ambrosio, et al) nicely tangled up with everything Grimes relates. 

I loved when Grimes repeated Frank's thing about "sensing an intelligence pulse through the page" (that's something I remember Frank saying -- a similar quote from the book would be this: "A reader . . . must feel the continual, but unobtrusive, pressure of the writer's soul behind every sentence.") 

But this book also isn't really all about Frank. 

The first part of the book I found sort of centrist, tonally, despite horrific bits about the author's sis. I kept wanting things to bust out formally, tonally, somehow, but then a bit of screenplay midway seemed really sort of not like the right move to me. Which didn't matter much, though, because soon I dogearred some pages where the prose lost all the self-conscious writerliness early on (there's a description of lines in a man's face -- the simile escapes me, but it was one of those lines that makes you aware you're reading "creative writing" instead of something necessary/inspired/good) and just said what had to be said: "But for me writing is a necessity. I exist in sentences. I forget my sense of failure. I forget time. I forget that I'm aging. I forget that one day I'll die." When the writing seems like it's as honest as possible, it's really pretty excellent. 

This one starts well, sags some, but then improves as the author loses his shit a bit mid-career after experiencing ye olde Literary Poignancy Lesson 101 (ie, seriously raised expectations, semi-dashed hopes) and as Frank gets sick. Good, also, to read Mr. Grimes' eulogy from the memorial service. I was impressed and moved when I heard it in person -- that's why I preordered this book, not having read anything else he'd done. 

Definitely recommended for the memory-lane waltz (if applicable), but also recommended for anyone interested in an honest, well-constructed, fairly bullshitless representation of an ambitious, semi-tortured variety of writerly reality. The sort of book that makes you keep the faith and/or reinforces respect for the peculiarly important, intermittently maddening endeavor of reading and writing. 

Potentially of interest: some letters from students that were compiled and sent to Frank before he died were anonymously posted here -- might make for excellent supplementary reading.

Impressions by Alix Hadji

The first half was real funny, tons of LOLs, totally audacious comedy masquerading as autofiction masquerading as Hamlet-referencing horror. But then the language and insights and humor fell away in favor of just-the-facts one-line-per-paragraph plot execution. Lack of plot in BEE's first three novels totally works -- but this one's self-consciously consumed by its outline (his narrator even refers to the "writer" who would otherwise fill out certain spare plotty bits). Ultimately, a totally audacious, intentionally uneven, easy-reading take on one writer's serious daddy issues (and some good thoughts re: writing, fame, drugs/addiction, kids, and a very funny bit re: bachelorhood etc). A bit of a disappointment for me, but an excellent example of writing that refuses "to embrace the mechanics of East Coast lit conventionality" while nevertheless being published by Random House's high-end literary outfit. Also interesting in terms of how it joyously loads up a tall sacrificial pyre of supernatural, irreal, and metafictional aspects instead of observing the rule to only introduce a single fantastic element and keep everything else realistic, a la Kafka. But in the end, even if pulling off the mask of good writing thematically associates with pulling off masks of fame or notoriety or layers of emotionlessness related to one's angry upbringing, it didn't make for much more than stripped-down reading that made the author's possibly earnest revelations re: family and father and self etc -- no matter how "hard won" or serious -- seem as cheap to me as the intentionally unwriterly language. But, for fans, the first chapter or so where he summarizes his career is deliciously funny and pretty much worth the sticker price.

Impressions by Lennon Moore

Totally felt Tolstoyan, specifically the triangulation of characters and flowing transparent prose that's nevertheless never spare. Criticisms (see below) seem sort of nitpicky -- yet imperfections are possibly absolutely a necessary part of what this one's about -- considering how alive the characters seemed, how they spanned time, how they engagingly struggled with personal/political imperfections and therefore seemed to squirm inside the story, asking me to open the book and get back to them when its covers were closed. Not really about something so general as "how all Americans live today" so criticisms re: the book's (primarily) white educated privileged characters not accurately reflecting the full range of contemporary America don't make so much sense to me. More so, maybe it's about taking sanctuary in one's struggles with imperfections of self and world? Relevant related quotes: "Her very difficulty created friction, and friction led to satisfaction" and " . . . needing a more dully and enduringly discontented situation to struggle against and fashion an existence within"? Maybe elements of potential discontent are embedded for readers to discover, like the opposite of (spoiler alert!) a gold ring in a turd? (Note that attainment of a superficially perfect bedmate doesn't turn out fundamentally perfect and that imperfect/inoperable truck parts are valued for their weight more than their function/perfection.) Despite imperfections (or, more interestingly, in large part because of them), I read this in 100-page stretches, progressively awed/daunted by ever-increasing dimensions of character and theme (again, maybe aided/abetted by difficulties with these characters and themes), the evocation of its world, the relevancy to the so-called real world, the forward-rushing push and clarity of lofted effortless language, the sense of spending time immersed in the product of a very talented writer's fulfilled ambition. At times, especially before what felt like an extended lull starting around page 440 or so, I sometimes thought this was a nearly perfect conventionally structured novel -- similar to Anna Karenina in the way it patiently waltzed from character to character, situation to situation, with each new turn gracefully creating the sense of passing time, of life lived offstage while it focused on a certain set of characters/situations. Much shorter books have seemed twice as long. Few books seem quite as alive. Its simple title -- a single word loaded with complexities/dimensions -- elegantly represents the whole (it didn't seem to me to show up as much as some reviews say -- but maybe it'd've been ideal to have only used "freedom" once?). A great novel, therefore, laced and studded with imperfections/difficulties in such a way that lets readers fashion a satisfying/struggling existence within it among living inhabitants who rise from nothing more than the really artful application of print on paper. I also really liked that one of the surliest characters reads Thomas Bernhard, another writer whose constantly undermined idealism re: humanity is often misconstrued as simple misanthropy. 

Some criticisms, difficulties, potentially intentional "imperfections": Parts of the final 120 or so pages (excluding the last 20 pages) maybe lulled a bit too much for me, with too much history about Walter and Patty's parents? -- a common technique: layer the duller stuff in toward the end before a big scene so the big scene seems even bigger. Joey's summertime employment seemed not so plausible, albeit necessary for the story and, well, at least he didn't get tragically shipped off to Iraq etc. An encounter with a West Virginian racist redneck seemed too obvious? Starry-eyed lovers so often become star-crossed in literary fiction -- the demise of a happy character (ie, someone at peace with how they go about struggling with the complexities/difficulties of the world?) seemed semi-predictable and too sudden? Sections of autobiography, especially the latter bits, barely differed from the regular narrative voice and therefore seemed hard to believe? 

Impressions by Sallie Hooterall

Ooof. What can I say? It's a POV tilt-a-whirl, totally melodramatic, wasn't really extraordinary for me in terms of translated language, themes, images, characters (Julien and Mme. de Renal are mostly characterized to the point of excellence, but otherwise?). It dramatizes to the point of ok-already exaggeration the freaked-out/constantly disingenuous game-playing feints and parries of capricious young lovers. Very little love was created in this reader for these "changeable" characters, sadly, no matter how apparently hot Mme. de Renal and de la Mole may have been circa 1830. A few memorable scenes about 100 pages into it like when Julien smooches the arm of the former, a few memorable scenes toward the end when things get wild with the latter, but then it seemed to end abruptly and unbelievably (did Mathilde really obscond with his freakin' head?! How exactly did she pull that off? Not very clear, Monsieur Stendhal -- I read those lines a dozen times!). Thematic schtuff re: appearances/authenticity, the stylish fakery of civilization etc, didn't really make me see the world in a way I actually believed in, didn't enhance my perception etc -- it came off like more of a sarcastic narrative stance than a satirical one, maybe because there's no character the reader can really rely on. But mainly I'm relieved to have finished. A period piece, one of the first novels to track the psychological switchbacks (ie, thoughts) of its characters, but still, it was sort of a slog for me (thanks in large part to the constantly switching POV), with maybe a dozen dog-earred insights/images over 509 dense pages, two or three quick LOLs, and an awesome parenthetical authorial intrusion re: arguing with his editor about the merits of including political discussion -- the author is against it, saying it's like a pistol shot during a concert that doesn't harmonize with any other artistic instruments, but the editor, unfortunately, wins out. Also didn't love the heavy-handed/ironic Julien/Christ connection (carpenter's son, etc). With all that said, there was something comforting about returning to the semi-frustrating world within this little old yellowed paperback every day for about a month. I'll probably try "The Charterhouse of Parma" sometime before 2012, but doubt I'll ever make my way through this one again. 



The July-August installment of Eyeshot included a story called "Last Days" by Mike Ingram, an "essay" by Kevin Hyde "about" Robert Bolaño, seven terrible good reasons to quit your job and work on your novel, a collection of impressions of a few Brat Pack books, the first installment of Q&A with an aluminum shark, and not much more!

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