“So, you think I’ve got some problem, wanting to research love and intimacy”—as if our narrator is pursuing some absence mirrored in the dance of life, yea!, in the house of some summer night where we were writing our cosmos of poiesis….
So, this is how I look at you—
Writer Vendela Vida is married to Dave Eggers, author of A Heart-breaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), founder and editor of McSweeney’s (San Francisco). Dave, this weekend, is coincidently reviewing the just-published novel of one alleged genius, David Mitchell, of whom it was written, in 2004, that this other Dave (British) writes
a novel (Cloud Atlas) that “finds itself staring into the reflective waters of Joyce’s Ulysses.”
It is a devious writer indeed who writes in such a way that the critic who finds himself unresponsive to the writer’s vision feels like a philistine. So let it be said that Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel’s every page.And now, British Dave’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is reviewed by San Francisco Dave, titled “Empire of Desire,” the genius now advancing “an achingly romantic story of forbidden love,” in Edo-era Japan (early 19thC). “After a brief encounter,” writes Eggers,
during which [the Japanese woman, Aibagawa Orito, reflecting what draws the Dutch de Zoet] hands him fruit from her garden and he blurts out his interest, he climbs the island’s watchtower, his head swimming in thoughts of her. And here Mitchell’s incredible prose is on stunning display. It’s worth a long excerpt, so here goes:That’s me: fallen—but no genius; just happily possessed by daemonic ideas.Hollows from the fingers of Aibagawa Orito are indented in her ripe gift, and he places his own fingers there, holds the fruit under his nostrils, inhales its gritty sweetness, and rolls its rotundity along his cracked lips. I regret my confession, he thinks, yet what choice did I have? He eclipses the sun with her persimmon: the planet glows orange like a jack-o’-lantern. There is a dusting around its woody black cap and stem. Lacking a knife or spoon, he takes a nip of waxy skin between his incisors and tears; juice oozes from the gash; he licks the sweet smears and sucks out a dribbling gobbet of threaded flesh and holds it gently, gently, against the roof of his mouth, where the pulp disintegrates into fermented jasmine, oily cinnamon, perfumed melon, melted damson . . . and in its heart he finds 10 or 15 flat stones, brown as Asian eyes and the same shape. The sun is gone now, cicadas fall silent, lilacs and turquoises dim and thin into grays and darker grays.….It’s a novel of ideas, of longing, of good and evil and those who fall somewhere in between.
You wonder why I bother here to note another narrative of displaced longing, now reviewed by an author of voluminous jest married to an author of displaced grief.
I don’t know. Today’s a relaxed vacation day, and I love to read and write. Also, I’m enchanted by notions of intimates living some complementary artistry, by the pretenses of literary longing, and by ideas of genius (our secular angels).