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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Out of the miasma, out of the labyrinth: Reading further in The Stonedial and a note on New Yorker story

OK so about 25 pages further in George Konrad's 1998 (set in 93?) novel The Stonedial gets at least a little more accessible; after the muddle and miasma of the first 50 or so pages in which he shifts randomly from first- to third-person narraator and leaves us or at least me in a complete fog as to who the characters are and what they signify, Konrad settles down a bit and has a relatively clear chapter in which I understood for the first time that the main character and sometime narrator, Dragoman, is a literary-intellectual celebrity of sorts returning to his home town (can't remember the name; the town and most of the male characters have names beginning w/ K, for what that's worth) where an old friend, a filmmaker, is now the mayor, and another old friend, Kuno Abe I think is his name, is also on the scene though I'm not sure in what capacity - but at least the delineations of the novel are coming clear: Dragoman begins to reflect on the changes they've lived through, as their world moved from Soviet domination to a brief uprising to eventual "freedom" - and the changes and compromises these men - all 3 of them ? - had to make in their lives to accommodate, survive, and prosper. In the most accessible chapter so far D. reflects on his youth in school, his rebelliousness, which kept him out of army service but also made him somewhat of a pariah and a suspect - constantly under surveillance. It's not a terribly original story by this time, but if he can just stay w/ a straight narrative line for a spell I will stay w/ him and learn more about this character, this author, and his world.

And what's with The New Yorker? Another really short story (Labyrinth) with what seemed to me an amateurish ending: man walks through cornfield labyrinth gets to center and - this is the concluding line - And then he met the Minotaur. Hasn't everyone who's ever judged a fiction contest come across dozens of amateur submissions that end: "And then I awoke and it was all a dream!"? What's the point here? What brings this story to a higher level?

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