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

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Going through all these things twice: Reading The House of Breath

Last section of William Goyen's The House of Breath is typical of what's right and wrong w/ this novel: long, detailed, beautiful account of the narrator's recollection of the day, when he was a boy (of age uncertain) on a long walk with an older man (his brother?), Christy, hunting in the woods, during which Christy provides him with some lifelong knowledge and also tells the story of his failed marriage and his recovery of his wife's drowned body (maybe this is the imparted wisdom?) - in short, extraordinarily beautiful writing at times, at other times so over the top as to be laugh-out-loud, and hovering somewhere between mysterious and just plain obscure: at end of novel we still, or I still anyway, don't know who the narrator is. This was a first novel and showed incredible promise, but my suspicion is that Goyen never matured his talent - strangely, he seems to have spent his career working in theater, which seems a mismatch for his talents - today he would surely have landed a good academic post. He reminds me a little of Red Sox pitching this season - so much raw ability at times, but unable to put the ball in the right place, tantalizing and hopeful for a young pitcher, or writer, but what will become of them? what became of him? One would have hoped, reading this debut novel in 1950, that his youthful exuberance would cool down and he would write something equally beautiful but more accessible. This is a novel worth reading, once - unfortunately, to really understand it, if that's even possible, you have to read it twice.

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