- Denis Johnson, Out on Bail (from Jesus' Son)
- Annie Proulx, A Lonely Coast (from Wyoming Stories)
DJ essentially boolshit, words randomly chunked, junkies and criminals, with some soapy portions that apologetically slide into dark and chunky again like a teenager being cool. One story by DJ I had already heard was somewhat better, but the randomness persists and is, in hindsight, destructive. His clearly recognizable predecessors are, regrettably, much better at what he does.
AP goes in a similar direction, but works. The prose a crunchy mouthful, the randomness harnessed and well massaged into the story. Tough, graphic and memorable.
That the two came together on one night is absolutely coincidental, but, incidentally, both are mentioned in a half-brained stiff-upper-lip rant by one B. R. Myers, who can't stand modern writing habits and bemoans the untimely demise of august personalities like Hem and Kipling and Conrad and such, making arguments in favor of appraising a whole book instead of choosing a lovely sentence. While the latter seems to him to be a fashionable pastime and just as far as a reader nowadays would go, fungus-for-brain goldfish like he is, none of the positively reviewed modern authors would stand the former test (if B. R. Myers were The Appraising One, that is). Curiously, his argument is built upon short passages from the works he ardently despises (DJ and AP among those).
Fuck that, better read on a related topic: Elizabeth Hardwick, The Decline of Book Reviewing published in the Harper's Magazine in fucking 1959. Brilliant read, actually. EH's "Sleepless Nights" and a book by V. S. Pritchett I bought at Ms Hardwick's behest, as it were, emit a warm glow from their shelves while I read Denis Johnson and E.(!) Annie Proulx.
1. Elizabeth Hardwick, having writ an excellent essay, is introduced thusly in the Harper's Magazine issue of 1959: "A distinguished novelist and book reviewer herself, Miss Hardwick is the wife of the poet Robert Lowell." They should've commended her noble wifely behaviour towards the philandering drunkard in the same vein. It's not only the "in her own right" patronizing shit, it's why do you need to fucking snoop, that's what. Go do a critical edition of yourself, Magazine.
2. The ultimate success of a book in my view is the blinding desire to reread everything you ever read (or eliminate from the having-read-experience) after you finish the book. If it did not do that to you, it's just a drifter.