Saturday, April 15, 2006

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Some notes on a book I read recently.

A book by Paul Auster - "The Book of Illusions"

This is an excellent book. Auster refers a lot to the French writer Chateaubriand.
Chateaubriand wrote Mémoires d'outre-tombe which was published in 1848. It has two thousand pages, and is said (in Auster's book) to be the best autobiography ever written.

A suggestion in the book for the translation of Mémoires d'outre-tombe is Memoirs from Beyond the Grave, but it was felt that Memoirs of a dead man might be more like it.

Reference is made to a two-volume edition of Chateaubriand's Mémoires by Pléiade compiled by Levaillant and Moulinier.

Quote from the Mémoires: "Ce lieu me plaît; il a remplacé pou moi les champs paternels"

Other writers, singers, composers, etc. mentioned by Auster: Dashiell Hammett and André Breton; Pergolesi and Mingus; Verdi, Wittgenstein, Villon; Rimbaud, Laura Riding

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Philip Roth – in his book "The Plot Against America" – mentions on Page 92 that it was common in the US in the 1940s to refer to meals on menus in restaurants by their French title, e. g. "roast beef au jus" and "pecan pie á la mode."

There are some nice touches in the book "Bad Dirt" by Annie Proulx.

Page 66

He was addicted to what he called "hammer coffee," strong enough to dissolve the handle, float the head.

or on Page 73:

"Them rich pricks are lower than a snake's ass in a wagon track."

and on Page 121:

An elderly widow rancher in Wyoming is talking to a newcomer to Wyoming country from New York, she says to him:

"How's your teeth?" "Pretty sharp?"

"I don't know," says he, nonplussed by the odd question. "Why?"

"Always lookin for somebody help us castrate lambs."

On Page 152 she has a great description of a man with a very large gray beard:

"Here was a man who cared about his beard. Its luteous glow, its fluffed fullness, the mild fragrance of rose petals that wafted from it all declared a pogonophile-meister as Reginald Reynolds might have said."

luteous a deep orange yellow or greenish yellow
pogonophile one who loves beards

Describing the face of a cowboy she writes:

"He bore the traces of acne so severe that his sallow skin, resembled sand drilled by a fast-moving cloudburst."

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