Monday, February 27, 2012

Parallel Stories, Volume One: The Mute Realm

Before I get to the Hungarian novelist Peter Nadas' behemoth novel, Parallel Stories, I think it would be nice to recommend some of the books I've read this month. Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is pretty funny. It wasn't necessarily something I would have read if it hadn't been given to me as a Christmas gift, but there are some very witty chapters, the funniest of which I'd already read in "The New Yorker". I do remember reading that article in the bus and making of a fool of myself while unsuccessfully trying to stifle my laughter. Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses is excellent and disturbing (and short!). And Julian Barnes' short story collection Pulse is full of witty but completely unrealistic dialogue. Unless all conversations in Britain really are just like the banter you hear on BBC panel shows like "Would I Lie to You?" or "QI". What I'm trying to say is, all the men in Barnes' stories sound like David Mitchell and Stephen Frye and I have absolutely no problem with that, especially since they figure in pretty much all of my sexual fantasies, which, unsurprisingly, only involve overweight British comics of questionable or outright homosexual orientation.

So back to Nadas. Here is another classic case of one book critic not reading a book and giving it a fairly positive review, misleading me into thinking I might want to read it, which eventually leads to me buying it if the circumstances are favorable, and then going home and reading it. Even if Nadas' novel weren't 1133 pages long I'd still roast it, I think, and I'm only on page 374. But it's too late. Once a book has been started it must be finished or something terrible with definitely befall me, I just know it. So I keep on.

Problem is, I really can't take this out in public, although the subway is one of my favorite reading venues. Last time I did, a cute young blond sat next to me and, assuming she's like me, would have read over my shoulder this: "He saw only female limbs, could not imagine anything else, only gaping cunts as he filled them with his cock, there were no faces, no whimpering, nothing belonged to them anymore". At this point I sort of slumped in my seat in the hopes that my hunched back would obscure the girl's view from my reading material. And you may say, "Well, that's just one sentence relatively early on in the book. Page 74, I believe?" To which I'd say, "Yeah, well, let me tell you. There is one 40-page sex scene and every single thrust, every single drop of pre-cum is cataloged for our benefit. That chapter, in case you want to avoid it, which I recommend you do, is inexplicably called 'The Quiet Reasons of the Mind'".

"They were crying, choking, sighing, panting haltingly, whining, sniveling, wailing, sobbing, whimpering, hissing and mewling into each other's ears..." Is this what copulation is really like? With the two adults involved alternatingly acting like spoiled children and bellicose cats? Have I been doing something wrong all these years? Has Hollywood been lying to me? My favorite line so far, from a different chapter, is the disturbing analogy of comparing a man and woman's copulating genitalia to "two meat-eating flowers".

Only 758 pages to go. 

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