Sunday, August 11, 2013

Because my roots are in it

On Saturday I was mesmerized by a novel, Canada by Richard Ford. I hadn't read anything by him before, and this was an e-book, which is usually harder to read than printed books, but still, I read the novel in one day.

Ford's story is dark, and then even darker, but there is something in the telling which is so deep, and so perfect in the telling, that I don't remember many books being like this.

And I'm not alone with these thoughts about this novel. This is what a reviewer wrote about it: "a mesmerizing story driven by authentic and fully realized characters, and a prose style so accomplished it is tempting to read each sentence two or three times before being pulled to the next."

And here is a quote from the novel, concerning composition, "the arrangement of unequal things", which may fit the subject of photography as well:

[...] What I know is, you have a better chance in life — of surviving it — if you tolerate loss well; manage not to be a cynic through it all; to subordinate, as Ruskin implied, to keep proportion, to connect the unequal things into a whole that preserves the good, even if admittedly good is often not simple to find. We try, as my sister said. We try. All of us. We try.

The photograph was taken a week ago, and I felt that somehow it fits my feelings about the book.

(Posting title is from the poem Lilacs by Amy Lowell.)


John Marshall said...

I agree that Canada is both a dark and deeply moving novel, superbly well written. If you want to read more Richard Ford (I think he is among a small handful of outstanding U.S. novelists) you might try The Lay of the Land. This is a story of a man reaching the end of his middle age years, contemplating the events of his life that seem to be moving him toward understanding his own mortality. The first five pages of the novel--the prologue--"Are you ready to meet your maker"--should be required reading in literary composition courses. Not as dark as Canada, I think it is at least as profound.

And thanks for continuing your impressive work of fine photography.

Juha Haataja said...

Thanks, John.

I have reserved from the library the novel "Independence Day" by Richard Ford, as it is available in a Finnish translation. Apparently the translator has done a good job with the novel.

I'll put "The Lay of the Land" on the reading list next, it has also been translated into Finnish. The first Frank Bascombe novel hasn't been translated, though, and I have been thinking whether I should read the novels in order or not.

Reading a book in English and Finnish can sometimes make a difference, much depending on the skill of the translator, and the style of the writing; some writers are very hard to translate into other languages.

John Marshall said...

The Bascombe trilogy does not need to be read sequentially. I feel the first of these--The Sportswriter--is the least substantial work. I happen to be rereading Independence Day presently. It has dark themes that are balanced by the curiosity and humor of a man trying to understand his life and relationships.

Juha Haataja said...

John, I got today Independence Day from the library, and I really is rather intensive writing, all kinds of thoughts coming together in Bascombe's head. Not an easy read, but intriguing, after about a dozen pages read so far.

John Marshall said...

Yes, I was thinking about what it would be like for me to read a book about the thought processes and emotions of a book character, translated from Finnish into English. I imagine that would be less easy than for a translated book that is primarily driven by plot or events. For that reason alone, the Bascombe trilogy might be less meaningful than Canada was. There are limits to the translatability of life's more subtle written feelings. But I wish you the best with it.

Juha Haataja said...

My first impressions are that the translator has done at least a competent and maybe even an admirable job with Independence Day.

But the text is not something for fast reading, it needs some care. What was surprising were the glimpses of humor which weren't so apparent in the novel Canada.