13 May 2016

A Note on Gone with the Mind

A Note on Gone with the Mind

     Mark Leyner's latest novel, Gone with the Mind, much of which takes place in the food court of a mall where Mark reads his autobiography standing on a table with his mother present to a Panda Express worker and a Sbarro worker on break for a total of three, reflects a person apparently who has accomplished nothing other than accumulating a massive vocabulary and the ability to recollect decades of  TV shows and movies and the actors in them.  Mark, the person presenting his autobiography and presumably the author, has as the two most influential people in his life, his mother and his Imaginary Intern who, while existing for a number of years in Mark's imagination carried on significant conversations with Mark and was, it seems from the autobiography, a constant presence until abruptly disappearing.  

     We do learn that Mark actually had a father, a sister, and a wife.  Even mom, in her introduction which is forty-one pages in length to begin the book, makes little reference to dad, and in any detail to only the sister who died very young.  The autobiography is an internal dialog transcribed, reflecting no accomplishments other than Mark's massive vocabulary which is impressive.  If Mark has had any affect on the world, it is not expressed nor can one infer that his life has much meaning to anyone other than his mother.

     The book ends with him and his mother on their hands in knees in a stall of a woman's bathroom at the mall looking for images of people in the craquelure of the tile on the floor.  The craquelure at home is the origin of the Imaginary Intern who at some time disappeared because Mark could no longer conjure him up from the tiles.  Much of the autobiography is the relation of the Imaginary Intern with Mark and the discussions they have had on various topics. It is unclear whether the many conversations between Mark and the Imaginary Intern are strictly internal or whether Mark has a history of spending his days in verbal displays with his Imaginary Intern to the annoyance of those around him.

     What I take from this book is a waste of a life; a life with no purpose, no accomplishment, and no meaning.  Whether or not Mr. Leyner's intent was to portray this is undetermined.  The blurbs on the cover say the book is hilarious, a moving portrait of a mother-son relationship, dizzingly brilliant, dazzling, heartfelt, singular, wild-ass, fearless, and a work of genius.  None of these are true.  Both Mark and his mother are very singular people obsessed with each other and themselves to the exclusion of others.  Neither would be much of an acquaintance.

03 May 2016

A Note on The Serpent of Venice

Christopher Moore

     The Serpent of Venice if nothing else allows you to think that it would be really nice to have a sea monster eating your enemies at your suggestion whenever the occasion arises.  Fortunato, the fool, escapes fate by the grace of a horny sea monster from China brought to Venice by Marco Polo.  Fortunato unfortunately ran afoul of some wealthy merchants including Iago...yes, Shakespeare's Iago, but luckily is a friend of Othello and Desdemona which helps considerably.  Along with the help of his sea monster who either eats the people who want to kill him or otherwise annoy him or chomps off their heads leaving a decapitated bodies laying about, Forunato works in conjunction with Shylock and his daughter, Jessica, to seek revenge on those who have done them wrong or plan on doing them wrong.

     The Jews are relegated to La Giudecca, an island, separating the Jews from the city of Venice.  Unfortunately, Jessica wants to elope with a goy by the name of Lorenzo who of course wants to marry her for her money and then either kill her or leave her on some desolate coast to be eaten by beasts.  I do like Moore's women; they are matter-of-fact, no nonsense, and rather attractive characters. Shylock is a reasonably likable fellow as well, unfortunately as in Shakespeare, he over reaches a tad.

     As one would expect from a Christopher Moore novel, all is well that ends well which all does.  An enjoyable read-one that I would recommend to those who haven't the slightest hint of who Shakespeare might have been or why one should not consider Shylock a model for modern lending practices. With Genoa thrown into the mix and the impending battles between Genoa and Venice, a  little understanding of Italian history is a good thing.  As with most of Moore's novels, one can't read The Serpent of Venice and make any sense of it unless one has a reasonable education to rely on; for example, know where Venice and Genoa are located and what they were and that they might have some differences of opinion that needed ironing out through naval battles and such.