The Unbearable Banishment: A Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Pulitzer Prize Finalist

In addition to the post title, Karen Russell's debut novel Swamplandia! is:

Rolling Stone:
Beautiful, dark and funny.

The Seattle Times:

The Boston Globe:
Dazzlingly original...

The New York Times:
One of the 10 BEST BOOKS OF 2010!!!!!

The Unbearable Banishment:
So fucking boring I don't know how I'm ever going to finish this thing. I'm on page 278 of 397 and each turn of the leaf is like a slog through a vat of waist-high gelatin. I'm not invested in any of the characters. They could have all been eaten by alligators by page 50 for all I care. I don't mind heavy drama, but the novel's unrelenting dreariness is wearing me down. What, in God's name, are all these reviewers and the Pulitzer committee talking about?! I am completely out of synch with the litterari. If I ever get through this, I'm going to reread A Clockwork Orange to restore my faith in the novel as an art form.

*     *     *

Daughter the Second. Six years old. I predict she will annihilate the hearts of many men without regret, starting with mine. I hope you're looking at this on a high resolution screen. As with most of my good shots, this was completely accidental. I snapped this in a booth at a diner. The light source on the left is a window. I didn't do any retouching in Photoshop. That's the raw shot.

 *     *     *

We walked the boardwalk in Asbury Park yesterday afternoon. This kid is out there drumming every weekend. I say "kid" because I chatted him up once and he's only 20. He's got this shitty little drum kit but, boy, he knows how to beat the hell out of it. Aside from his extraordinary rhythmic skills, he's a kick to watch. A ballet. He told me he likes to concentrate on visuals, which isn't something you hear drummers say very often. Watch how he handles those sicks. Tosses it up with his right hand, changes the stick in his left hand over to his right, and catches it with is now empty left hand. All in a split second. Twirl, twirl, twirl.

*     *     *

A pretty, young Chinese girl walks onto the downtown R train with her gigantic Plaster of Paris rat. The reaction from the other passengers? Compete and utter indifference. Of course!

*     *     *

If I were a wizard for one day, I would conjure an irrevocable metaphysical law whereby if you dialed a number on your mobile phone while behind the wheel, it would instantaneously superheat to the temperature of molten lava. If you tapped out a text message while driving, the phone would detonate, taking your hand with it.

Ooh! That was a little dark, wasn't it? But it's an epidemic out here in Stupidville, U.S.A. Another wreck this past weekend. Is it as big a problem in other countries?

*     *     *

Self Portrait #3

*     *     *

EDIT via Savanna: Apparently, my self portrait reminds her of this guy:

Nice. So much for my ability to express myself artistically.


Blogger Kono said...

I read alot, i mean alot and i now have a tried and true rule or two: #1- i read no one with a MFA, basically cuz if you read one you've read them all, all the same boring trying to be edgy and thougtful bullshit, or one or the other...#2 when i see blurbs of mass publications trumpeting their worth and brilliance i know they are shit, those pubs peddle to the masses, mass culture is a cesspool almost more worthless than politics.

September 17, 2012 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Kono said...

As for the drummer kid- Effing awesome... as for the daughter, you're spot on daddy, good luck with that one but at least you can enjoy the trail of heartbroken boys she leaves behind, if nothing else it should be good entertainment.

September 17, 2012 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger savannah said...

put the book down.



your girl is lovely, sugar! i agree with kono...there will be broken hearts and you will be entertained! the only thing funnier is older brothers dealing with "suitors!"

entertaining drummer. i wish him well! the world isn't kind to drummers.


(and you have mail! your self portrait...well, you'll see! *cackling*)

September 17, 2012 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Kono: I always want to give new stuff a chance. I usually stick to the classics (they don't call them classics for nothing) but I don't want to get caught in a rut. I've got another short clip of that drummer. Maybe I'll tack it onto the end of my next post. He's great! Can you imagine how good he's going to be when he's 30?!

Sav: I'm too far into the book to abandon it now. I'm STUCK. I have to finish it. I think that kid will do okay. He's got a great attitude and is joyful. It comes out in his playing. He seems so happy just drumming on the boardwalk. That, hopefully, will lead to something great.

September 17, 2012 at 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ugh I hated that book, but forced myself to finish it. There is time I will never get back, save yourself.

September 17, 2012 at 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes... I can see the men quivering now!

If you need anyone to do any PR blurb for the mobile device, I'll do it pro bono.

September 17, 2012 at 11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. If you find yourself on this side of the pond, bear in mind that that to chat someone up in the UK includes a sexual element.

All thoughts of which are now banished of course by that astonihsing looking fish :)

September 17, 2012 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm a Dickens fan myself, never found a dull paragraph in any of his books yet.
However, Преступлéние и наказáние Prestupleniye i nakazaniy by Dostoyevsky was as dreary as the title suggests.

If you like fiction, do try the bible...

September 17, 2012 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Anon: I have to finish. I don't want to but I'm in too deep. I'm hoping the last 50 pages are a redemption.

looby: My chatting skills have not been eroded by years of dull office work, untold hours of commuting or too much blog-inspired naval-gazing. The fish is irrelevant.

Chef: Now that you mention it, I haven't read any Dickens for a few years. He was a pretty big influence when I became interested in reading (which didn't happen for me until very late in life).I think you might be right. It's about time. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Google Translate.

September 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Gorilla Bananas said...

If you find a book boring, it's a lost cause. It's like finding a comedian unfunny. The only reason to read up to page 278 is to punish yourself for laughing at a fat broad. Did someone puke on that fish?

September 17, 2012 at 1:07 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

book: *snort* - i like your review. you should publish it on goodreads. quit reading shit. you're circling the drain - don't waste time on bad lit.

kid: i have a daughter who has left a trail of wrecked males in her wake. she is not confused. this is better than the alternative, but hard to watch in some ways, as these gents are generally good animals...

drummer: as savannah said, wish him luck - these are the ones destined to choke on their own vomit. that said? i'd give him a 20 for that stick toss... shit hot, baby...

selfie: is that a beard? stubble of how many days?

September 17, 2012 at 9:29 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

oh, and YES, i typed that wearing ROLLER SKATES!

September 17, 2012 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

The best place for almost all Prize winning novels is a shredder.

Somewhere on this planet, there's a young boy who has just felt someone walking on his grace.

Poor sod.

Drummers are not really musicians. Just ask one to play a chord.

Getting a liitle peeved with mobile phone-usng drivers?

Get an Ithica.

You've got to stop leading with your chin, dear boy,

September 18, 2012 at 3:20 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

GB: Punishing myself is my finely-honed ninja skill. Apparently, I'm not satisfied with the world beating on me. I have to pile on. The longer you read this blog, the more you'll see the truth to that.

daisy: It IS a waste of time but I try not to bail out on a book. One time, I had to stop reading Günter Grass's The Tin Drum because the font was so small it was giving me a headache!

TSB: I didn't know what an Ithica was. I thought it was a town in upstate New York. Good thing you provided a link. I PRAY I never get THAT angry!

September 18, 2012 at 7:09 AM  
Blogger mapstew said...

Someone once gave me a 'present' of a bottle of 'Teachers'. I took one sip, pure shite. It stayed at the back of the press for years, no matter how much I had the longin' and nothing else in the house!

I'm the same with books.

Yes, your daughters are gonna be heartbreakers. Mostly your heart.


September 18, 2012 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger nuttycow said...

Ha! You think the Americans are bad at the texting/calling driving thing, try living out here. I swear, they live on their phones. Thanks for the tip re: Swamplandia. Never heard of it and now, never will :)

September 19, 2012 at 5:01 AM  
Blogger HesdedJim said...

Just wanted to give you a thumbs up for your terrific blog! Lucid, insightful, poignant, etc. I enjoy it so much and look forward to reading it every day (even though it is not there every day, lol). Please, please do not quit writing it and sharing your thoughts with us. The best blog I keep up with and I want you to know how much I appreciate it! Keep up the good work!

September 19, 2012 at 5:14 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

map: I was in a bar on Monday night and they had a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue. It's $44 a shot! My God! I'll bet if you put a shot of Blue next to a shot of Black, you couldn't tell much of a difference. It's all about hype and marketing.

nutty: It's always nice to hear from one of my first readers. I still read you, too, you know. Isn't mobile phone manufacturing a big industry out there?

Jim: Thanks for you kind words. I wish I had the gumption to write every day. I used to write a lot more but I'm down to about once a week. Will try not to cut down any more for your sake!

September 19, 2012 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

What is she thinking when she looks at you with that serious expression? Lovely girl.
I'm thankful little drummer boy doesn't live within earshot and would be interested to know what you thought of 'The Good Soldier?'
Need to download something to my Kindle for hols.

September 19, 2012 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Here In Franklin said...

I LOVED Swamplandia from the first word until the last. It's all Southern gothic mystic, oozy, muddy goodness. In fact, you're the only person I "know" who didn't love. Isnt' if funny?

Will you entertain a suggestion from someone who liked it? Serena by Ron Rash. Look it up.

September 20, 2012 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Pat: That kid can stop a locomotive with that look. My bride and I are in t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

HIF: Swamplandia is a grim, ugly little book devoid of any pleasure. 300 pages of dull and then, because Russell ran out of ideas, a child is raped. I'll never read another word she writes.

September 21, 2012 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger Eryl said...

Someone asked me about that book recently but I hadn't heard of it. There's no way I'll read it now. I always try and read a hundred pages of any book I pick up, and reserve judgment until then, if I'm not enjoying it I give it up. There are too many good books out there to persevere with bad ones.

Your daughter looks strong and gorgeous.

I thought your self portrait was a picture of a tortoise at first glance.

The juggling drummer boy is fab.

Mobile phones and driving: arghh...

September 21, 2012 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger dinahmow said...

Late to the party again...
Don't think I'll bother with the Swampy book.The chef's "fiction" suggestion made me laugh.
And your little girl? I think she's going to be a very beautiful woman. Oh wait! You have TWO such delights to look forward to!

September 23, 2012 at 2:42 AM  
Blogger JZ said...

man....i wish i could disconnect my 4 limbs from the same white boy anti-rhythm in my head.... that drummer is fantastic! But i would LOVE to see him work within a full band...he might be a bit of a scene stealer....

book: sounds like my experience with Infinite Jest. I could never get past 60 or 70 pages.... and I tried....THREE times over the course of many months! I HAD to resign myself to an difference in taste on that as well.....

September 23, 2012 at 11:28 AM  
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