01282013: With Davis and King

01282013

Hello, kids; it seems I have survived Monday and all the blues that naturally come with it, and then some. Had one book in my bag today, keeping me company through the commute to and from the office, and during lunchtime—a slim beauty published by my old friend NYRB Classics: A Meaningful Life by L.J. Davis. [Plus points that it’s not a doorstopper–not to mention that I just brought one book with me. I’m certain this is not the first time I’ve picked a book to read because it didn’t strain my back.] The novel is touchingly introduced by Jonathan Lethem, who knew Davis—was friends with Davis, who considered Davis a great influence in not only his writing but the very fact that Lethem writes. It’s a refreshing introduction to a writer I know nothing about—and it’s blessedly free from the zeal Richard Ford exhibited when he hard-sold the fuck out of Light Years. This introduction actually makes me want to read the book that follows, not cower in fear of it.

So far, I’ve found A Meaningful Life rather pleasant, surprisingly funny (in a grunt-to-self kind of way), if cringingly relevant: Our hero, Lowell Lake, had gone to New York to become a great writer; instead he’s been stuck in a dead-end job at a plumbing-supplies weekly for years now: “His job wasn’t temporary and things weren’t going to get any better–not that they were going to get any worse, barring some unforeseen catastrophe like atomic warfare or mental illness, but they weren’t going to get any better.” Lowell’s married to a lovely girl, but the first few pages—upon Lowell’s waking—we find that glimmer of unease, of distaste, wafting from Lowell, toward the not-quite-awake human being in his bed. [Later on, there’s this disturbing and unavoidably hilarious chase scene–Lowell’s parents running after him for two hundred miles, as Lowell had balked right before the wedding.] I mean, you can’t help but pull for this guy–this is a man that’s gotten himself in pretty tough situations, usually because of an awkwardness of his own making, and the awkward penguin in me can’t help but commiserate.  Here’s its opening paragraph:

Lowell Lake was a tall man, rather thin, with thin sandy hair and a distant, preoccupied though amiable disposition, as though the world did not reach him as it reaches other men and all the voices around him were pleasant but very faint. His attention was liable to wander off at any time and he was always asking people to repeat things. He gave the impression that people bored him, although not in a bad way: Actually, they seemed to lull him. He was frequently discovered half-asleep at his desk, gazing vacantly out the nearest window.

Yeah, I feel you, Lowell. The blurb promises: “He will make good on everything that’s gone wrong with his life, and he will even murder to do it.” And that, I think, is precisely the kind of happy ending I need in my life right now. [Insert clap of thunder here.]

And then there’s Wizard and Glass–I left it behind because it is quite chunky book, and it will have to stay at home for the rest of the workweek. Anyway, this past weekend, in between pockets of Awesome, I’ve been sneaking peeks at Roland and his posse. That is, during cigarette breaks and stare-downs with an evil cat, I’ve been traipsing along Kansas with Roland the Gunslinger and his ka-tet, Eddie the former junkie, Susannah the former schizophrenic, Jake the former dead, and Oy the dog-raccoon. [Yes, I held out admirably—I began the fourth book six days after finishing the cliffhanger of a third book. I considered it my reward for having survived the past workweek. Don’t remind me that people had to wait six years, haha.]

I’ve survived Blaine the Pain (as well as some genuinely head-stomper riddles), and I’ve just begun the major flashback to Roland’s young years—something, I’ve heard, that’s been divisive among fans of the series. And I understand—it’s primarily impatience for me, not to mention a deep conflict: I want nothing more than to latch on to the ka-tet as they trudge to the Dark Tower; then again, I’ve been suffering my need to know who the hell Roland is, and what sort of life he lead before he began this quest. But cursory whining aside, I’ll keep reading. As if I cannot.

Yep, I soldier on, Evil Workweek, and I’ll read on, too–because that’s what one needs to do. I’ll read on until the next amazing weekend, until Real Life calls and promises that it will be awesome—until, dare I say, I’m closer to what idea of the Dark Tower I have, until I make good with a smidgen of what I obsessively think’s gone hokey with Real Life. Later, all!

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3 comments

  1. I enjoyed the flashback very much, but I get what you’re saying about wanting to move forward with the ka-tet. I felt exactly the same way when I first read Wizard and Glass. On the second read of it, I liked it a lot more because I was able to relax into it.

  2. […] January and all throughout the start of this month, I spent a couple of calm-before-the-storm days with Lowell Lake, the martyr of his own hapless (even bewildered) making and the contra-hero of A Meaningful Life by […]

  3. […] bit in the best way. Lethem is pretty much a new-to-me author—the first of his that I read was his introduction to the NYRB Classics edition of A Meaningful Life—and the entire time, I’ve been struck by how […]

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