too much czgowchwzness spoils the broth

Posted by Marie on Thursday, February 24, 2011 in , , , , , , , ,
Mawrdew Czgowchwz - James McCourt
Fiction; ISBN 0-940-322-97-8; New York Review Books, 1971.

This is a story of an opera diva, impossibly named Mawrdew Czgowchwz (that's 'Mardu Gorgeous' to you) - her debut, rise, semi-fall, comeback, and then finally happy ending. I'd like to say more, but that's all there is to the story.

This is my first NYRB book. Considering that many of my book club friends love NYRB, I hope I won't disappoint them too much if I said that I didn't like it.

Not that isn't not engaging. It is. The cast of characters is also quite lively. And there's the farce too: all those catty and humorous things James McCourt wanted to to say about high society, artsy snobbery and fanaticism, and what-have-you.

It's just that the book is too much: of words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and even interjections), of linguistic tricks (yesiree, this is witty, with a capital W), of characters (too many and each too colorful, like a cramped zoo cage full of peacocks).

Let me pick this quote:

"The libretto told (in details as intimate as the knowledge flesh succeeds in gaining of flesh, in metamorphic cunning transparent as windows, in plotted dramatic incident obvious as mirrors, in a denouement as inverted as words beyond mirrors) of the capitulation of twin brother and sister through a whirlwind into salvific madness, of their headlong retreat from this world of causes and effects into that silent, mute, subworld paradise where all affect is abandoned."

Is it really necessary to tax the readers' patience? Do you need to make the readers work hard when all you really want to say is this: 'the libretto is about a twin's descent to madness'?

So anyway, during the course of reading this book, a half-formed suspicion germinated in my mind regarding NYRB's choice of so-called 'classics'. I'd like to be proven wrong, of course; that would mean I need to read at least one or two NYRB books again. Uh huh, my enthusiasm is killing me. -_-

So to those who had read other NYRB books, any suggestion on which ones to get next?



No problem, Marie. Not everyone who loves NYRB loves all NYRBs.:) Too bad you didn't like your first one. Their selections, though, are very eclectic. They have a lot of difficult reads, but they also have a lot of easier reads. And they pick authors from various genres.

I suggest you try out A High Wind in Jamaica. It's a fun and funny book, but also makes you think a lot. My favorite so far, though, is Stoner. Such a joy to read. And not like this one--language is simple and beautiful.

Awww... I just feel so bad that your first NYRB read turned out something you didn't like. If you feel like checking out other NYRB titles, I have lots to lend to you.

And I have the perfect one -- Innverted World by Christopher Priest. It's a novel written by the same person who wrote The Prestige. Inverted World would appeal to the engineer in you.

@Honey: So you're suggesting A High Wind in Jamaica, but not your favorite one, Stoner? Why?

@Peter: Ooo, a science fiction! And The Prestige had been in my TBR for ages! Sige sige, I'm going to look for this one!

Oh a practical question though: how, where do I find, and how much are NYRB books? Kasi, I just got this one from Rise via Bookmooch so I'm not sure where to get it myself? And I haven't seen one in any Booksale branches.

NYRB in a Booksale? Good luck! So far, I've only spotted one NYRB from Booksale ever! Recently, most of my NYRB acquisitions came from Fully Booked. Powerbooks had several years ago, but they haven't been stocking up on these titles recently. You can also find them at Best Sellers.

Unfortunately, NYRB titles are a bit pricey as compared with other trade paperbacks.

Waaaaah! Tinapos mo talaga sya. Di ko sya natapos, mukha nga kasi syang panget. I just read a dozen or so pages. Actually the intros of NYRB books are so comprehensive (and full of spoilers), they already give you an idea if you will like the book. I got this one from a bookseller in Multiply. I also spotted several NYRBs in a sales bin in Powerbooks Greenbelt a year ago. Out of 4 books I bought, at cheap prices, I read only 2. The two I gave away in BM because they were "unreadable." Not all NYRBs are stellar. Best to get the titles that are highly recommended. A lot are in my wish list, but yes, they are expensive. I did manage snag a couple of titles from Bookmooch.

@Peter: I'm actually thinking that there might be some titles in Booksale that are NYRB books pero yung pre-NYRB versions. I actually don't prefer versions or covers din naman kasi - as long as they are readable, they're fine with me. :)

@Rise: Aha! Kaya pala you're offering them for mooching. Actually, the book could've been good. On thinking more about it, I guess the style is done that way to further drill down the point that the characters' lives are too excessive. But that is making things redundant - hence the failure of the book. So anyway, have I told you I've lost the other one, the Desani book? I think I accidentally left it in a bus. Hay. :(

Naiwan sa bus!? That was an Angel book, if I remember.

Honga eh. Buti na lang the guy was understanding. Gosh, I need to send it na pala!

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