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[FEBRUARY 2015.]

I can’t hold attention all the way through these recent Swans double-deckers, but I do love the backing vocals that come into this one at 4:10.

I also remember above all else an occasion—I bring it up because there is something of an engineer’s touch to it—in which during an entire dinner [Benet] torturously held me in suspense over the issue of how to tell me with the most flair that he had enjoyed one of my novels. And on that occasion—on which I remember that Blanca Andreu was present, as well as another friend—he began by telling me “Well then, this novel, yes, it is fine, what’s happened is that you’ve committed a tremendous, truly unpardonable error in this book and, you see, well the book isn’t what it might have been.” I became terrified, because when someone is your mentor and you take his opinion as the most important response to the appearance of your new book, well, you take in every word; and I began to think that he was going to raise an objection to its structure, or its very conception, that he was going to tell me that its style was horrendous, and he said, “There is a serious problem because there is a moment when you talk about a railway bridge”—and that was the only thing he had written down on the note he had in front of him—“a railway bridge, and you go on to describe it in the following way: ‘The wide river of blue waters, broken by the long bridge of diagonally crossed iron’”; he said, “and of course, that cannot be, because, how could you not have realized that this bridge is,” and I am very sorry, I don’t remember exactly what he said, but he said something that was completely incomprehensible to me, let’s say that he said that the bridge was a bridge of policated beams of blecarian misipication, “And of course if you had said that it was a bridge of policated beams of blecarian misipication [un puente de vigas pudeladas de mispiquel a leberquisa], well, then the novel would have been quite different, how great indeed would your novel have been if you had said this.”

—Javier Marías, “Acto de homenaje a Juan Benet,” tr. Benjamin Fraser in Understanding Juan Benet

I started reading the latest from James Salter and had one of these complete failures of cross-generational sympathy; it was Virginia Woolf trying to get through Hilda Lessways all over again.

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