the sorceror's apprentice
This week's New Yorker, in reviewing the early novels of Saul Bellow, offers an opinion that may end up being the requiem for Song of Roland:
We tend to think of young artists as a wild and crazy bunch, but often they are the oppositedepressed, grouchy people who sit around wondering why all those older artists are getting the grants and the contracts. Their work bespeaks their mood. They imitate their elders, and not admiringly, but grudgingly, in the spirit of "I can do it, too." In fact, they can't do it, because they don't really believe in it, but neither can they do what they're meant to do, because the moment of courage has not yet come. And so, for a while, they produce tight, hard things.
"Dangling Man" is a respectful tribute to its modelsDostoyevsky and Rilke, plus Sartre, I believeand at points it is handsomely written. But looked at today, through the lens of "Augie," it is amazingly constrainedstingy, even. The dialogue is often inert, the pace hypnotically even. There are no memorable characters. If I didn't know the book was by Bellow, I would never guess it.
So who decided to publish that one? I don't think my book is as boring as Dangling Man seems to bebut then, I doubt I'll ever write The Adventures of Augie March, either. I suppose in lieu of that, one keeps beating down doors.