Tuesday, December 28, 2010

They call me....

In Josef Skvorecky's THE ENGINEER OF HUMAN SOULS (narrated by a writer/literature professor in Toronto):


1.       A student in a literature class compares the introductory sentences in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" (My name is Arthur Gordon Pym") with that of MOBY DICK by Herman Melville ("Call me Ishmael") and finds them the same.

2.       A student fabricates a school paper she entitles "The Function of Colour in Nathaniel Hawthorne's THE SCARLET LETTER."

3.       Surrounded by his students, the literature professor compares himself to "Gulliver among the breasts of the Brobdingnagian women." (GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, Jonathan Swift).

4.       He asks another student if she has read James Bond (CASINO ROYALE, Ian Fleming).

5.       A character, telling the story of his father who was wounded during the war, says he once "assumed the role of Svejk, that most classic of all Czech military heroes" (THE GOOD SOLDIER SVEJK, Jaroslav Hasek).

6.       Another character says some people think that people in Czechoslovakia under communist rule "live in a hell akin to that described by Father Arnall in A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN" (James Joyce).

7.       A character says she felt "a bit like ALICE IN WONDERLAND" (Lewis Carroll).

8.       The book's third chapter, entitled "TWAIN", centers on Mark Twain's THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN.

9.       A husband says his wife was like CHARLES DICKENS because "books are her children."

10.   The professor recalls students telling him that 1984 (NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, George Orwell) was a satire on America.

11.   Conversing with a female student, who became his lover, the professor says in one scene that he is not thinking about ULYSSES (James Joyce) because his "thoughts don't follow in the channels of classical myth."

12.   One student of his says that HEART OF DARKNESS (Joseph Conrad) is "a social critique of European imperialism," another says it "is above all about a journey into the centre of a soul."

13.   Looking at a student who is a son of a Neapolitan labourer, he thinks that this student will never understand even UNCLE TOM'S CABIN (Harriet Beecher Stowe).

14.   A letter-writer, describing what someone did, narrates that the latter "raises his arms to the moon like GREAT GATSBY (F.Scott Fitzgerald), but instead of addressing the moon, he addresses Comrade Stalin."

15.   Discussing central passages of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the professor says these "are teeming with evocative images (and) in places they become Boschean or surrealistic caricatures, not too far removed from the more recent evocations in (Alexandr) Solzhenitsyn's THE FIRST CIRCLE.

16.   In another lecture, the professor says ""(William) Faulkner's description in the seventh chapter of ABSALOM, ABSALOM! is a pretty fair Marxist analysis of the origin of class hatred (and that) it's an excellent account of racism in class antagonism."

16.17. Vladimir Nabokov's LOLITA and Henry Miller's TROPIC OF CANCER were also mentioned as well as list authors RAYMOND CHANDLER, FRANZ KAFKA, MILAN KUNDERA, P.G. WODEHOUSE, JEAN-PAUL SARTRE, EVELYN WAUGH and ERNEST HEMINGWAY.

17.   The final chapter (the 7th) is entitled "LOVECRAFT" and central to it is H.P. Lovecraft's AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. The professor says "Lovecraft didn't have a great range of fantasy, but what he had was intense. It was more like an obsession than a fantasy. Like all prophets."

18.   The book has seven chapters carrying the names of authors--all of them list authors except the one in Chapter 4: Stephen Crane and his The Red Badge of Courage.


Post Credit: Joselito, Goodreads’ Discussion Stream “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die”

Photo Credit: tempe.gov website

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