Harold Brodkey

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i started reading "the runaway soul" last night. and, well, it certainly is one of the strangest novels i've ever read. here's a paragraph:

"In a glamour of obscure distinction, I remember my face as his face from glances in the mirror - a little scared - as those glances were - with the reason-to-live stuff, the reason-to-die stuff in the silent mirror. This becomes embarrassed amusement, taut-nerved, fattened with uncertain and embarrassed recollection, imbecile. My temper - what I look like . . . who gives a fuck . . . is contentiously male. In the liquor of the blind-sidedness of recall of one's circumstances first thing in the morning when one awakes, I remember that, on the average, he (I am) is odd-looking but okay. My looks are not a torment to me."

and as far as i can tell, it's ALL like that! i enioy it to a certain extent, but i'm not sure i can take 835 pages of it. this is supposed to be brodkey's life's work, a novel he spent 30 years on or something, but it almost feels like the kind of cod-poetic automatic writing a well-read 19-year-old might fill up his livejournal with.

maybe i should check out one of his short story collections instead?

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Wednesday, 22 February 2006 21:56 (thirteen years ago) link

i think most people will agree that the short stories are the way to go. a lot of people were just flat-out embarrassed by the runaway soul when it came out. check out first love & other sorrows or stories in an almost classical mode. "stories" blew me away when i read it years ago. it was a very visceral physical experience reading that book. very intense. like bellow had mated with proust. his "famous" book was The Party Of Animals which he wrote for decades. It ran thousands of pages and was never printed, but he fed off of it for years by cutting stuff out of it to use for/as short stories.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 23 February 2006 00:37 (thirteen years ago) link

are they ever gonna publish the rest of his unpublished stuff? there doesn't seem to be that big an audience for brodkey anymore - apparently his mystique pretty much dried up after "runaway soul" - but i imagine it'd sell ok.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 23 February 2006 08:45 (thirteen years ago) link

I don't know. They certainly have enough to work with. You would think that someone could put together a fine posthumous collection a la thomas wolfe.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 23 February 2006 13:55 (thirteen years ago) link

I'm surprised no one's posted this: http://www.bookforum.com/baskin.html

kenchen, Thursday, 23 February 2006 16:59 (thirteen years ago) link

that's a great piece. thanks. and how timely! god, i had forgotten "His Son, in His Arms, in Light, Aloft", what an amazing feat/creation/story that is.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 23 February 2006 18:17 (thirteen years ago) link

three years pass...

Should I pick up Runaway Soul for a couple bucks used? I love the short stories I've read.....hmmm.

Michael_Pemulis, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 01:10 (ten years ago) link

It can be read chapter by chapter as kind of vignettes and short stories. I think some of it is actually an expansion of the stories (or just Brodkey having another go at big moments in his personal history; the long going-down of "Innocence" has equivalents here).

Eazy, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 15:34 (ten years ago) link

He seems to be one of those folks, like John O'Hara, who was famous in NY literary circles as much for his personality as his writing, so that after he passed the legacy diminished.

Eazy, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 15:35 (ten years ago) link

if you pick it up, be warned: you will never be able to sell it back anywhere because every used bookstore in the country already has four copies

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 23 July 2009 23:44 (ten years ago) link

eight months pass...

Edmund White's new memoir City Boy has some amusing dish: Brodkey's denial about his sexuality, his efforts to promote himself with Harold Bloom, Sontag, et al.

Throwing Muses are reuniting for my next orgasm! (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 22 April 2010 02:44 (nine years ago) link

eight years pass...

A friend and I were quoting the worst of Brodkey's, screaming with laughter.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 12 June 2018 18:48 (one year ago) link

Great piece.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 14 June 2018 09:01 (one year ago) link

Brick is good overall, eh? Anybody here used that Submittables service?

dow, Thursday, 14 June 2018 16:36 (one year ago) link

Will follow Scott's advice on getting the collected stories, but also the novel looks like a suitable case for treatment, since I sometimes find myself editing my reading anyway.

dow, Thursday, 14 June 2018 16:41 (one year ago) link

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