All of a sudden, I had the urge to visit Barnes & Noble yesterday afternoon. M agreed and we bought three novels, after which we had a mediocre dinner at a nearby Mad Mex. But the really memorable thing is that I started one of the novels yesterday and finished today, which is pretty fast for me. Also, I finished it with tears in my eyes. The reviewer in The Guardian thinks The Absolutist is too direct and possibly more apt for young readers than mature ones. This made my day: I am in some sense young enough to get such a big emotional charge from this novel, then! I highly recommend it. The author, John Boyne, already has had a mega-selling success with The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. I can imagine reading that one soon, too. Even if it is more explicitly a Young Adult novel. Especially because of this, in fact.
This is the third time I am blogging about The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. You will have to excuse this short, silly little post, though. After finishing this amazing novel, I am too much in awe of its language and intellectual scope to dare add my own reflections. Perhaps I will feel up to it in a few days. I am just very thankful that Benjamin Hale delivered to the reading world this masterpiece that feels as though it was written by some supernatural combination of Shakespeare, Nabokov, and Jane Goodall.
Reader who chances upon this post (and so few of you there will be): take my advice, read this book, and marvel.
I mentioned earlier that I had begun reading The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, a rather astonishing novel. I picked it up again today after a few weeks’ absence and I just have to share this short bit of monologue by Bruno, the eloquent ape, delivered in the midst of his reminiscences about arriving in New York and meeting a Diogenes-the-Cynic-like man, and from the point of view of a Sheakespeare-quoting ape who, having learned to speak and read and having conducted a self-directed education in a library, oftentimes views the world from the perspective of a human, only to quickly remember the preeminence and pride of his animal nature.
I really wish I met just one person whose utterances were as mellifluous as Bruno’s are in real life; what would it be like? And if I can read this type of stream-of-consciousness in a novel, why on earth would I try (for the nth time) to read James Joyce’s big, fat account of a story that begins with a certain stately, plump Buck Mulligan coming down the stairs? No. Bruno’s story is much, much more engaging and unbelievably intelligent.
Back in Plato’s selfsame ancient Athens, Diogenes went naked and lived in a bathtub, urinated, defecated, and masturbated in public, and denounced all laws, religions, governments, and good manners. People called him “the Cynic” because the word means “doglike” in Greek, because Diogenes lived like a dog. He wasn’t offended, though; he liked it. You’re damn right I live like a dog, he said to them. Alexander the Great returned to Athens fresh from conquering the known world and found Diogenes, naked as was his fashion, sunning himself on the steps of the Acropolis. Alexander stood before him and said, Ask any favor you choose of me. Name anything, because I am Alexander the Great and that basically means whatever it is, I can get it for you. Diogenes looked up at him, squinted, maybe gave his scrotum a lackadaisical scratch, shrugged, and said, Get out of my sun. Can one help but admire that? We are animals who like to constantly congratulate ourselves on all our sweetness and light and triumph of spirit, and nobody is supposed to choose to live like a dog. I’ve always admired this man, his presence at the same place and time as the birth of philosophy, like a voice crying, not in the wilderness, but from the wilderness in the human heart, in the midst of civilization. The solemn golden machineries of politics, learning, thought, goodness and grace and virtue and art—especially art—all we call our society, needs Diogenes in the middle of it, a human proud and content to live like an animal, to remind us not to mistake the frippery of human civilization for anything too distant or distinct from what’s already there in pigs and monkeys and dogs, to remind us that for all the sweetness and light of our great cities and great machines and great art, we are nothing terribly more magnificent than apes with clothes on our bodies, words in our mouths, and heads inflated with willful delusions.
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale, Twelve (a Hachette company), 2011, pages 413-414.