I must have studied that novel in at least two classes as an undergraduate. In fact, looking at my beat-up copy from back then, I have a sinking feeling that I even had to teach it one year in freshman comp. That was when I had to go over it carefully enough to explain to students what was good about it, and I always had the nagging suspicion that whatever it was, I’d missed it.
I think of Taras because he loved me when it was easy to love me.
I wore my hair in two braids, a thin whippet of a smiling girl, not unlike a very young Therese: her smooth brow, her lovely cheekbone, her innocent abandon, the pretty white shirt collar, her little ankle socks.
I am no longer that. But what is Taras? I project him on the walls of my memory, a voyeuristic image, a dried rose hung upside down in the attic, stripped of meaning, withered. I do not any longer know what he is or where he is or how he is.
I think of him but I do not dream of him.
But I dream of Kiev.
So how, exactly, did Richie end up where he did? Or me? Or anyone? In Richie’s case, the bottom line might be that he just isn’t into body hair. I’ve seen odder specimens, with odder reasons for being where they are, drift in and out the slipstream in the course of 30 plus years of slogging it out in Spain: alcoholics, remittance men, second-home owners, English teachers (hey—if it was good enough for James Joyce….) Vietnam draft dodgers gone potbellied and gray, people who get on and off yachts, Army brats and many, many lost souls with too much money or with no money at all.
s everybody knows, or ought to know, what a Salmagundi is, we shall spare ourselves the trouble of an explanation—besides, we despise trouble as we do everything that is low and mean; and hold the man who would incur it unnecessarily, as an object worthy our highest pity and contempt. Neither will we puzzle our heads to give an account of ourselves, for two reasons; first, because it is nobody’s business; secondly, because if it were, we do not hold ourselves bound to attend to anybody’s business but our own; and even that we take the liberty of neglecting when it suits our inclination. To these we might add a third, that very few men can give a tolerable account of themselves, let them try ever so hard; but this reason, we candidly avow, would not hold good with ourselves.
During the German bombing campaign of 1943 Waugh asked that his eldest son be sent to London, while at the same time ordering his library removed to the country for safekeeping. He joked about the decision in his diary as follows, “It would seem from this that I prefer my books to my son. I can argue that fireman rescue children and destroy books, but the truth is that a child is easily replaced while a book destroyed is utterly lost…”
The Middle of the Journey can be summed up by saying that Trilling took a story that had strong elements of political drama, personal betrayal, hotly contested ethical debate with more than a little Jewish flavor, even the fate of nations, and did everything he could to try to fit it into a world not much different from James' The Ambassadors.
© 2006 Hanna Mandelbaum
Black Hole is such a weak specimen of comics art that its critical acceptance can only be seen as an indication of a deep lack of sophistication on the part of comics criticism. Black Hole is not merely inferior to its highbrow comics contemporaries, from David Boring to Jimmy Corrigan; it pales even in comparison to the late eighties Silver Surfer Marvel comics that I used to collect out of the back-issue boxes in comic book stores as a kid, with the ads for Chips Ahoy cookies or the latest Nintendo game on the back page.
A critique of Black Hole necessarily entails a critique of the contemporary comics critic; and, in as much as the critic is both the mouthpiece and the teacher of the culture, we thus set out to critique the attitude of American literary culture towards the medium comics.