Friday, 15 February 2008
After the Stars' concert it took less than a minute for me to get totally fed up with the amount of attitude and stylish indifference in the club. It makes me feel sick to watch my friends turn into people I don't even recognise as soon as young, well-dressed, bored kids are around. Those girls and boys manage to make me feel horrible, indeed the atmosphere turns me into someone strange: While I feel perfectly alright in establishments of pretentious academics, coffeehouses with old people, Ottakring with its number of rough inhabitants and among children in the museum, a club makes me feel stupid, insignificant, ugly. So I grabbed Ali Smith's "Like" and started to read whilst waiting for a good time to get my coat.
"Like" is an amazing novel. It is well known how much I adore Ali Smith. Some of her short stories are so good it makes me want to see the world differently, it makes me want to talk and write like her characters. However, I didn't much enjoy her last novel, "The Accidental". I suppose I didn't really appreciate the plot. When I started to read "Like", I was afraid at first that it would turn out to be the same with this one. The first part wasn't particularly moving, although it did get better with every single page. However, the second part was incredible. Incredible, simply. Like her best short stories fused into one.
I had spent an afternoon in the library and the coffehouse with Max and came home feeling happy and quite blessed with having such a friend. I sat down to read, just a bit. Then I didn't stop until I had read the last sentence. You see, the first part is quite mysterious, there's a limited point of view and you actually don't have much of an idea of the background of the characters. There's a woman, Amy, and her daughter. And that's pretty much it. The second part, however, is about Ash who used to be Amy's friend. Ash is writing a diary and tells about when she and Amy were young. Suddenly there's a lot of background. Suddenly you connect. Suddenly Amy becomes so much more than you thought she was. It's impressive.
You see, Amy is such an interesting character. I loved and loathed her at the same time. Read it yourself, I'm not going to give anything away. Except this:
"I never asked myself how I'd fell if she were to settle on someone, but of course she wouldn't, of course not, though she was always surrounded by insubstantial, admiring, clever boys who did Spanish or German, quoting Lorca and Rilke at her with hope in their eyes as she sipped tea with them in respectable snack bars; all those bespactacled lost boys who'd heard her being so intelligent in their classics seminars insisting, no, no, let me pay, fumbling with their fists in their pockets at the cash desks, sitting explaining Plato to her through the coffee stream, as if she ever needed anything explained, nodding though as if she did, letting them think she did, watching the clock without them noticing, politely taking leave."
One sentence! Here's also the reason why I'd never have become a good literature scholar: I really can't disconnect from a book. And how can you be a good scholar if you can't keep a distance?
Anyway. I was reading in the club and then this guy came over and asked (in English, I wonder where he's from) if he could take my picture. So here I am, reading the same passage about the boys and really wishing I was in Cambridge. With someone to explain Plato to me. I like some of Plato's ideas, especially the soul carriage.