Writing in Books, Or: Crash Davis, World’s Greatest Literary Critic
March 1, 2010
I always write in library books. I’m not proud of it, but I do. I use pencil so that I can erase it if I have to. I always erase it if it’s a book that could be used by one of my cohort. I don’t want them to see what I’ve thought, whether it be smart or ridiculously stupid, since they aren’t full readings, only notes. Sometimes I intentionally leave things for other people to find them. I left a note in a copy of “The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N” for Mr. Dale Pickle, explaining a Yiddish pun. I want to make sure he gets the joke.
And yesterday I left a note of sheer disgust in The Benefactor, Susan Sontag’s first novel. This is not a good book. Crash Davis said it best when in the middle of his seductive discourse to Annie he tells her:
Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap.
I’m actually surprised that anyone is overrating these books, since, at the time of Bull Durham, her only two successful novels (The Volcano Lover and In America) had yet to be released. The Benefactor is almost universally panned. Here’s how the generous New York Times review ended:
Miss Sontag is an intelligent writer who has, on her first flight, jettisoned the historical baggage of the novel. However, she has not replaced it with material or insights that carry equal, or superior, weight. Instead she has chosen the fashionable imports of neoexistentialist philosophy and tricky contemporary techniques. She has made an unfortunate exchange.
If this is overrating, than Crash Davis must really really hate Sontag’s novels.
My own experience with the book was: generally unpleasant but not all together painful…until the narrator tells us a long story about healing a horse by building a ridiculous home for it, a small tower, about 6 meters high with a view of the ocean, with a spiral ramp leading to a comfortable room up top for the horse to ascend and descend (I’m pretty sure that this was supposedly built by a poor peasant woman).
When the horse gets better, the narrator tells us…”Such are the curative powers of the right dwelling, with the appropriate architecture.”
At that point, I left the following note in the book: “uh…”
As eloquent as Crash Davis, I ain’t.