Posts Tagged ‘austrian’

(Picture also includes evidence of my weekend lifestyle magazine habit. I’m totally busted.)

Okay, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. There’s a new highly coveted prize in town: the 3000 Books Book of the Month. Yes, that’s right.

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How do you feel about that? I feel pretty good about it.

Anyhow, this book blew my mind and then some. Konrad Lorenz was the post-Hugh Lofting Dr Dolittle, an ethologist whose house was besmirched by the droppings of birds, monkeys and dogs alike. Lorenz had a blessed combination of curiosity, patience and skill which enabled him to observe and comprehend the activities of animals. Not only that, in King Solomon’s Ring he relates them with such humour and gentle enthusiasm that you’re a fair way to being as in love with him as the jackdaw who tried to feed Lorenz with mealworm goo.

King Solomon’s Ring is so readable because, as well as possessing a charming and occasionally distinctly German turn of phrase (“You have got a chaffinch, he is lovely and sings well.”), Lorenz is a genius at describing animals with reference to human behaviour. Thus, the war-dance of the male fighting fish, probably perceived by the regular Joe as a mere watery wriggle, takes on the significance of Homeric lay. It is an honest-to-God page turner, and I can’t recommend it any more highly. I even used ‘jewel font’.

oh vienna. you won’t feel the same about the city again. the piano teacher stabs all the senses, a disparate flinging of words unified by the protagonist erika kohut’s austerity and the author jelinek’s control. to gingerly peer out at jelinek’s vienna through peeled fingers is to chafe your hands as well.

with barely a hint of gentleness, the triangular becomes the linear as the imagined and actual interactions between erika, her mother and erika’s student walter klemmer fail to resist the banality of infected self-awareness. though the main source of misery is patently the inflamed relationship between mother and daughter, much more in the novel than in michael haneke’s 2001 film does the relationship between erika and klemmer attain its horrific and destructive character from the sense that they are both diseased, not just erika – two blind bulls thrusting their crenellated horns at one another.

the volatility of the interplay between the kohuts and klemmer eventually explodes in a painful, technicolour rumination on sequestration and etiolated delusion. though the novel thrusts individual acts of violence upon the reader, most terrible is erika’s fate; she is not wholly self-destructive but is able to sustain her cursed context. an anti-triumphal masterpiece, the piano teacher‘s every word is lacerating.

the best thing about reading this book is annoying the shit out of everyone saying that everything they do is ‘freudian’. seriously, try it.

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