What to read next… well, Poor People

Regarding my ‘reading matter’: I finished first Gissing’s New Grub Street, then, on friday, Smollett’s very, very funny The Expedition of Humphry Clinker. (‘Grub street’, or hack writing, being the thread that connects Smollett and this Gissing novel). So, theoretically I’d be unto reading Falling Man, DeLillo’s newest now, before finishing ATD. But I’ve acquired a taste for 18th century stuff and wonder if I shouldn’t first read Joseph Andrews (also on my to-read-list).

The result is that I picked up Vollmann’s Poor People again, although I earlier decided, after reading like 70 pages, to not finish it. Vollmann’s writing in Poor People is too repetitive. Again. It’s not really bad in the way that The Royal Family was, but if you’ver read his other work, you already know what you’ll get to read: page after page of conversations with homeless people and poor people from all over the world, plus Vollmanns ruminations about the nature of poverty, trying to come up with a theory which is a bit too much like ‘amateur philosophy’. I picked it up, because I couldn’t decide yet between DeLillo and Fielding, and well, to say I was ‘captured’ would be an exaggeration, but I was intrigued, again, and Vollmann does know how to engage you (well, me at least) with the poor people of the world. (There’s no other writer who has managed to that with this very reader). And well, Vollmann’s ruminations about respect and cultural differences might not always be as sharp as one would wish for, they are dark and realistic, never cynical. A-and then there’s the chilling reportage about this oil city in Kazakhstan…

Which is to say – that someone, one day, should write a really good essay on Vollmann’s way of engaging with the absolute underclass. I still cannot figure out if he’s too naive, too sentimental (he used to be, for sure!), just ‘too much’, or that his stance is the only really moral position. Ah well. There’s a reason to finish Poor People.

en,reading matter | June 9, 2007 | 16:54 | Comments Off on What to read next… well, Poor People |


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