Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Late Greats

Three days off work and I had no time to think; a friend moving, parties, getting a new refrigerator, hockey, football, other duties. Many things were neglected (chief among them: Nanowrimo -- update to come tomorrow). Things may be returning to normal. We'll see.

#38 - "A Fan's Notes" by Frederick Exley (re-read)

I recommended this to the Ski Bum not long ago, citing it as one of my all-time favorites though I hadn't read it since 1998. That reading was by a much younger, disaffected Greg, and one who was going through a rather confusing time in his life -- so when Ski Bum wasn't so enthused by the book, I worried that perhaps I'd romanticized crap.

I didn't. "A Fan's Notes" is still beautiful and painful, and if anything I appreciate it far more now than I did as a younger man. It's Exley's "fictional memoir" of his life -- it's up for debate how much of it was actually true-to-life (his biographer says, basically, all of it) but if even bits of this tale were true, Exley had one hell of a path to walk.

Full of tales of failed marriages and friendships, going in and out of asylums, destructive drinking, "A Fan's Notes" is a chronicle of failure. It's honest on a level I can't conceive-- I think of myself as pretty self-aware, but if I were introspective on Exley's level, I'd be incapacitated by despair. It's brutal.

Doesn't sound very pleasant, does it? And it's not. But it's also captivating, and oh so well-written. Exley's life's battle was to become famous; his entire body of work is this and two sequels (generally far less well-regarded, but I remember them being pretty good -- again, it's been some years), but "A Fan's Notes" alone is enough to justify whatever fame he achieved.

(He also has the coolest author photo ever. Makes me wanna take up smoking.)


fredoluv said...

This book has been recommended to me a couple times.

I bought it.

Then I read "Secret Origins of Hawkman" and forgot all about the Exley.

I moved, I carefully packed the book alongside a few other "to read" candidates (Richard Powers, some Russian absurdists), got to my new location, unpacked the book and looked at it again.

Then I read a "Jimmy Olson: Superman's Best Friend" story where Jimmy and Robin both have to fake their deaths so that Superman and Batman can catch a baddie.

After that, I didn't really know if the Exley would still have the same power.

fredoluv said...

P.S. Smoking's for girls

gsdgsd13 said...

I probably was one of the people that recommended this to you. You really should read the Powers too... wait, I probably recommended the Russian absurdists (Pelevin?) as well. This is just one long taunt, is it not?

Kynan W. Critic said...

Am I the "Ski Bum?" Because I read this Exley fellow's book on a friend's recommendation and was similarly underwhelmed, aside from the glorious rantings about the NY Giants. I dunno.

gsdgsd13 said...

No -- actually, I remembered you reading it (not on my recommendation, I don't think?) but I thought you liked it.

It's been lent to Fidel -- if he's unimpressed too, I'll accept that I only like Exley because I have savage mental problems.