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.)

5 comments:

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.