Vertigo

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Vertigo

Post by Stefanie on Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:09 am

So, thoughts? From people who finished and didn't finish. I am curious to know what hindered those who didn't finish.

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Re: Vertigo

Post by Rebecca H. on Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:26 am

I'd love to hear thoughts from people who didn't finish and why that was.

I did finish it, and I didn't like it as much as I liked The Rings of Saturn, which I read a couple years back. I admire the intellectual project, but the whole thing felt emotionally cold to me. I wish the narrator's voice weren't so flat. This feels like a strange response because in a way the whole book is about emotions -- sadness, panic -- but the writing wasn't emotionally compelling.

I do admire the way the book explores memory and its unreliability, the way we can be alienated from our own past experiences because we realize what has gone on in our minds may not match the reality that exists out in the world (to the extent that there is such a thing!).

What do you make of the pictures? What do you think they add to the book?

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Re: Vertigo

Post by bookgazing on Thu Apr 01, 2010 8:55 am

So as you know I didn't even start because I was reading the wrong book, but 'The Rings of Saturn' also has pictures so I'd like to jump in for a minute. I really liked the pictures, but at first I thought I might have an odd edition where pictures had been added to enable people to connect more with the text (obviously not). I think that's what they add, a solid visual way of connecting with the text which may be important because goodness knows there is a lot of winding around in the text and it's nice to find a solid anchor where you can catch your reading breath, collect your thoughts and really connect with what you've just learned. I almost think the two page spread pictures provide much needed pauses.

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Re: Vertigo

Post by Stefanie on Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:11 pm

Jodie, I like what you say about the pictures providing a way to connect with the text and allowing the reader to pause. Sebald's voice is so flat as Dorothy notes that I often find myself being "hypnotized" for lack of a better description. Then a photo comes along and it snaps me out of my trance.

I think the photos also serve to ground the story in physical reality however tenuous the connection might be sometimes. Everything is so heady and sometimes bizarre and unreal that the photos become a sort of evidence that something really exists or did happen because photos don't lie, right? Wink

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Re: Vertigo

Post by dsimpson on Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:51 pm

I probably didn't give the book a fair try really. I stopped after reading a few pages of the second section. I think I knew there was not going to be a story as such and just wasn't in the right frame of mind for an intellectual exercise. The part about Stendhal was interesting, though I felt very much only an observer and had no connection to what was happening (therefore maybe didn't care). Dorothy mentioned in her post that she didn't realize the first section was about Stendhal until after the fact, and neither did I until I read the back of the book more closely. I was happy to see a first person narrator in the second section thinking I would be able to get into the story more, but when I realized that wasn't happening I admit I gave up knowing this was just not the right book for my mood. I always feel bad when this happens--I stuck with the Stevie Smith novel even though I found it really, really challenging, but I guess I just wasn't up for this one.

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Re: Vertigo

Post by Stefanie on Fri Apr 02, 2010 1:54 pm

Don't feel bad Danielle. I only found out it was Stendhal before the end of the first section because I got to wondering if this was a real person and googled Beyle. There was a vast distance between action, narrative voice and reader and I wonder why Sebald chose to do that? He would have known such a thing would be off putting to many people. The only thing I can think of is that somehow it contributes to what he is doing in the book, that perhaps it echoes the distance between the real and the remembered. It also doesn't let the reader grasp onto anything so keeps with the theme of vertigo. It isn't comfortable or pleasant, but then neither is vertigo.

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Re: Vertigo

Post by dsimpson on Fri Apr 02, 2010 2:12 pm

I think he must have done these things very intentionally and probably does them very well. I noticed that nearly all the Amazon reviewers loved the book, so he's someone I'd like to try again.

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Re: Vertigo

Post by Stefanie on Sat Apr 03, 2010 6:51 pm

I hope you do try him again Danielle. Maybe Rings of Saturn? The narrative isn't quite as jumpy though his voice and style are very much the same.

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Re: Vertigo

Post by Litlove on Sun Apr 04, 2010 5:47 pm

For some reason, I simply could not remember that we had Sebald to read at the end of March. Normally, I buy the slaves' book the day after I know what we've chosen. But I kept forgetting about it, until I finally decided that this was repression on my part (I mean, come on, me forget to buy a book? How likely is that?). I've been struggling a bit with chronic fatigue these past few months, nothing terrible, but I haven't been quite as lively as I'd like. And I think subconsciously I didn't want Sebald's voice in my head. But reading your posts and the discussion has made me very curious about the book. I know Stendhal's theory of love as crystallisation from teaching French lit, so I would be interested to see what Sebald does with that. I will certainly mark this down as a book I must pick up one of these days.

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Re: Vertigo

Post by Stefanie on Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:26 pm

I figured you would know all about Stendhal Litlove! I hope you read this sometime because I'd love to know what you think of it.

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Re: Vertigo

Post by iliana on Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:32 pm

As you guys know I tried reading the book and couldn't get past page 50 or so. I just felt so lost like the author was talking about things I knew nothing about (Stendhal, Casanova, etc.) and that really bothered me. It was interesting to me that the writing itself didn't seem complicated but I just didn't know where I was going.

I'm sorry I didn't try harder with the book!

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resurfacing

Post by bookphilia on Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:22 pm

Hello all!

I read and enjoyed this book and look forward to discussing. I just finished a hellish freelance editing project and so have been out of commission but will get caught up and start contributing very soon!

Colleen/Bookphilia

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