I’ve just finished a book I’ve been reading for more than a month, intermittently. Schopenhauer’s Telescope by Gerard Donovan. It was such a startling read. What an experience! It made me shiver. I shan’t attempt to ‘review’ the book by assuming an audience who knows nothing about the book because … I guess I’m too lazy to make that effort. It takes too much effort. Plus, I daresay only around 1 out of 100 will actually get around to looking up a book/movie etc. seriously after reading a review— especially if the book/movie was unheard of before that mention. So I think my post here will be most useful for me to just jot down my thoughts and also for those who have finished the book and have googled for reviews/entries on the book and ended up here. I did that too. But for the curious, this page over here is a pretty rudimentary peek to the book (to me) http://www.bookslut.com/fiction/2003_10_000760.php — the first few paragraphs at least (because I didn’t agree with some of what’s written there). So this is not a serious review.
The book was amazing. I never knew a novel can be wrought out of something like that. Basically, throughout the entire book (almost), the 2 main (and almost only) characters stayed at the same place. There was almost no real physical motion. Basically, one of them was digging a hole 4/5 of the book and the other was standing outside the hole and occasionally they move around the hole. Personally, it was pretty shocking. This was what I always did and what I only could do in those short stories of mine I wrote a long time back. There was little physical motion in them. Things moved only in imagination. But all sentences were over-thought and jam-packed (eck, but who doesn’t do this when they write?). There was almost no plot in them— only sneak peeks into something vague. I thought something longer of that was impossible. But what the hell! Gerard Donovan made a novel out of it. And it was almost really perfect.
It was really quite an experience reading the book. Donovan makes you wade through it. It isn’t for the impatient. Umm, as what I watched in Rapunzel yesterday, “Good things come to those who wait”. Sorry, I couldn’t resist adding this in XD. You gather the puzzle pieces throughout almost 2/3 of the book and only gain a true inkling of what is happening physically in the book (and not in the characters’ minds and imaginations) at that time. But when you get it, it’s quite a blow. Not a sharp blow, but a cold blunt dent of some sort. You blink your eyes and continue reading. And it’s back to a plateau again rather quickly— but a higher plateau. And another blow comes again at around 4/5 of the book. This time, you ascend up a steep slope which you don’t know yet if it were a hill or a mountain. And then suddenly, you plummet (spoiler: the teacher dies) sharply— falling from a cliff. And you can’t believe it. But Donovan makes no big deal out of it and it seems like you’re on a plateau again, this time a vertical plateau (you’re falling). And then you come to a soft thud on the ground and you can’t believe it has ended just like that. But it was neither surprising nor startling— that ending. And you just continue with your life as usual. It left you hanging a little but somehow you know how it’ll go and you just go into a plateau again.
The way Donovan writes is amazing. He really transports the reader— somewhere. The way he uses his words is just magical. The effect they have on you. I spontaneously marked quite a few segments of the book and shall quote them on the next post as they are way too long.
After you’ve read them, you’ll think— what a huge variety of things he talks about! How can they all be tied up together in that story? To that, I suspect that Donovan has, from the very start, decided to write a story in which he can spill out as many of his accumulated and bits-and-pieces thoughts and ideas altogether. This is very funny, because that was what I did when I wrote those stories. But with all these self-comparisons with Donovan’s writing, I do not claim any similarities in the standard of our writing at all, just to say in case I sound like I hint at that. Also, I see myself in parts of the Baker and the Teacher.
It was a very, very, very good read. And I gained life lessons from it. I think it is also one of the best self-help books I’ve ever seen. Please read it if you’re interested! I borrowed it from a library! It first caught my eye because it has ‘Schopenhauer’ in the title.