After my initial foray into Soundcloud, I had the idea to record some files of me reading my favorite passages from other novels. My hope was that this might make my SoundCloud profile appear alittle less narcissistic. The first passage I chose was from James Joyce. It can be said that Joyce’s ghost hovers over my own novel much like Shakespeare’s ghost hovers over Ulysses. My favorite passage from Ulysses involves Stephen and a group of Irish literary dignitaries sitting around Dublin’s National Library talking shite about Shakespeare. As is probably abundantly obvious from this blog, I’m a guy who loves talking shite about Shakespeare.
The second novel I chose was Candide: Or, Optimism. This selection was a no-brainer as Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking is a “creative misreading” of Voltaire’s novel. Whenever I reread Candide, I’m reminded of how uncomfortable the ending is. With a few subtle shifts of perspective, Voltaire transforms his narrative from a happy ending (Hooray, we’re finally all together!)… to misery (Shitters, we realize that we all hate each other!)… to… [there’s really no good word for this]… the stupidboring happiness of mindless work. It’s amazing how a book published in 1759 ends with a paean to modern office culture. And I’m not the only writer who found the ending of Candide amazing, Gustave Flaubert once remarked: “The end of Candide is for me incontrovertible proof of genius of the first order; the stamp of the master is in that laconic conclusion, as stupid as life itself.”