A Year in Reading: Joseph O’Neill

December 4, 2008 | 4 books mentioned 3

Joseph O’Neill’s third novel, Netherland, was named a New York Times Notable Book for 2008. O’Neill’s previous books are The Breezes, This Is the Life, and the family history, Blood-Dark Track, which was a book of the year for The Economist and The Irish Times.

Prompted by a writing assignment, I’ve been re-reading the novels and stories of Saul Bellow for the first time in years – and I’m completely smitten all over again, only more deeply. Whereas I first fell in love with his work as a young European, I’m now seeing it with the eyes of an older person long resident in the USA, and it’s like watching a high-definition, technicolor version of a wonderful but blurry and monochrome old movie. I see much more – not only in terms of the American (cultural and topographical) details, but also the human details. (And the sentences, with their extraordinary figurative inventiveness… How did he do it?) It’s stuff that makes you feel tinglingly, fully alive.

More from A Year in Reading 2008

is the author of Netherland, a New York Times Notable Book for 2008. O'Neill's previous books are The Breezes, This Is the Life, and the family history, Blood-Dark Track, which was a book of the year for The Economist and The Irish Times.

3 comments:

  1. I was assigned Mr Sammlers Planet in college and hated it. After reading James Wood's How Fiction Works, I was inspired to try Bellow again. First, I read Seize the Day, which I thought was just so-so. Now I am reading The Adventures of Augie March and I am completely blown away. Joseph O'Neill has it exactly right. The sentences are amazingly inventive. I have no idea how Bellow did it either, it sounds so natural. The book has me catching my breath trying to keep up with the narrator and take it all in at the same time.

  2. I find it very painful to read a book I've read before or watch a movie I've already seen before. I just get easily bored.

    I figure life is too short to re-read a book or watch a movie again. I see it as our only shot to gather all of the experiences that we can, in the short time we are afforded.

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