Monday, January 25, 2010

Cesar Aira

This is about as good a review of Cesar Aira's Ghosts as I've read, though this pretty much hits it on the head (though I hate to admit it).

I finished this book in a few days, though it feels like it was meant to be digested in one reading. Chalk it up to my clogged schedule. I am not sure what I think about this book, or Aira. I've read all three of his translated books released by New Directions (he has written at least sixty novels), and, of them, How I Became a Nun is my favorite, though even that has a few loopy tangents and digressive turns. I tend to feel somewhat ill after his books, like I just climbed off the world's most banal rollercoaster. I'm sick, but not from anything demonstrably wild. The charm (?) of Aira, best seen in Ghosts, may be his ability to shock the reader at the right moment, after lulling them into a tedious calm. The parts of the book that are funny didn't make me laugh. I was aware of the absurdity (two men arguing over the best place to see the stars, Argentina or Chile) and impressed by the tangents (a long section of Ghosts is devoted to the allusive subject of dreams), but these things started to piss me off. Aira-- whose books famously never stretch too far past the 100 page mark-- is able to infuriate and captivate all at once. There are those who praise him for this. I am tempted to do likewise, but I have to sit with this slim, strange book for a bit and make a decision.