Loop’de Loop

There are a dozen or so books I’ve looped over the years, that is, turned the last page only to start the first one again. A book that never ends, as it were. My favorite. Of the books I’ve recently looped, a few stand out as truly remarkable achievements: Crowley’s Little, Big; Cather’s My Antonia and The Professor’s House; Roth’s Patrimony and Counterlife; Thomas Savage’s The Power of the Dog; Saramago’s Blindness; and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Home. The great and wonderful thing about a book you’ve looped is that it takes on a whole new dimension of importance. It even looks different. Books on a shelf organize themselves around it, as if they were showing it off or protecting it. I have no qualms about putting my coffee cup on The Orchard Keeper, but if I so much as sense a disapproving glance at Blood Meridian, I’ll submit your ass jiu-jitsu style, fast. Magical conspicuousness does have its drawbacks—as I learned last night, when my son, with his greedy, ravening hands, dumped Robinson on the floor as if she were a colander or a salad spinner. I shuddered. When I regained my composure and told him that everything he does is cute — that, a lie — I picked up Home and began slowly re-reading passages at random, only to close the book and smile on my good fortune. A kind of nostalgia or reverie or attunement, indescribably pleasant, swept over me. A word or a thought-feeling glinted in some deep layer of my awareness: luminous or frailty, hopeful or ashamed. And with that, I opened the book again and read a new passage, savoringly. Damn! Robinson can write. She makes Roth and Morrison look like lumbering tourists with disposable cameras trying their best to snap-snap-snap the Great American Photograph. That’s why I nominate Robinson as one of the greatest living American novelists. Anyhow, more on Home in a later post…

11 Responses to Loop’de Loop

  1. Colleen says:

    You’ve reminded me that I need to read M. Robinson. Also, I promise never to abuse either your favourite books or my own.

  2. R. T. says:

    Fascinating stuff. (Notice the fragment but without exclamation mark: re: your previous posting about WHITE TIGER.) I’ve added you to my reading list, so–in spite of your claim of only two readers, of which you boast when you write about WINESBURG, OHIO–I plan on dropping by often. And by the way, did I mention? Fascinating stuff! (Oops! There is the dreaded punctuation.)

  3. Kevin Neilson says:

    dear R.T., not even my mom, who constitutes the third reader of “my” audience, thinks my stuff fascinating, so thank you, a tip of my hat to you. best, Kevin

  4. Sasha says:

    Looping books is a habit for me. Especially with long, rollicking novels–or books whose language just floors me. It’s almost automatic–if I love the book, I let it settle in, and then I flip to read the first chapter all over again. I realize now that the books I have a “meh” attitude to won’t merit a looping, haha.

    All along, I thought I was strange this way, 🙂

  5. Trevor says:

    I’m happy to have come by your blog from A Commonplace Blog. Some of my loopde-loop reads have been J.L. Carr’s A Month in the Country and Roth’s The Ghostwriter. I have had such a backlog of reading to do that I haven’t given myself the pleasure of many loopde-loops in the past few years. However, Housekeeping and Gilead should be up there for me. And I hate to tell you I’ve a copy of Home that goes unread.

    You’ll be proud of me, though, because I’m just finishing Blood Meridian today, and you won’t get a disapproving glance from me.

    Best wishes to your new blog!

    • Kevin Neilson says:

      Ah, The Ghost Writer — my first Roth book ever. I read it in Taos, New Mexico, so its memory is inextricably linked with pinon trees, arroyos, and adobe homes, oddly enough. Thanks for the well wishing!

  6. R. T. says:

    A neglected to mention my looped-reading: include anything by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez and Flannery O’Connor. (Wow! Talk about two strange bedfellows in literature!). Nevertheless, if I had to limit myself for the rest of my life to looped-reading, I would be content with Gabo’s books, O’Connor’s books, and–just to round things out–a copy of the Holy Bible (just to add some perspective.

  7. Kevin Neilson says:

    I hope to read O’Connor’s Complete Stories soon and may very well ping you w/ questions, as they arise. Cheers.

  8. R. T. says:

    Kevin, I am always open to being pinged about O’Connor.

  9. […] on P. Roth May 5, 2010 Sabbath’s Theater. Gold standard of excellence? The loop’de loop! As much as I enjoyed Sabbath’s Theater, I didn’t loop it and won’t likely […]

  10. […] looped the book in 2009 with precisely this question in mind, and found to my astonishment that I […]

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