Stories in an Almost Unreadable Mode
Bookforum prints a 5,300-word exegesis on why no one reads Harold Brodkey anymore. Our guess is that no one sees the value in his narcissistic and masturbatory self-regard, which informs every syllable of his prose and makes even a cursory reading of his fiction like taking a muddy trudge through the shallow wrack of Lake Bitchcakes. Indeed, it can be said with no measure of hyperbole that Brodkey, even more so than Norman “Cap’n Stabbin’” Mailer, was the single most solipsistic American writer of his time, which is saying something, given the naval-gazing proclivities of Updike, Bellow, Roth, et al.
Then again, we may simply dislike Brodkey’s writing because we didn’t think much about him as a human being. Asked to sit on a panel of lit luminaries––this was back in the ‘90s, and was somehow tied in with the 55th anniversary of the breathtakingly irrelevant Partisan Review, which, like Brodkey, was then just a few years shy of expiration––Brodkey publicly took swipes at the likes of Derek Wolcott and Robert Pinsky before a shaky, newly sober Ivan Gold took him down with an abrupt and carefully deployed verbal bitchslap that left Mr. Runaway Soul in tears. The incident made us wish that we had abdicated the world of books for more refined pursuits, like bearbaiting or chicken fucking or developing fake assholes for proctologic dry runs.
No, really. Just fill it with hamburger meat and some raw egg and you’re in business. Take it on your next fishing trip and whisper “I can’t quit you” into the whorled furls of its palpatable rectum. Comes with polyps.