Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oh, the weather outside is--good god--frightful!

I feel I should apologize in advance for the fact that today's post is yet another in a series of weather-related entries. My only defense is that of inappropriate shock, of a constitution--ordinarily hardy--that this year seems to have decided to respond to winter's inevitable descent with umbrage expressed through shivering.

Keeping that condition in mind, you'll understand why, fresh from a seductively mild weekend with my in-laws in California, I was struck this cold, bright morning by the following passage:
A disappointing kind of sun was shining. She lures you outside with her radiant eyes and blackmails you with the accusation that you're missing some exceptional, lovely weather, but once you've gone outside, full of good intentions, and you're walking the streets, along with all those other cheery city-dwellers and tourists blinking with confusion, you wished you'd put on a thicker sweater.
That's the opening paragraph of Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer's Rupert: A Confession (2002, translated from the Dutch by Michele Hutchison in 2009), recently published by Open Letter Books. Only a moron, an optimist, or a tourist*, of course, would have been fooled by today's brittle sun; a Chicagoan knows better. Yet at the same time, there is a part of me that--looking ahead to the bleak gray of the seven weeks of January yet to come--agrees with Rupert's conclusion:
But to go back now would be an affront to the beautiful day--lovely weather really, mustn't grumble, pity to stay indoors.
I'm less than thirty pages into the novel, but already I'm taken with it. Rupert is one of those domineering, insistent narrators that takes you by the arm with the first sentence and, heedless of your protests, proceeds to construct the entire universe of his story exactly to his specifications, truth, when necessary, being casually damned. I'm a sucker for that approach, and while I already suspect that Rupert will lie far, far closer, on the continuum of creepiness, to Humbert than to Holden, I expect I won't regret the hours I spend in his company.

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