Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gone Tomorrow by P. F. Kluge

Gone Tomorrow is a novel set at a small college in Ohio. The bulk of the book is a discovered story/memoir by a retired English professor. It details his last year at this small college. Prof. Canaris was a well-known author based in LA when he took a teaching position, seemingly on a whim. His story moves back and forth in time explaining why he stayed.

Here he gets a preview of life as a professor from an older, tenured professor:

“‘But you have no idea how this place will come at you. Headaches, problems, issues. Letters of recommendation, reports, committees, invitations, lecture. All delivered with respect, flattery, affection, appealing to your heart, your art, your character, your stomach, ego, id, libido… Well maybe not that, not the libido. You may like it. You may love it. But the world won’t know you and you won’t recognize yourself. And you will not have done whatever you came here to do.’”

Prof. Canaris is there to write a book. However, it appears the predictions above come true because as he reaches retirement age there is no sign of the book. He is killed in a hit-and-run accident shortly after he retires and it is his literary executor who finds the one-year memoir/story and tries to determine whether this book, The Beast, exists or not.

I enjoyed Kluge’s writing. Here Canaris discusses books:

“Books stay around if we let them. They survive one move after another, they sit on shelves for decades, reminding us not so much of how much we have read as how much we have forgotten, an uneven contest between reading and memory which might well end with someone surrounded by all the world’s books yet incapable of summoning up his own name.”

As an English professor Canaris complains about grading student paper with missing quotation marks and such. I found it curious that in the Canaris story/memoir I ran across such things. I wonder if this was done deliberately by the author or just a bad job of editing. Regardless, it is definitely one of my favorite fiction books read so far this year.

Escape to Books

1 comment:

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