This is a five-part essay

5. The journal entry

A recent essay in the NYT reminded me of a review I’d written back in 2005, on My Name Is Red. The novel had mesmerized me, and I was in a trance for weeks after finishing it. Out of this state came the review that mimicked the novel’s structure: written from the viewpoint of a character who reviews the novel, it tried to show what the book read like, while telling you about it.

I was clearly trying to imitate Pamuk, but I was also trying to experiment. And this sort of experiment was easier on such a book, with its explicit stylistic devices and idiosyncratic structure, than on something from say, Naipaul, where the style is almost invisible and the prose doesn’t stick to your skin.

Reading the review again, after a gap of many years, brought back memories of those weeks filled with wonder and delight. I like the piece not for its literary merit – such a one-sided outpouring can hardly claim to be a ‘review’ – but because it captures that state of mind full of love – in this case, almost devotion – for a work of art. I cannot remember feeling so attached to something since then – is this my inability to engage deeply with longer works of literature, or is it a reflection of the kind of books I’ve read since?

6 thoughts on “This is a five-part essay

  1. Oh, oh. First: reading your response to “My Name is Red” brought the book, and my own experience fo reading it, back so clearly that the only way *I* can respond is to read it again. Because that is what you have made me want to do. I loved “My Name is Red;” it’s my favorite of all of Pamuk’s wonderful books, each special in their own way, but this one — perhaps because I love Persian miniatures, perhaps because I was close friends, at the time, with a woman from Shiraz who enlarged the stories for me and made them even more real, perhaps because I too was a calligrapher at one time — was a love affair in the reading, and like a love affair has left its fragrance in my life.

    But I also appreciate what you’ve done here and said, the way you’ve constructed this post and spoken of your own memories. What greater tribute to a writer’s work, or to that deeply personal experience of reading and falling into a book that we realize will hold us, somehow, forever?

    1. Beth, it’s wonderful to read that this book had a similar impact on you. Your reading, as your comment illustrates, seems to have been special in a personal way. Perhaps you should consider writing about that experience.

  2. Hate to be prosiac (but that’s what I am, a sub-editor). How long did it take you to structure and write this; and was it a concept that grew as you wrote or one that was first planned and then written?

  3. hmmm. i have been unwilling for a long time to pick up Pamuk’s books…..maybe…just maybe i will add this also to my list…only because of your review.

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