Friday, January 16, 2015

Decadent Heroes: Resolve to kick back like Oblomov this winter

Are you buried in ice? Is it getting harder and harder to leave the comforting confines of your many blankets? Thinking of joining your cat all curled up under the radiator? I'm not going to tell you to get out of bed and exercise or anything, so don't worry. I'm just here to offer some literary inspiration for those long winter naps. Allow me to introduce you to our titular hero, Oblomov. No, no, please don't get up. This satirical 19th century Russian novel follows affable, decadent nobleman Oblomov, who seldom gets out of bed. In fact, he spends the first 50 pages of the novel entirely in bed in his dusty room receiving visitors who try to coax him to a party. His refrain in response, "How awful", feels familiar of late. If you are looking for a companion to your seasonal apathy, there's no better friend than him. Laughter could even count as exercise so you may want to think about some light stretching before reading this or either of the following.

Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

One of my all-time favorite books, Toole's hilarious, and unfortunately posthumously published novel follows eccentric and hungry failure-to-launch Ignatius Reilly on his comic adventures through the French Quarter. Speaking of hungry, there is a restaurant in Chicago responsible for an extreme gastronomic creation known as the "Ignatius R.", so named for our decadent hero. Why this sandwich ended up in Chicago when our hero never leaves New Orleans is beyond me but there is no need to make travel plans to try it out. Stay warm and safe indoors and assemble the following cold leftovers between some sturdy bread: fried chicken, steak, bacon, mozzarella, lettuce, vinegar, fried shrimp, fried green tomato, mortadella, country ham, pickled okra, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Or you can dine as our hero does and just eat lots and lots of Paradise Hot Dogs.

Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

Misha Vainberg, gregarious and corpulent son of the "1,238th-richest man in Russia" desperately wants to return to his South Bronx sweetheart, Rouenna, but finds himself stuck trying to save the fictional republic of Absurdsvani.  Misha is clearly something of a modern-day Oblomov and he *heavily* (sorry) references the book. If you feel the need to get out and move around for the sake of your health and sanity, Absurdistan is available as an audiobook and the voice actor, Arte Johnson, does a marvelous job not only of achieving multiple accents but also totally nailing the comedic delivery.

So there you have it. Grab a sandwich and a warm drink, or summon a man-servant à la Oblomov/Misha Vainberg, and kick back with some good books until Spring arrives.
Speaking of cold weather binge-reading, I have entirely too many books* checked out right now. Can I please get a snow day? Off the top of the stack currently threatening to collapse my night stand: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, a thriller I've been told is fantastic so I will let you know how it turns out; How to be Both by Ali Smith, which I've also been told is fantastic; Amnesia by Peter Carey; 2 AM at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino, which is funny and charming, and a much needed palate cleanser following Richard Flanagan's harrowing, Man Booker winning, The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

*not possible!

What are YOU reading to keep warm and cozy? Tell us in the comments!

1 comment:

Ellen@Main said...

Winter here means it's summer in Australia. I am reading Tim Winton's 1991 "Cloudstreet," an Aussie "Under Milkwood." It takes place over 20 years instead of in a single day, but its characters are as memorable and its evocation of place as magical.