It is almost impossible to write a critical review of a book I read almost twenty years ago and now am attempting to read again after having been philosophically and physically altered so dramatically from the person I was way back then. In 1996 I was a first-year student of the infamous fiction-writing teacher [a:Gordon Lish|232097|Gordon Lish|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1267719924p2/232097.jpg] and it was he who had informed me of the great work of Thomas Bernhard. I did not keep a journal from that period so I am hard-pressed to remember my first Bernhard introduction, but I would hazard a guess it was [b:Wittgenstein's Nephew|92578|Wittgenstein's Nephew|Thomas Bernhard|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328874373s/92578.jpg|89281]. This book, Concrete
, most likely followed in relatively good speed as I am wont to devour, in great measure, anything I discover myself extremely interested in. Bernhard was, and still is for me, one of these delicacies.
For several years now I have claimed Concrete
as my favorite of all the Bernhard novels. That is not true for me today. Recently I read again the brilliant short novel [b:Yes|92572|Yes|Thomas Bernhard|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1238384600s/92572.jpg|2957340] and found that to be a better read for me than Concrete
. One may also add [b:Extinction|162612|Extinction|Thomas Bernhard|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1238384069s/162612.jpg|25436242], [b:Frost|12203|Frost|Thomas Bernhard|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1388692585s/12203.jpg|1244054], and quite possibly even [b:Woodcutters|92576|Woodcutters|Thomas Bernhard|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328874375s/92576.jpg|1588962] to that growing list of novels I find to be far superior to my first-acquired Bernhard favorite. … When we really know the world, we see it is just a world full of errors.
The main character in Concrete
was himself a musicologist and is now a procrastinator to the extreme. He does not it seems continue to compile detailed notes in which to refer to when he finally sits down to compose his master work. He tells us this proposal is based on his favorite composer Mendelssohn Bartholdy, a study he has been planning on writing for going on ten years. The more the name Mendelssohn Bartholdy
is mentioned the more it begins to have its poetical qualities. Its specific repetitions reminds me of an almost David Letterman
intensity. Fact is, Rudolf the narrator, has written nothing but notes that he casually mentions near the end of this book that proved, I guess, to provide the substance of the novel Concrete
I am holding in my hands. Daily, without fail, Rudolf prepares his materials precisely on his desk enabling him in his effort for the sitting down to it
, the beginning of his work, but then something always keeps him from composing that first sentence. He knows if he could just write it he would be well on his way. His reasons for not forming that first sentence on the page are in fact numerable (and mounting), and humorous enough if a fellow writer with the same difficulty just so happens to be reading this.
I do not have the same problem Thomas Bernhard so adequately portrays in this novel. "Writer's block" is a condition I do not prescribe to, nor do I believe in. A writer writes, she revises and edits, and often destroys the work that seemed at first to have had so much promise. I think that when I was first introduced to this book I harbored enough of my own difficulties on the page to collect some solace in a character with the same problems as I. But the more I worked and perfected my craft the less trouble I had with beginnings as I new that this was the best place to start. Often the first words get pushed to somewhere near the middle, or even to the end, and sometimes nowhere at all. But in order to have something to revise one must have something in which to work with. In many cases almost anything will do, though it helps to be severe in one's editing.
I still love Concrete
but I have lost the same affinity for it I had so many years ago. As I mentioned at the top of the page there are just so many other Bernhards to read and enjoy that this novel for me no longer stands as the very best of all of them. Extreme anxiety, neuroticism, incessant O.C.D, intolerance, suicide, insanity, and procrastination are at times quite entertaining and funny when looked at through the eyes of Thomas Bernhard, but I have learned through the years that I need more than these large doses of these rather unseemly human conditions in order to keep me satisfied. I like a bit more story in my favorite Bernhards. I generally storm through the very best of his work, but I found this novel on second read to be lacking in the generous spirit I have discovered in reading certain others. But please, do not confuse this review as something negative. Thomas Bernhard is in my book simply the best. There is no other who could possibly replace him.