The greatness of a great book is untranslatable. I cannot tell you what is extraordinary about The Loser. You must read it for yourself. You will not find it pleasant. You may not find that it speaks to you with the immediacy and the insistence that it speaks to me. But you will certainly find that it speaks searingly, fearlessly and comically. It puts us inside the head of a coldly embittered man, who aspired to be a great pianist until he heard Glenn Gould play, and realized he could never be as good. It is, you see, about being talented, and still being a loser.
You have to reread the surface amusements of plot, subject and mystery drop away, the deeper pleasures of prose and reflection stay. I must have read some favourite novels 30 times Natalia Ginzburg's Lessico Famigliare, PG Wodehouse's The Code of the Woosters, Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks, Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods and Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch. The most memorable rereadings in my life have been of Proust, who I read when I was 16, 18, 30 and 40 every time a different novel. It used to be a big farce about duchesses; these days it's about how to make sense of the world around you. I don't think you can read Proust, only reread, making adjustments and corrections and changes in understanding as you go.
When will the moon be clear and bright? With a cup of wine in my hand, I ask the blue sky. I don't know what season it would be in the heavens on this night. I'd like to ride the wind to fly home. Yet I fear the crystal and jade mansions are much too high and cold for me. Dancing with my moon-lit shadow It does not seem like the human world The moon rounds the red mansion Stoops to silk-pad doors Shines upon the sleepless Bearing no grudge Why does the moon tend to be full when people are apart? People may have sorrow or joy, be near or far apart The moon may be dim or bright, wax or wane This has been going on since the beginning of time May we all be blessed with longevity Though far apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.