Reiner Stach: who is this guy? After he started one of his chapters last night with a quote from Björk’s “Hyper-Ballad,” (1) Kafka’s biographer suddenly became just as interesting as his subject. And a little research proved that Herr Stach is super dedicated to the mysterious denizen of Prague; much like your standard scholar, most of what he’s written has been on Franz and his world, his ideas, even his “erotic mythos.” But unlike the dedicated academic concerned only with the twelve other people in the world stuffed as full of both significant information and minutiae about (usually) his own subject as he is, Stach really knows how to write with style, how to draw a person into the story and to act out of sympathy for the reader. He’s comfortable enough with himself and his knowledge of the subject not to have to go into jargon-laden proofs of his very big brain and its considerable and densely-packed contents, not to have to insult the reader in order to make himself feel grand and important in comparison.
I’m only 20% of the way through this tome– but it feels anything but weighty. If I were still able to do such things, I’d take a couple of days off, park myself on a lawn somewhere, and just devour this thing, word by delicious word. As it is, though, I have to pay rent– but maybe the limitations placed on the amount of time I can devote in a given day to this book are actually a good thing; this way, the pleasure will last that much longer.
(1) On p. 108, he starts off Chapter 7 with “I go through all this before you wake up.”