The book needs an index, because the names come thick as autumn leaves in Vallambrosa:
"I first met Robbe-Grillet in the early seventies at a cocktail party hosted by Tom Bishop, head of the French department at NYU and a great defender of the New Novelists. I went with Richard Howard, Robbe-Grillet's translator, a close friend of mine at the time and of Susan Sontag, who dedicated her Against Interpretation to him. As Alice Kaplan said in Dreaming in French, her book about the role Paris played in the lives of Jacqueline Kennedy, Sontag, and Angela Davis, during the sixties Susan and Richard were allies introducing French artists and intellectuals to America, she through her essays and he through his translations."
No wonder I have a headache now. (And that's one of the more comprehensible passages, because at least I know most of those names.) To compound matters, if it's someone who plays a large part in his life, White will introduce them once and thereafter refer to them by first name alone, which is intensely confusing. Who are Bernard and Jack and Hubert and James and John? Yes, an index.
I half thought that maybe I should try reading some of these writers White promotes so energetically- James Lord, Harry Mathews, Neil Bartlett- but fortunately, very near the end of the book, he refers on two sequential pages to "the great Erskine Caldwell" and "the great Charles Bukowski", and I saw at once that our tastes would never converge.