To Read Is to Fly

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.” 
― Alberto Manguel


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Vertigo - W.G. Sebald, Michael Hulse Throughout Vertigo, W.G. Sebald, through deceptively clear prose and photographs, creates a disorienting waking dream for his readers. The novel is divided into four sections, and while there is not a straightforward plot or clear storyline, Sebald weaves thematic connections as well as specific details revisited from different perspectives to hold the novel together. Some sections read as biographies of historical figures, while others are written from the perspective of neurotic characters, traveling in Venice, Vienna, and the Tyrolean Mountains in dreamlike states.

Nothing is stable in Sebald's world. Although maps, atlases, and sketches of terrain appear throughout the book, discrepancies between these guides and the actual sites, changed by time, development, or the gap between the ideal and reality, make these worlds difficult for the characters to navigate. Sebald uses water as another device to convey the dream-like vertigo suffered by his characters. Waves roll, vaporetti rock on the canals of Venice, the lapping of water acts as a lullaby. Buildings and works of art molder and decay. Characters attempt to find something concrete to hold onto - friends, people on the streets, a walking routine, scraps of paper to decipher - but in the end their dream-states always prevail.

Since finishing Vertigo, I can't shake off the disorienting sense that I was dreaming along with the characters. This novel is recommended for people who don't require traditional plots, but who are interested in traveling with Sebald, witnessing his blurring of genres, and sharing in the disconcerting experience of life with his characters.

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