Posts Tagged ‘in the style of’

having selected the book by georges perec called the art and craft of approaching your head of department to submit a request for a raise to read you are faced with a dilemma or if you like an unsolvable problem on the one hand you would like to read this book which is not perec’s most famous book but maybe his third or fourth most well known for which you have laid down the not insignificant sum of twenty-seven dollars and ninety-five cents and if you are honest with yourself you were expecting a book bigger than the eighty-four page volume you receive in the mail actually perhaps it is over one hundred pages with preliminary matter but that is really not to the point – and we must try our best to keep to the point – but on the other hand you are worried that if you are seen on the way to work with such a title other people on the tram may think you grasping and even worse someone who works with you may spot you and think you insensitive as well as grasping for it is well known that your industry is going down the toilet but it’s one or t’other you have after all spent your hard earned money on this book which is not perec’s most famous book but maybe his third or fourth most well known perhaps not more well known than a void written without the use of the letter e no not once yes really quite a feat anyhow you decide to read this book regardless of what the general public and more specifically your colleagues may think should they see you reading it in this economic climate and more specifically in the midst of this age of uncertainty in the industry in which you work after all you have spent your hard earned money on this book which is not perec’s most famous book but maybe his third or fourth well known and what you discover is that you are relieved that the book is only eighty-four pages rather than say one hundred and forty-four pages because there is only one full stop in the whole thing and it appears at the end that is to say that this book is made up of just one sentence though whether it is a sentence or not is questionable because the book doesn’t even start with a capital letter and there are so many digressions asides whatever you want to call them and clauses lots of them and many ambiguous points where what is missing could as easily be a semicolon as a full stop or a dash em or en whatever you prefer or whatever is house style and even the translator some professor at princeton university has called this book unreadable or what he really calls it is close to unreadable and you would not like this work at all if it was merely an exercise in unreadability but it is not the difficulty of getting through the work that is the point – and we must try our best to keep to the point – but the kind of translation the author attempted to begin with even before the translation by the princeton professor occurred or had been thought of the author accepted a challenge from the computing service of the humanities research centre in paris to write as a computer writes that is to say to adhere strictly to the possible plot given by a flowchart said flowchart is produced winningly in the front of the book so you know whether the protagonist ever gets a raise before you even start reading the text proper but if you have ever worked in an office you probably already know the answer nevertheless as previously alluded to the point – and we must try our best to keep to the point – is that you have never read a book before that has been written as a computer might have written it but of course a computer couldn’t write a book or could it think of those choose your own adventure books from your childhood surely if you plugged in some short scenes the machine would be able to work something out no matter how circuitous or repetitive and perhaps even shades of meaning would come through regardless of whether a machine is capable of creating allegiances or attachments as indeed it has in this book which you have in your hands having laid down the not insignificant sum of twenty-seven dollars and ninety-five cents though you did think that perhaps nothing could be more boring than a book written as if a computer had written it but of course a computer couldn’t write a book or could it really boredom is besides the point – and we must try our best to keep to the point – there is repetition and there is recursion here the book is after all following a pattern laid down by a flowchart what did you expect but as you know a flowchart builds in its let’s call it a reader a flowchart builds in a reader levels of expectation and tension and this book builds its story in washes like a watercolour almost it’s nothing like a mere circuit really finally you discover that the book you are holding in your hand not perec’s most famous book perhaps not more well known than a void was once produced for radio my god you think how did they do that how did they produce this work for radio being that you have just finished reading this book by georges perec called the art and craft of approaching your head of department to submit a request for a raise having selected it to read regardless of flash judgments that may be made by co-travellers on public trams and the glances of your co-workers because although you know it must have taken you a few hours to read this book you feel like you have not taken a breath that whole time.

I was going to do an ‘In the style of’ post about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but when I chanced upon Jacob Lambert’s version at The Millions, which not only has five parts but is also really funny, I realised what folly it would be to try and compete. However, I am still really wedded to the idea. For me, The Road is all about McCarthy’s writing style, apocalyptic messages to profligate humanity notwithstanding. It’s the no-space, no-hyphen compound words; and the resolute renouncement of apostrophes in contractions; and the mysterious non-appearance of inverted commas; and all the hair tousling. So I’m just going to herd you on over to Lambert’s parody by way of a choice quote.

Now this is the river, he said, indicating a random mapcrease. We follow the road here along the eastern slope of the mountains. These are our roads, the black lines here. See these roads? The boy seemed confused. What’s the matter, the man said.

I thought it was singular. You know. “The Road.”

The man’s eyes went wide. Where did you get those?

Get what?

The quotation marks.

The boy looked at his feet. Ive. Ive been saving them, Papa.

Well you can’t just use them like that. He took the boy’s face in his hands, more roughly than intended. Everything is precious. Everything. Do you understand?

The boy looked a little bit frightened. Yes Papa. I wont ever use them again. I promise.

The last time I read a book that made me cry, well, I never said I wanted to read a book that would make me cry, did I, what I said was I wanted to read a book about a place where everyone can hear what other people think and so you never have time alone, everyone knows everything about you, and you can hear what animals think (and what dogs have to say isn’t very interesting, they want to poo and eat all the time).

I guess in some ways, what I wanted was what I got, cuz The Knife of Never Letting Go is about a place called Prentisstown where there aren’t any women, the whole populashun is made up of men, and they can all hear each other’s thoughts in a loud jangly Noise that crawls across the book’s pages in funny fonts that I’d try to show you if I knew how. There are only 147 people in Prentisstown and they’re all waiting for some reason for young Todd Hewitt, the last of the kids, to become a man.

Cuz there’s a secret hiding, even in the Noise of the town, that Todd knows is dangerous cuz one day Ben and Cillian, the only family he knows, tell him to get out of Prentisstown and Todd’s shocked, he hadn’t even known there was anywhere else but Prentisstown in the world, and so off he goes with his dog Manchee (‘Poo, Todd. Poo. Poo’).

But being able to hear other people’s thoughts is just a type of power, and we all know that where there’s power there’s someone who wants all of it, so before long the people of Prentisstown are searching for him, searching through all of a world we find out is just a new version of the one we know, and there’s preshus few places to hide when people know what your thoughts sounds like, have heard them every day of your life since you were born.

I love this book. I love the way the writer uses the Noise to show the best and worst parts of everybody, from the keening love of a child whose Noise just says daddy daddy daddy to the clamour of the Noise of hundreds of men drowning in sorrow and regret and confushun and remorse, and best of all I love the heartbreaking and thoughtless loyalty of Manchee and I love the way secrets become so powerfully difficult in Noise and yet The Knife of Never Letting Go is about hope, it’s about how tho’ we as individuals and as humanity have made mistakes how it’s worth every terrible fight to fix them.

And then there’s the cliffhanger, which is something else.

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March 10, 2010

Scorpio: The internet holds a fraction less charm for you this week; your forty-eighth favourite literary blogger has derelicted her posting duty, and only a mid-week apology appears in its usual concentric — Ikea ‘Gustav’ desk, black Apple MacBook screen, Mozilla Firefox, Google Reader — hull. ‘Can you employ ‘concentric’  when speaking of rectangular shapes,’ you ponder.

Even while you excogitate this mystery of meaning, you are not certain whether to be fatigued or merely bored by the insipid excuses she offers. Despite her vow that the swift pace of her life has resulted in such muddle-headedness that she has today mistaken both a plain notebook and a collection of Le Fanu stories for her diary, ‘Fie ‘pon her,’ you think, ‘Blogs are for posting.’

But while you may feel irritated to a minor degree for this transgression, you may also take comfort in the fact that the internet will surely fail. So buck up, rehearse your rendition of a favourite sonnet, and rejoice in the knowledge that strawberry ice-cream, at least, has survived to this golden age.

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How I felt about Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, somewhat in the style of said book:

This is a book I didn’t read for a long time, because sometimes it gives me extremely heavy boots thinking about books that lots of other people have read and I haven’t read yet, and on top of that, it’s a book about a so, so sad thing in recent Western history that is very confusing and distressing. Anyway, I finally got around to reading it, and I really liked it, and it definitely wasn’t shiitake like I was scared it would be. Actually, you need a big place inside you to store this book. That’s how much I liked it.

This is a book about a boy called Oskar Schell, who is extremely clever and endearing — that is, if you like smart kids who have no friends — and whose family has suffered a lot, including when Oskar’s father died when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center. One day, Oskar finds a key in an envelope that has BLACK written on it, and this makes him EXTREMELY DEPRESSED VERY EXCITED INCREDIBLY DETERMINED, since he thinks it has something to do with his dad. So he tries to find out which of the 162 million locks in New York City the key opens, and along the way he meets people like Mr. Black, who was born on January 1, 1901, and has a bibliographical index with cards and a one-word biography (“Henry Kissinger: war!” “Tom Cruise: money!”) for tens of thousands of people.

Another thing that Jonathan Safran Foer does with this book is talk about the impulse of documentation that comes from love, and how it helps people process things and also, how much people love words and pictures. It’s also about doing things even though they hurt us. Oskar has a scrapbook titled Stuff That Happened to Me and it looks like this:

(These pictures aren’t from the book; I got them from here, here, here.)

Oskar’s grandfather can’t speak and he has to also write a lot, and he has plenty of notebooks that have just one word or phrase on them, like this:


And sometimes Jonathan Safran Foer uses other ways of showing how heavy people’s boots can get by doing things with words and how they sit on the page that are different to what other people usually do in books. Like sometimes he does this thing with kerning that I can’t figure out how to do with html. And sometimes he does things like lots of space to you can tell or what’s going on. (Okay, it turns out I can’t make bigger than a regular word space in html either. Who knew?) Sometimes I wished the author wouldn’t do all these things, but other times I really didn’t mind. There’s a really good couple of pages about testing pens. That made me feel okay for some reason.

One thing that was weird was that Oskar gets a letter from Stephen Hawking, which I’m pretty sure would never happen. What about how busy he gets? What about the fact that he probably wouldn’t really have time to read all the letters a little kid sends him? What about the time that even if he read all the letters sent to him by the kid, he wouldn’t have time to send a letter back? I just googled “getting a letter from Stephen Hawking” and there were no results, so I don’t think anyone has ever received a response from a fan letter to Stephen Hawking, and I guess if anyone ever googles that again, they’ll just get my blog. José!

I guess the final thing I want to say about this book is that the father in it, and the son actually too, are two of my favourite characters in a book I’ve read all year. And this book is a really beautiful way of saying: ‘I love you and I want you to be safe’ to fathers and sons and mothers and daughters like Oskar and his dad and mother and grandmother.

‘Oh, my God!’ screamed Estelle. ‘I am sure that this is the most televisual book I have ever read.’
‘Well,’ Ignatius J. Reilly said, three stolen hot dogs in hand, ‘I am sure that I am simultaneously the most vivid and incorrigible character you will ever come across in all of American literature. Indeed, I have been decorated for it.’
‘I have often wanted to slap you across the face, Ignatius. You are psychotic in the extreme.’
Ignatius sighed. The earflaps of his hat were folded up to facilitate his hearing. He arose from his chair, which would not depart from his elephantine body. It took an effort with both his hands to ease it from his frame. The seat looked rather different in shape when he set it down.
‘Have you read Boethius?’ Ignatius belched. ‘I am a staunch believer in Boethius. I cannot abide these new philosophers, the ignorance of whom astounds me. When I perceive the bookstore arrangements of those abortions they call books, the filth they impart to the masses, I feel sick. In fact, my valve is giving me considerable trouble now.’
Estelle paused. ‘What’s a valve?’
‘You are a maniac!’ Ignatius screamed, his voice choked with saliva and fury. ‘Get away from me! You little understand the respect due a personage of my immense intelligence, height and breadth! I would not be surprised if you were not even a human being; a phony whose molecules rejoice at the thoughts of other incompetents! I am certain that you revere film stars, those carriers of mange! You enemy of Pragmatism and Morality! False proponent of American ‘art’! Cataclysmic affront to Hroswitha’s wisdom! That Fortuna should let me spin so low as this!’
‘Oo-wee. I think I got siphlus from dat man,’ said Jones, who was sweeping the floor.

In the style of Autofiction, a review of sorts:

22nd year, Winter
Wow! I’m so annoyed I could die. First, the cover of this book is so exactly like the cover of that old guy Murakami’s books. It’s really so stupid. I don’t know why anyone should fall for such a dumb stunt. Wait, I did. Uu? Anyway, it’s just unbelievable. It’s not the same as Murakami really. It’s not as dreamy as his stuff. My friend Kana would probably do him. She doesn’t care who she spreads her legs for. The main character is so annoying! Have you ever met someone so hysterical as this Rin person? In fact, I think I’m going to coin a new genre of fiction based on this kind of narrative: the simple hysterical present.
At the start of this book is Rin is on a plane with her cute husband Shin. A flight attendant spills some champagne on Shin’s knee, and she wipes it off. Rin gets really angry and jealous. But she’s so in love with Shin! She wishes the plane would fall out of the sky so they could die together. Shin goes off somewhere and Rin starts imagining that he is cheating on her with the flight attendant. How did someone get so crazy?
18th Summer
Okay, so now we’re going back in time. That’s cool, I can understand that. She’s with some loser called Shah who lies to her. But I guess the lies he tells her are not so bad. She gets angry about a lot of things. What a stinker! Why is she so angry all the time? She loves dancing and going to parties but at these parties there’s a lot of sex. She doesn’t seem to question it though, so whatever. In fact she knows she’s cute and that guys want her but that’s the limit of her self-awareness really. Rin’s so micro! I don’t think this book is interested in issues other than personal issues.
16th Summer
Whoa, now she’s with a real asshole who makes Rin support herself by going to pachinko parlours. She’s not allowed to get a real job. I guess you can really see why she’s so screwed up all the time. It’s a bit of an obvious trick but you can still feel sympathetic towards her. Some really bad stuff happens to Rin. It’s sad.
15th Winter
Whoa, another asshole. So I guess Rin has a really bad life. And though she’s annoying you really feel sorry for her. Even if you want her to go away because she’s so crazy. This going-back-in-time structure is pretty good! Even though all the parts that show why she has no self-control are so obvious and the language is a bit stupid sometimes, there are also some parts where you really feel sorry for Rin. Sometimes she is really fun! She seems more together when she is younger.
Okay, I’m going to dance to Non-Stop Techno Adventure now.