Thursday, September 11, 2008

Somebody yelled and the music faded

In the mail recently:

Forrest Gander's new novel As a Friend just out from New Directions. I'm looking forward to this one. The fragmentary shape of the text, with isolated sentences and paragraphs and sections, is exactly what I'm interested in right now.

Baby and I finished reading Samuel Beckett's How It Is and Eugene Marten's Waste.

I'll definitely be reading both again. I don't know if I have anything really coherent to say about How It Is just yet. But I can say that Waste tracked little hexes of dried blood across my brain with rugged work boots. It's definitely a dark novel. Dan Wickett alluded to Cormac McCarthy's Child of God when he said that there is more than a little Lester Ballard in Marten's main character, Sloper, and I think that's accurate. Sloper is a great name for this character. It does not stand out so strangely that it is distracting, but it is definitely strange enough to evoke that something bent about the character. The writing is a precise and rusty cutting instrument. Marten's sentences are clipped and rich. Distilled to the essence. The deadpan matter of fact tone creates the perfect feeling of Sloper's numb indifferent sickness that goes unchecked in his isolation. Sloper is different than McCarthy's Lester Ballard in that Sloper is not violent. Of course, his social paralysis is nearly crippling, but he is still functionally disturbed. Although he prefers to just be left alone, he still craves human contact in whatever way he can make that happen. He is not willfully destructive and does not just take what he wants, but makes use of what he finds already abandoned. Sloper is a sad, creepy, interesting character. And the writing is a perfect detox diet. I will definitely be reading this again. At 116 pages, Waste is a quick and potent read. Highly recommended.

7 comments:

m t fallon said...

That's Beckett's most challenging piece of work, I think, and it's the last piece of long fiction he wrote. You don't get his narrative humor in that piece, he's letting it go. If you haven't checked out his earlier novels Molloy, Malone Dies, and Unnameable, that is where Beckett shines. The later trilogy (Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho) is also wonderful, especially Company. All the same, a great literary intro to the world. I went easy on my kid, getting him started with Marcus Aurelius and Moby Dick.

Also, just received a copy of Waste and Fog and Car. Looking forward to both.

Josh Maday said...

yeah, HII is definitely challenging, but challenging in a way that warrants at least another reading (for me anyway); probably most if not all of beckett warrants multiple readings. the novel trilogy is next for me, i think. though i may reread company, ill seen ill said, and worstward ho before that. yes, marcus aurelius and moby dick: going with lightweight lit, i see. ha. i'm already making reading lists in my mind for my daughter, who is a week old today.

yes, i think you will like Waste. i'm going to look into Fog and Car.

Ortho said...

The fragmentary shape of the text, with isolated sentences and paragraphs and sections, is exactly what I'm interested in right now."

Why?

My favorite Beckett is Worstward Ho. I love it!

Josh Maday said...

Thanks for asking, Ortho. The concept of fragmentary writing has interested me as long as I've been writing fiction, but more lately since the story I'm working on is fragmented in many ways, which I think opens the text and allows it to move in different ways as a whole and in its isolated parts. I'm having a great and frustrating time writing it, and I feel like I'm learning a lot. I've been reading every piece of fragmentary fiction I can find. Stuff like:

Wittgenstein's Mistress and the later novels by David Markson

a lot of Beckett (yes, Worstward Ho is excellent)

Dear Ra by Johannes Goransson

the second section of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, which, besides its fragmentary nature, also deals with other elements that play a role in my story: the concept of time in its many modalities (clock time, cognitive time, memory, etc) and repetition (also found in Beckett)

House Mother Normal by BS Johnson

work by Maurice Blanchot: The Writing of the Disaster, The Step Not Beyond, Awaiting Oblivion, The Infinite Conversation (in parts of which he explores fragmentary writing, focusing on Nietzsche); reading Blanchot is interesting in that thought, running ahead with Blachot, often bumps into its own ass; a very circular/reversible movement. I see where Blanchot influenced Baudrillard's ideas of reversibility, seeing a concept through to its end and beyond.

and also secondary texts like Chronoschisms by Ursula K. Heise, which discusses the fragmentation of time in fiction.

I would love to read others like Measureless Time of Joyce, Deleuze, and Derrida by Ruben Borg, Fragmentary Futures by Daniel Watt, and Bataille, Klossowski, Blanchot: Writing at the Limit by Leslie Hill, except they are all so expensive. What's the deal with that? I'm sure that my impulse to call it elitist is simplistic, but why overprice books that so few people will want to read anyway so that the few who do want to read them can't afford them? I guess I'll have to break down and see if I can get them through the library system. If anyone has any of those titles and wants to sell or trade, please let me know.

BlogSloth said...

You are onto the right groove.

Lose my "nacho" piece (I know, I know, you already did. Sonora Review wants to publish it. So lose it.)

Keep reading Beckett, if you dare.

S

Josh Maday said...

i think so, too, sean. this groove is interesting and exciting for me, so it feels like my groove. i'm also reading brian evenson; his work is the perfect combo of fiction and philosophy. reading his afterword in altmann's tongue, it felt so familiar, kindred.

what nacho piece?

i am going to let beckett destroy my brain.

Josh Maday said...

hey, congrats, sean, on sonora review. meant to include that in the last comment. good work, nacho camacho.