In the terse and quirky but ultimately pretty empty lexicon of modern American genre fiction master wizard geniuses are many scratches both exceptionaIn the terse and quirky but ultimately pretty empty lexicon of modern American genre fiction master wizard geniuses are many scratches both exceptionally scratched and exceptionally un-scratched. These stories don't have quite the hollow screech of all the artificial and carefully-crafted importance of a sword-clashing dragon adventure or sail-rippling yarn of olde, but they do make a single small screech, or at least the plucky beginnings of a small screech, or at least the same lowly subtext that they're more meaningful themselves than any other thing itself, so why don't you just sit back and be entertained finally by something that's entertaining and has decided for itself what it's going to say rather than something that's less dashing or sure of itself, plus smart surprise. By the light of most of them having a similar self-involved and mentally-handicapped bad tone, they instruct by carefully not instructing and just being their own gee-whiz special sauce, prattling on and on yet about terse mysteries, mists which may have import, jerkins and dirks and city/wilderness oaths. Or literature itself, which is given the overwrought and defensive whine that we all love in neat and well-built little jots such as these.
If you're bored by A, which is all-encompassing and epic, then you'll probably be interested in B -- oh yeah, I guess A's technically not all-encompassing, since there's B, but it's like a coin: all of one side isn't all of the coin, since there's a flip side, but each time you flip it the flip side changes, and are you a coin master or something? You could probably manage a little story about such a mysterious coin, though it might require a sprinkle of je-ne-sais-quoi too. But B is even "worse" than A, so buckle in for some interesting new avenues through the swing of any dark new popular arch art-aware un-popularity in any case. Most of them are mindless wastes, sorry to say, though a mindful waste would be equally as wasteful, no? "Being lost was not romantic at all": tell me about it, sister! In your best, most meta-, most tiresome, drabbest but also most gotcha, hip reader-response way! Because I know you're puzzling over all this, the genre/catharsis pleasure chasm.
There's even a story called "Stories", which is about things very similar to most other things. But I certainly wouldn't say that's even a compliment, necessarily, since all the rigmarole is shrill and obnoxious absolutely, even more so when the dang thing's so obvious with itself. Um. "People join revolutions until they get what they want as individuals, then start quarrelling over the spoils, however imaginary." Um, ok, yeah? Promising enough itself, yes, but immediately followed by all the unnecessary blather with which it's immediately and cynically knotted. Hello! Are you listening to yourself? I wouldn't necessarily want to spend my time with something like that, so you don't have to deeply recount it for me.
Meaning what? Meaning… everything. Trying to dazzle away, but eventually not being able to. I know the very high-minded yet efficiency-minded economical attempt that's all the rage, or at less I think I do (hmm!), but this style -- if it even _is_ the style that it appears to be, rather than a brilliant and noble novel technique -- seems like just a weakness in fiction in general these days. Bad, woozy stuff that's actually hollow and less smart than it constantly shouts that it is? I'd hate to go that far, but if that's how far you need to go this one time then sure ok yeah. Ladies and gentlemen, shouldn't the accused have the right to rise on their own from the defendants table and speak freely in their defense whenever the need arises, to whomever, skipping past all convoluted legal malarkey and paperwork and permissions? Imaginative/exceptional fiction? Ok, except I expected something different. Smarter, wiser, more thoughtful, lower, longer maybe?...more
Oh joy. A hyperverbal, hyperanalytical thing about things. But there are so many things that I hope it doesn't forget what things are. That is, of couOh joy. A hyperverbal, hyperanalytical thing about things. But there are so many things that I hope it doesn't forget what things are. That is, of course, the problem with things, that they purport themselves to be problem-free but actually aren't. Things need one big thing to get in, and if things don't have that thing… Well, that's a problem. But a problem is also a thing, so you could easily just say that one thing has another thing if it has a problem. And what things don't have problems once in a while? None. None do. They all have problems. If you think you're just reading something, then think again. Nobody likes analyses.
Intellectual-looking but not intellectual at all? Just some dim, pretentious chatter promising what it won't deliver? Big. Thick. Make me look deep, smart, considerate. And people who say similar things are sometimes innocently asked if they'd actually 100% read the thing in question? Gosh. The power. Well, now that I "know" that, I'll have to go back and revise what came before.
Pique my idle curiosity, and patience too or lack thereof. Ha. I'm usually pretty patient, but not now, not when it's actually necessary. When there's all this material squeezed of all its meaning and/or looseness. Some bloodless, unintelligible crap about being bloodless and unintelligible, plus the tragic thing about being addicted to substances and lost in idle pages. Scribbling on and on about burning all your pages but not actually burning any of them. I know you didn't burn any of them because I have to read them now. You scribbled a lot. But wow, you did such a great job writing all of this and getting it published. And you even included some "fuck"s and "bitch"s so we know how cool and edgy and WTF, how many blowjobs you'd get after your MFA workshop for instance, maybe, I'm just guessing. But then suddenly a fire comes out of nowhere, completely out of nowhere. And obliterates everything. I'm talking everything.
But even as you impress very much with all the punchy, single-word paragraphs explosively appearing unbidden after the many-word-paragraph richness that came before, I know you're just disguising the same dull football player macho-ness that annoys elsewhere, except verbal this time. Verbal and verbal and verbal and verbal. Twiddling, sophomoric, scare-obsessed antics, please? Pretty pretty pretty please? Yeah, wow, the kind of deep depth you can stretch out in, and smells so intensely earthy and stuff.
Kiddie Infinite Jest? spun into '90s-pop-hip horror? Elaborate super footnotes, but with nothing more inside them than dim poetics and sophomoric melodrama. You can't object to any of it, though, without something being inadequate maybe about you or your reading experience or, and just guessing here, interface skills with literature as a gigantic whole. Impossible to get a quote-worthy piece -- as if anyone needed one of those! -- which wouldn't immediately seem wrong or too shallow for some reason. But, anyway, that's the whole point. Spoiler alerts, btw, are for abusing by using them too much or in the wrong place.
Tame the wildness or randomness! Difficult but cute. Crackerjack obfuscation, but if it's only obfuscating something hollow then how negative can the obfuscation be? A footnote wouldn't provide the pertinent information that a footnote from that footnote would provide, but that one would be on a whole separate page (grumble, chuckle, so clever) so you have to scramble forward and then scramble back, and you might get lost if you can't keep up. Keep up? Keep up. The central episode is of course interrupted by a handful of digressions that might mean more, but those are then interrupted to go back to the central episode; my word, so "undisciplined" but at the same time so "undisciplined", I 'love' it. So scary too. But I hope scariness can be scary, or something.
It starts out that every "house" is blue (including "haus" deep in the German bits, and "maison" deep in the French bits, and "oue" when brackets indicate metatextual illegibility). Eerie, so eerie. Is the courier typeface just an empty gimmick? or at least just the switches back and forth from courier to something proportional, footnote to footnoted footnote to endnote? Flip the entire thing around and around by past-future, person-to-person, talking-head-style. Or literally flip it around. Silly? Silly as silly does. Quotation, obscure reference, "quotation," quotation, obscure reference, quotation… All of it annoying instead of charming you? Usually. Wait, "usually"? "Usually", so not all the time? Well, no one can be charming all the time.
The many texts create what might be coyly termed a plethora, and each is more obscure than the last. Each new one might resign you a little more to the depth of research (or at least the depth of 'thinking up many examples of fictional scholarship to support one's fictional conclusions') that Danielewski undertook or made us think he'd undertaken. Predict each naughty little twitch or dull instinct, including the meta- ones, and predict again, and again, and roll them up and proclaim yourself a fine predicter. If with "…of what?" you're prompted, just shrug and say that isn't the point. There's a book, and an author, and another book about that first book, and a HEADACHE, OH WHAT A HEADACHE
Do these make a series of unbelonging (to each other, or just to other people with different things to do?) fiction-workshop experiments lashed together into a long narrative? "Pretentious" is taboo. "Tedious" is taboo. It's critic-proof. Is it a waste of time? I don't know, what _is_ time, really? Idealize the monoculture, by any means necessary, however inane some of its examples might seem. Already! So early! LOL. You can't do this.
Wallace's Infinite Jest and Levin's The Instructions seem the closest parallels, but both (FYI, spoiler alert) are much, much better than Danielewski. All are behemoth postmodern mega-texts, heavy and dense with footnotes or other obscure references, but they should all be pointing toward concerns that are human at the core (as all books should, even more so, I'd say, when they're dense with notes): for Wallace it was loyalty to people improving themselves, and for Levin it was deep and absolute religious fervor. For Danielewski, I don't think it's as human as those; just silly melodrama with silly Blair Witch thrills, or what are hoped to be Blair Witch thrills plus or minus snatches at knowing suburban America. Like life, yeah?
All the density is supposed to show impenetrability, that much is clear, for either celebrating or mocking it, sure, but that risks leaving out why anyone would try to penetrate something that seems impenetrable at all. Just to see themselves heroic explorers, or to prove once and for all that impenetrability isn't impenetrable when they want to penetrate it? Eternally precocious and unassailable. Ain't no bother about monotony being boring, just went ahead with it all the same. Psychologizing, all built off every absurdity, not solving itself but justifying to everyone else why it should be allowed to stay unsolved. Idealizing something to get at what's ideal, but no, that won't do. Images are so weak, man, to capture craziness; for example…...more
J.R.R. Tolkien's interpretation of two ancient epic poems, the "Lay of the Volsungs" and the "Lay of Gudrun," from the Poetic Edda of the Icelandic peJ.R.R. Tolkien's interpretation of two ancient epic poems, the "Lay of the Volsungs" and the "Lay of Gudrun," from the Poetic Edda of the Icelandic peoples in maybe the 13th century. Tolkien's son Christopher compiled and edited his father's work on them, and presents the finished volume as some kind of crazy combination of mind-crushingly detailed Norse poetics primer and loosey-goosey fantasy passion project. It's hard to know what you're reading.
The preface is pretty cool occasionally, as when a quick 1967 letter from Tolkien to W.H. Auden (where Tolkien mentions wanting to “lay my hands on it (I hope it isn’t lost), a thing I did many years ago’’) is revealed to be one of the few mentions of this whole big project at all. But all the introductory chapters are so complicated, multi-faceted, yet still somehow stultifying and hurried. And that's not even mentioning the poems yet! It's all in some queer alliterative verse form (a punchy form, of short lines, to get sudden flashes instead of reflection), which just muddles a muddle. ...more