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Chômu Press Discussion > ***Human Pages*** November Quarterly Read Forum

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message 1: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Democracy has spoken. Beginning November 1st, we will be reading and hopefully commenting on John Elliott's Human Pages which appears a sprawling novel of identities for sale.

First off, are you going to read it in November?

message 2: by Ross (new)

Ross Scott-Buccleuch | 43 comments Mod
Excellent. I shall indeed be reading this very soon.

message 3: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
I confess, I've already looked like it was in the lead for a while and I took a gamble and ordered it. It is very detailed and meaty.
Reading it, I can't help but wonder if it somehow influenced the Crisp, Connell, Isis collabo, The Cutest Girl in Class.

message 4: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
The concept of The Chance Company, seems like something that might have sprung from the mind of Michael Cisco or Philip K. Dick.

message 5: by Axolotl (last edited Nov 02, 2014 11:44PM) (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Alright, so after a brief word about the basic structure of the novel, I will make a few comments about the opening section.

The novel is broken into three lengthy chapters, however don't let this deter you as these "chapters" are further divided into several smaller sections which seem to act more like chapters in the traditional sense. As characters and names emerge rapidly (throughout the seventy-odd pages of the book at least), again: do not let this deter you, for, at the back of the book lies an appendix broken into 5 different groupings of names and characters. Main Characters - the principal figures whom we will be following, Identities - presumably, the assumed names of those subscribing to The Chance Company's unusual services, Tell-Tales - Others - minor characters, perhaps only mentioned in the story itself, Orishas - non-human yet personified spiritual figures, only obliquely presented in one or two flashbacks in the first section of the novel, one can only assume that more hints will follow as the story proceeds.

First section notes:
-A shadowy narrator describes, in the first person, "your" materialization into the thick of the narrative and, more specifically, into the hazy secondhand smoke of a dive bar, from the names mentioned, somewhere in South America.

-The "you" being addressed seems to be familiar and is yet disoriented by his surroundings.

-In one detail, which seems particularly significant, the narrator draws attention to the fact that "His Son (capitals in original) is standing at the is only a matter of moments before he addresses you as 'my son' too".

-After meeting friends "you" recognize in the bar and reminiscing with them about an episode from childhood it is time to move on.

-"You" is revealed to be Manolo, who we, in turn, find (in the appendix at the back of the book) to be the dead father of one of the main characters, yet to be introduced, Sonny Ayza. This makes the identity of the narrator more clear, for if "you" are Manolo Ayza--as the narrator says "My Son" that probably makes him Sonny's grandfather and the mysterious man at the bar, possibly Manolo's father. Though the capitalization might suggest that the narrator is God, You/Manolo his son/pawn and the man at the bar, Jesus.

-The man at the bar, your father, has left.

-You/Manolo/the son leave the bar, only to be cautioned by the barmaid, Paca, to "[w]atch out for intruders [ ....] [t]here are strangers about nowadays."

Next we meet "your" son, Sonny Ayza, salary man for The Chance Company.

One thing seems clear, this book isn't going to yield its secrets without a fight--a fight for final comprehension.

I'm not so clear on the son, My Son, etc. thing, perhaps someone who is better at close readings could help me out here. I find descriptions of familial relations very confusing in written work.
I just noted that Sonny also has a stepfather named Tian who is mentioned in the "childhood" episode mentioned above. I suppose from this perspective the man narrating could be Manolo, you--even though everyone thinks you are Manolo---could actually be Sonny Ayza and the man at the bar (who might also begin calling you "My Son") could be Tian.

message 6: by Karl (new)

Karl | 32 comments Axolotl wrote: "I confess, I've already looked like it was in the lead for a while and I took a gamble and ordered it. It is very detailed and meaty.
Reading it, I can't help but wonder if it somehow i..."

At one point the trio of authors was working on the sequel to The Cutest Girl in Class - any word or update on that front ?

message 7: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
If there were, it would be found in the NEWS thread.

message 8: by Axolotl (last edited Nov 06, 2014 11:17PM) (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Axolotl wrote: "If there were, it would be found in the NEWS thread." but, sadly, the answer is: none that I have heard.

message 9: by Karl (new)

Karl | 32 comments Axolotl wrote: "Axolotl wrote: "If there were, it would be found in the NEWS thread." but, sadly, the answer is: none that I have heard."

Even though Chômu Press didn't publish that particular book, if you heard about it, you would put it in NEWS? - Well thank You Sir! I have been out of the book loop for the last week or so, If I ever was in the loop that is.

message 10: by Ross (new)

Ross Scott-Buccleuch | 43 comments Mod
I've been treating the NEWS page as somewhere to announce new works by Chomu authors from other publishers, not just Chomu. Things seem to have slowed right down with Chomu. Hopefully this means they are sitting on a pile of exciting works, ready to unleash on us all unawares.

message 11: by Karl (new)

Karl | 32 comments While I was ordering stuff I went ahead and ordered "Dying to Read by John Elliott" also.

message 12: by Karl (new)

Karl | 32 comments Ross wrote: "I've been treating the NEWS page as somewhere to announce new works by Chomu authors from other publishers, not just Chomu. Things seem to have slowed right down with Chomu. Hopefully this means th..."

I hope your Hopefully ness comes to fruition. I was given to understand there my be some current funding problems as sales have not been as expected. Hopefully this group will go in some positive direction in rectifying that matter.

message 13: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Manoko, Fitzhugh, Cheto Simon, Sowenwell, Terence, Alsatian, Blatteriblax records, depots in Panalquin, Amadeo Cresci. The List was intriguing.

-John Elliot, Human Pages page 11

In the next second section we meet one of the main characters, Sonny Ayza, as he makes his way home to commit suicide. It is after hours and before he leaves his office at the Chance Company (not yet fully introduced), he intercepts a telephone call at a manager's (Harvard Smith) desk. A woman calling herself Elizabeth Kerry (as we know from the Appendix, an "identity") persists in relaying a message to him. The message, as follows, seems so esoteric that it must be key to the text:

1. The instruction manual for electrical installations at Gallo Mart, Depot 4, Old Yard Station, Panalquin, does not include the extension built in 1971.

2. The Fitzhugh family's Alsatian was called "Rusty" not "Polka Dot".

3. Ex-colleagues of Fernando Cheto Simon look forward to a forthcoming reunion.

4. The colour-coding for Blatteriblax record labels 1953 to 1968 was as follows (a) magenta--Chicago South Side Rhythm and Blues, (b) ox-blood--Texas Tenors, (c) emerald--Race Re-Issues, (d) gold--Kansas City After Hours, (e) fawn--New Thing.

5. At the height of his reign of protection terror, Ute Manoko controlled 1316 pachinko parlours in Greater Osaka alone.

6. Vera Sowenwell continues to think highly of her late lover, Conrad Terence, in spite of the serious allegations of his fascistic connections outlined in the 1978 biography by I.A. Graz.

Kerry ends her message by mentioning the fact that she is calling on behalf of the executors of the Amadeo Cresci Foundation.

Why does Ayza take down this strange list? Even more strangely why does he keep it if, as we soon learn, he is just going to go home and kill himself. Why does he want to kill himself? I'm thinking that, if he is a main character, he is probably not going to kill himself?

Anyway we do learn that Sonny has been working for the Chance Company in a fictional city called Greenlea, but that he is a native of a country (also fictional) called Miranda and lived in several locales there, such as Llomera and Orias. Elliott manages to weave a fully working world with very few words and, yet, he manages to be very descriptive. One criticism, at first, is that it is all a little overwhelming---but we came here to be disorientated, didn't we? Well if that is the goal, then mission accomplished! For some reason Sonny takes quite a while to get out of his office, he is naturally contemplating the message he has taken. Elliot's writing is highly-detailed and has many what-feel-like internal references, for example, when he does get out of the office, he describes some graffiti Sonny notices (that apparently wasn't there the day before) bearing the words "Free Albert Wende!" and you get the feeling that this will be important later, are you taking notes? Note taking feels like a good habit to get into and the notes will seemingly come in handy later on, we are only on the first few pages here. The more I think of it, the more of a treat it is: total, merciless immersion into a fabricated world--this is detailed, realistic fantasy.

Sonny goes to a get a coffee at a stall where he is friendly with the waitress, Sylvia...she tells him a little story about passion...

message 14: by Axolotl (last edited Nov 07, 2014 12:29AM) (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
I thought Snuggly was an imprint of Chomu--or maybe Hieroglyphic---to be fair the trio of authors are all Chomu authors but anyway: Ross is correct, the NEWS thread only needs to be tangentially related to Chomu, therefore new works by Chomu Press authors apply: bring on all the Rhys Hughes updates ;)
NOW I'M DOING IT! Wrong thread! [insert: Homer Simpson's famous monosyllabic exclamation here]
Oh, and Karl, my sharp response before about this not being the news thread was meant to have a ";)"-y face after it.

---the internet makes Nazis of us all.

message 15: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) At least I can be sure someone will explain it to me, I'm a little slow.

message 16: by Axolotl (last edited Nov 08, 2014 11:31PM) (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
In a little "coincidence", I just received the (so-called) "restored text" of William Burroughs' The Ticket that Exploded yesterday and, after reading Oliver Harris' stupendous introduction outlining his scholarly work on the Burroughs Archive, was flipping through it when I came across this poetic passage on page 133:

...what have I my friend to give you?...dawn sleep...smell of late morning in the room?
Sad old human papers I carry...empty magic of young nights...

I can't say for sure if this is merely a coincidence. However, given the fact that both Elliott and Burroughs were published by John Calder in the late sixties and early seventies, respectively, my instinct tells me it probably was not. My copy of Elliott's Another Example of Indulgence lists several Burroughs titles in print from Calder & Boyars at the time on the dust jacket.

message 17: by Sirensongs (new)

Sirensongs | 4 comments I've just ordered this, hope to get my copy before the discussion is done. I'm not sure how much I'll contribute (I'm pretty sporadic when it comes to forum posting), but I'm hoping that reading the comments of others will enhance my own reading experience.

Thus far, I've avoided reading any of the comments in depth for fear of spoilers. Looking forward to it though.

In regards to "The Cutest Girl in Class", I'm probably the only fan of all three authors who was slightly disappointed by it. There were passages I ADORED, and I'm pretty sure I know who authored them. Other parts just seemed to rub me the wrong way. I won't say more, for fear of virtual eggs being thrown in my direction...All that being said, I probably would still read a sequel, in the hopes that I would be pleasantly surprised. And if not, I suppose I could just view the reading as an indulgement of my masochistic tendencies!

message 18: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) I'm about 1/3 of the way into this now and at around 25% the thing finally started to click for me (with constant referral to "the cast"). This reminds me a lot of better Thomas Pynchon with a little Philip K. Dick thrown in but that's before knowing where we'll end up.

message 19: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Have you found it useful to refer to the appendix?

message 20: by Ross (new)

Ross Scott-Buccleuch | 43 comments Mod
I'm not far in, about 60 pages or so. It feels like I've been sucked over the event horizon of this heady and delirious vortex. I took a look at the appendix and it's given me a slippery handrail of sorts.

message 21: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Don't worry. It gets more grippy.

"event horizon"
good phrase
and one which perfectly sums up the point where Elliott manages to finally suspend your disbelief or, is it, incomprehension?

message 22: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
My appendix is all marked up...thinking of having it removed

message 23: by Ross (new)

Ross Scott-Buccleuch | 43 comments Mod
I'm about a third of the way through and I can't say that I'm enjoying it, yet.

message 24: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) It took about 25% for me to get into it. Enjoying it, hmmm, may be the wrong term for this novel at least so far and I am a little over a third finished. Once I understood the Emily Brown thing better and was actually into it I found some quite humorous situations unfolding.

message 25: by Axolotl (last edited Nov 17, 2014 11:29AM) (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
The My Son thing gets cleared up a little later, too. This was inserted at the beginning to be suggestive--this novel requires a lot of going back to earlier parts, however, I will say that most of the time the details, for me, were presented in a way that re-sparked the (sometimes dim) memory of their first being mentioned.

Please answer or illuminate this scene, if you can:

When Sonny travels to Panalquin (not sure, if I spelled it right but no text near at hand), what is the significance of his finding the Gallo Mart? What does he actually find there? It seems to me he found nothing (as opposed to something, which he'd initially hoped). To be a little critical, I found this to be a largish red-herring, but then I supposed Sonny did, too.

message 26: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) Axolotl wrote: "The My Son thing gets cleared up a little later, too. This was inserted at the beginning to be suggestive--this novel requires a lot of going back to earlier parts, however, I will say that most of..."

Wasn't there something about a chicken earlier in Ayza's dream or daydream, unconnected with Gallo Mart but associated with some other stuff in the dream?

message 27: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
That's very probable, I'll look it up but I was referring to when he actually goes to "the depot".

message 28: by Ross (new)

Ross Scott-Buccleuch | 43 comments Mod
Things are beginning to slowly coalesce for me now after around page 100.....

message 29: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
That's about the same as for me.

message 30: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
Whose story is it currently?

message 31: by Ross (new)

Ross Scott-Buccleuch | 43 comments Mod
We're cutting between Emily Brown and Sonny.

message 32: by Ross (new)

Ross Scott-Buccleuch | 43 comments Mod
Magnets are aligning iron filings in my head.

message 33: by Axolotl (last edited Nov 19, 2014 06:08AM) (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
"Coalescence" is quite the perfect word for this process, which is too subtle to be put into more accurate terms.

message 34: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) I finished this a few days ago. Is anybody else finished; going to weigh in on it? I knew the threads would somehow come together. (view spoiler) I still say this fugues on We'll Remember it for You Wholesale without the pseudoscience. The Chance Corporation is a very Dickian touch.

message 35: by Axolotl (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
I was quite enjoying Quentin's commentary on re-reading Human Pages but he hasn't updated it in some time.

I don't really have a lot to say about it: I think one reading is not really enough and would like to revisit it again, after I read a few more of Elliott's other novels.

message 36: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) Did anyone else actually read this?

message 37: by Axolotl (last edited Dec 31, 2014 10:25PM) (new)

Axolotl | 176 comments Mod
I did but I feel like you'd have to read it a few times to have something meaningful to say about it--I'm not going to sweat that, though.
It is a good book--certainly not without its flaws, one example is I felt that the author could have explored the ramifications of what it would mean to be a serial client (or a client at all) of the Chance company, he began this with the girl looking for her father but I don't think he did enough with that aspect to make it wholly satisfying. I also didn't get the feeling that many people were clients of the Chance Company and, so, all the intrigue surrounding its doings and interests fell a little flat for me. However, despite these gripes (which I think are actually quite substantial) and after the "teething pains", which I (and many others, it seems) experienced when reading the first 60-90 pages, I felt Elliott had sort of, somehow, instructed me on how to read his book and, as a result, I began to get more out of it and even begin to enjoy the experience. I wasn't too crazy about the ending, but getting there was a rather interesting experience and the book makes me feel enthusiastic to read Another Example Of Indulgence: A Novel and Dying to Read to see what else Elliott has up his sleeves.

I think a format rather than a novel would have, perhaps, served this book better--possibly a serialization or breaking it into 3 separate volumes. In other words: options not so viable in today's "reading market".

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