Saturday, October 17, 2009

Off-List Reading

Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry (1973)

By B.S. Johnson

The novel wasn’t originally on my list, but someone else here read it and made it sound appealing to me. And voila, the blog is showing fruits.

I thought the book was great. A little more meta than I usually like, but the self-reference as created text (ick, I thought I wouldn’t be writing statements like that after College) made sense. My favorite instance:

Meanwhile, they were both perfectly happy. Well, this is fiction, is it not? Isn’t it?

Think about that for a while, and if this kind of thinking appeals to you, then hie yourself to the nearest book-purveyor and read it. As Johnson often points out, it is a short novel.

And, just for fun, here are some words I had to look up: exeleutherostomise; fastigium; sphacelated; trituration; helminthoid; cryptorchid; eirenicon; sufflamination; ungraith; brachyureate; theodolite.

But don’t let that turn you off. The double-entry conceit, as laid out in the terms of its inventor, the 15th-century Tuscan Monk, Fra Paciolini, makes overly perfect sense for the likes of Christie Malry and moves the book along nicely. Not only that, but the individual reckonings are an ingenious way of letting you reevaluate what happened before.

Hie yourselves and read, I say.


M. said...

You're welcome, Geodi. I'm glad you enjoyed the book. It's interesting to note that Johnson took umbrage with anyone who wanted to label his works as experimental (the following is from his autobiography, Aren't You Rather Young to Be Writing Your Memoirs?):

"I object to the word experimental being applied to my own work. Certainly I make experiments, but the unsuccessful ones are quickly hidden away and what I choose to publish is in my terms successful: that is, it has been the best way I could find of solving particular writing problems. Where I depart from convention, it is because the convention has failed, is inadequate for what I have to say. The relevant questions are surely whether each device works or not, whether it achieves what it set out to achieve, and how less good were the alternatives."