History is heredity is culture. History repeats itself because it's a genetic inheritance that deteriorates us as we try to push back against it. We try to correct it. In Belladonna, Daša Drndić uses her protagonist, Andreas Ban, a deteriorating retiree, to tell the history of Croatia; it's bloodied past, marred by fascism, antisemitism, and The Holocaust.
Clarice Lispector’s writing is the baroque epitome of modernist styling. The prose is poesy, and essentially resistant to interpretive work. It’s an arpeggiation of language where Lispector bends words to her will, with the image and feeling of the syntax as the most important factor in choice and placement rather than sparkling clarity.
Near to the Wild Heart is written in a smoky stream-of-consciousness telling the story of Joana from her precocious childhood into her adult life culminating in the discovery of her husband’s betrayal.
In Mrs. Caliban, Rachel Ingalls flexes verisimilitude like a fine muscle with tight, controlled prose that doesn’t let on to the wildness of what’s taking place on the page. Namely, that a Mrs. Caliban is having an affair with a six-foot tall frogman.
Roadside Picnic is a head above your run-of-the-mill pulp—it's surely still pulpy, but one that elevates itself in certain ways. The premise here is that alien life has visited Earth, though there has been no direct contact with the beings. In their wake, there are "Zones" where various alien artifacts, technology, and ephemera are scattered.
When Charles sets out on his Love-quest to discover the true nature of "Howard's" (H.P. Lovecraft) relationship with the teen-aged "Barlovius" (Barlow), it sets off a series of events that lead to his suicide. This is basically on page 2, by the way, so I haven't spoilt nothin’.
Surreal, dark, grimy, fetid, but some how quick and not at all taxing or overbearing nor overwrought, Titus Groan is a ripe contender to be adapted for TV or film, especially in these political times.
The idea of a transitory stage is age-old; the period setting is familiar to us Americans even in these 150 years separated from the Civil War—the war that still defines our national psyche, that tried to account for this nation's original sin. So it got me wondering, what can Saunders bring to fairly well-traveled terrain?
In Steve Erickson’s Tours of the Black Clock, history is ripped open by writer-protagonist Banning Jainlight who alters the regular course of time in his role as personal erotica-writer to Der Fuhrer by capturing the specular image of Hitler’s then-dead love obsession and niece Geli Raubal.
Anna Kavan's Ice is a dystopian sci-fi piece that has a darker commentary underpinning it about the hegemony of female-male relationships.
Lookout Cartridge by Joseph McElroy, like a cartridge itself, can only be deciphered for the screen behind our eyes once it has been inserted into our mechanistic, computer-brain to decode and process. The complexity and unique style of its prose, and how it "processes" layers of images will provide the reader with a steep challenge that rewards diligence with evocative scenes and a masterful use of language that mirrors cognition in ways before unimagined.
Drenched in Erickson's iconic, crepuscular prose, the dystopic vision he paints is rendered into subtle beauty where metaphor is the guiding principal for understanding everything.
Because of his piercing perception and futuristic thinking, PKD's relevance continues to swell as the years go on. We need more writers today like him.
In The Familiar, Volume Five: Redwood, MZD delivers one of the most direct, action-thrust entries so far in the living novel. Spanning the course of less than 24 hours, the first half of the book adopts the Rashomon technique of story-telling, letting several overlapping characters fill in the hazy spots of the surreal and supernatural events unfurling.
If you you're attracted to Greece and Athens, LeClair paints the life of the Greeks in a unique, non-Romanticized way that the West rarely sees, giving great insight into the culture and its tics. The book has prescience, too, into not only the Greek economic woes we've seen in the past decade, but the true threats of global warming, especially to a place like Greece so reliant on its booming tourism business--what happens when the beaches are gone?
The Familiar is a singular literary moment in the making that I am not so sure is getting the attention it deserves, so I’ll use my tiny little voice on this remote corner of the internet to profess to you its power. Before I speak directly about Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May, I’ll mention a bit about the series as a whole: I’ve said in other reviews of Vols. 3 & 4 (found on Goodreads) that The Familiar isn’t just a novel in serial, but the development of a whole mythology on par with the classics, codified in our unique 21st century world.
One problem with writing about Gravity's Rainbow is that a seminal book such as this has been written about endlessly for the past 44 years. I'm left only with my ability to articulate why challenging fiction is necessary and why it needs to be pursued if, as a civilization, we're to maintain our humanity.
I'm pretty interested lately in the intersection of genre and literary fiction because there's a burgeoning space for it. Literary writers giving great treatment to genre tropes, images, aesthetics, themes, motifs--the work of China Miévilleand Mark Z Danielewski's The Familiar series would be the best examples of contemporary writers doing it now. There's a rich history of it, and genre can be great and informative when done beautifully.