Chromos

This may serve as a justification for the disorder
I have allowed to invade my narrative. In order to
preserve the sequence of Garcia's stories, I have
sacrificed my own. It is a good excuse anyway.

imgres.jpgIn the 1940s Filipe Alfau wrote his best-known novel, Chromos; it was published in 1990 and hailed as a prototype for the postmodern novel. Now I thought Tristram Shandy held this honor but I’ll admit that Chromos does benefit from a few of the postmodern tropes. Chromos also suggests the argument between the tenets of the New Criticism and the more modern literary scholarship that might explicate a passage based on what the author had for breakfast that day.

The blurb posted on Amazon is informative and succinct:

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Mister Lee

William-Burroughs-001I was introduced to William S. Burroughs back in the early ’60s. As so often happens, a teacher made mention of this strange author who was cutting up his writings and pasting them back together in what purported to be a more imaginative order. I had to see this for myself so I ran over to Papa Bach and grabbed my own copy of Naked Lunch. At that time I read about half of the book and set it aside to allow my brain cells to calm down; in the summer I started it all over again and made it all the way to the last page. Like reading a novel in a foreign language, I felt I had a vague understanding of what went on in the narrative but certainly wasn’t fully satisfied that I understood Naked Lunch and William S. Burroughs.

Since that time I have read Naked Lunch (or parts of it) several times and have a much better understanding of both the novel and the technique Burroughs used to “write” it.

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Epitaph For a Novel

MarksonOne of my favorite authors is David Markson. I was introduced to Markson’s work while taking a creative writing coursetaught by Peter Marcus. Marcus gave me the image of Markson hoarding shoe-box after file cabinet stuffed with little slips of paper and the odd gum wrapper or two with carefully collected factoids written neatly on the available white space. Look at these titles for Markson’s later fiction:

  • Reader’s Block, 1996.
  • This Is Not a Novel, 2001.
  • Vanishing Point, 2004.
  • The Last Novel, 2007.

Here is where all those factoids ended up, carefully arranged and, although seemingly random, telling a story about the life of the writer in four novels. If you are of the stodgy old school that thinks a novel must have a plot and characters, dialogue and at least one theme, then Markson might be problematic. Still I highly recommend that you at least try one of the novels: start with Reader’s Block (they’re all fascinating but function best when read in order).

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Christine Brooke-Rose

EPSON MFP imageChristine Brooke-Rose falls under the category of being one of the best writers of the Twentieth Century that no one reads. I think part of the problem is that Brooke-Rose is challenging: her prose is exact, manipulative, and obscure; she is postmodern but her works suggest the nouveau roman; her insight is always on target but if you don’t put in the effort, you won’t get the benefit.

Apropos to a recent discussion (in another venue) Christine Brooke-Rose is NOT the author anyone who reads and praises Harry Potter or Stephen King will want to read. But if you like your literature more demanding, intellectual, imaginative, and unique, then Brooke-Rose is for you.

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