like a static sculpture that also seems constantly in motion or a dance momentarily evoking an architectural shape, renee gladman’s excellently strange new work EVENT FACTORY is a deliberate and skilfully sustained act of contradiction. gladman steadily is at play in moving the work forward, in its development — while committed to a flat, still affect. this commitment also gives the work a sense of unwavering integrity and moral purpose (as this affect perhaps the costume worn only by the true philosopher and/or depressive).
the story is of a visit to Ravicka, an odd place continuously evoking crisis and yet eerily absent of rage or tears or other emotional drama, except perhaps loneliness. this city-state seems on the verge of collapse (or at least utter transformation) but among its residents there’s an oddly muted reaction, a constant disassociation.
the rowdy, sage hitchhikers of the greater vehicle believe most of all in two ideas which for them are synonymous: emptiness and never-ending flux. so too in gladman’s new world, where the tender refrain, spoken by a prescriptive salsa dancer, goes: “It has to be done with movement” — but the ‘it’ has a necessarily obscure or inscrutable antecedent. a book also about the brittle and insufficient possibilities of communication, the uncanny EVENT FACTORY indeed is one, where the modular fabrications thus created are put together to move a reader from end to end, yet underscoring our locked, fixed positions within language.
Yet, what words besides “old” and “extraordinary” can I use to describe life there? And were I to write the description in the language of these hidden people what symbol would I use to represent air? You would want to listen to this language. I am sure of this, because to hear a person speak in gaps and air — you watch him standing in front of you, using the recognizable gestures — opening the mouth, smiling, pushing up the eyebrows, shrugging the shoulders — and your mind becomes blank as you try to match this with the sounds you hear. An instinct says tune it out, but something deep within fastens your attention. Your mouth falls open. You taste the strangeness; you try to make the sound with your mouth. That is speech. Now, how do you do this in writing? (61-62)
the beautifully deformed soul of michel houellebecq has produced a new novel: LA CARTE ET LE TERRITOIRE (a pun on a korzybski one liner). who knows how soon we’ll get the translation. but the paris review has a great interview in the latest issue. here’re some excerpts:
I read Baudelaire oddly early, when I was about thirteen, but Pascal was the shock of my life. I was fifteen. I was on a class trip to Germany, my first trip abroad, and strangely I had brought the Pensées of Pascal. I was terrified by this passage: “Imagine a number of men in chains, all under sentence of death, some of whom are each day butchered in the sight of the others; those remaining see their own condition in that of their fellows, and looking at each other with grief and despair await their turn. This is an image of the human condition.” I think it affected me so deeply because I was raised by my grandparents. Suddenly I realized that they were going to die and probably soon. That’s when I discovered death.
You might get the impression that I have a mild contempt for storytelling, which is only somewhat true. For example, I really like Agatha Christie. She obeys the rules of the genre at first, but then occasionally she manages to do very personal things. In my case, I think I start from the opposite point. At first, I don’t obey, I don’t plot, but then from time to time, I say to myself, Come on, there’s got to be a story. I control myself. But I will never give up a beautiful fragment merely because it doesn’t fit in the story.
& i think i liked this part best:
What did you most want to accomplish with the novel?
What I really wanted was to have scenes that were, as you say in English, “heartbreaking.”
The death of Michel’s girlfriend was very moving, I think. I really wanted to get those kinds of scene right above all.
And why did you want to get those scenes right in particular?
Because that’s what I like best in literature. For example, the last pages of The Brothers Karamazov: not only can I not read them without crying, I can’t even think of them without crying. That’s what I admire most in literature, its ability to make you weep. There are two compliments I really appreciate. “It made me weep,” and “I read it in one night. I couldn’t stop.”
Do you have other requirements for writing?
Flaubert said you had to have a permanent erection. I haven’t found that to be the case. I need to take a walk now and then. Otherwise, in terms of dietary requirements, coffee works, it’s true. It takes you through all the different stages of consciousness. You start out semicomatose. You write. You drink more coffee and your lucidity increases, and it’s in that in-between period, which can last for hours, that something interesting happens.