Julian Barnes’ Flaubert’s Parrot (Picador 2002, 190 pages) is the story of one man’s quest, his “project” to find the writer outside his writings, despite Flaubert’s insistence that the books should be enough, the writer should disappear and be left alone. Geoffrey Braithwaite, this amusing novel’s British protagonist, is a medical doctor about sixty. He pursues museums, letters, literary works, criticism, and Flaubert the person in a long quest as unofficial biographer and tireless seeker. Continue reading
God’s all-time bestseller, The Book, might be described (I wish to offend no one) as metafiction; it was written, divinely, by its main character, Who appears in various forms, at crucial cliff-hanger moments, as Himself. Unfortunately, so the story goes, God’s sixth-day creation, us — or more accurately our ancestors — made a muddle of His work, so God recruited Noah & Sons to cruise.
Mr. Julian Barnes launches A History of the World in 10½ Chapters (Knopf, 307 pages) with his own mock-knowing version of history, as reported by a wiseacre, truth-telling woodworm (baby termite?) stowaway, one of several who survived the trip. Why the need to sneak? Woodworms were not one of God’s chosen species, which leads Continue reading
Beginning with a list of the author’s “other” books, which don’t exist outside the distorted mirror world of what Nabokov calls “LATH” (as he acronymically pegs Look At The Harlequins! [Vintage, 272 pages] within that book’s own text) is a wildly inventive metafiction in the bilingually verbose hyper-alliterative Nabokovian mold. We get splendid sentences here on the jeweled gift of selfhood giving reason to resist suicide from whatever facet, cranky meditations on the author’s pederastic proclivities and ego, and, most brilliantly, strange slips down the semiotic slope into madness. In two or three places in this book we find ourselves in a meticulously rendered literary reality and then, through a process of what one might call Continue reading
The Fermata (Vintage, 330 pages). This erotic or “rot” (as the intellectual hero who can stop time by pushing up his glasses likes to call it) work by Nicholson Baker (author of the earlier Vox, about phone sex) is a wonderful literary experiment–a blend of wordplay, and slightly self-conscious and deliciously quasi-guilty fantasies come true (at least in the literary frame) due to the protagonist’s ability to dip into what he calls the Fold, or the Drop–the time-stopped world where women can not only be undressed, playing with their bodies, but also subliminally seduced–by stopping time and arranging things along the periphery of their vision–or along their Mons veneris. In an acrobatic bit of literary legerdemain Baker straddles, if Continue reading