Vox Populi by Clay Reynolds

voxpopuliIn Vox Populi: A Novel of Everyday Life (Texas Review Press, 211 pages) an unnamed narrator endures various brief encounters with strangers while out on errands—waiting for, paying for, or ordering something. Clay Reynolds must have been keeping a journal for years because his little tales ring true in their preposterousness. Truth is stranger than fiction. It is hard to believe people can be so rude, so tactless, so pushy, so dumb, and yet people are. Usually the unrelated event described in each chapter involves some implausibly insensitive and very loud person disrupting the normal course of humdrum business with performances that are as outrageous as they are unfortunately common. We’ve all have been shocked and appalled to witness such scenes in our own daily lives, and once home we say to our spouses, You’ll never believe what this crazy lady did at the grocery store, etc. Continue reading

The Inevitable June by Bob Schofield

Scholfield

“This morning I crossed a river on a horse made of lightbulbs.”

That’s just another day (June 4, to be exact) in Bob Schofield’s The Inevitable June (theNewerYork Press, 120 pages), an agreeably strange book structured around an unnamed narrator’s calendar for the month of June. Using text, cartoons and distinctive graphics, it is unclassifiable in terms of genre but it manages to create a self-contained world of its own. Continue reading

Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas

ourtragicuniverseI love Scarlett Thomas. I love the fact she writes novels that are unabashedly about big ideas. Philosophical novels spliced with alternative theories from the worlds of science and medicine in the quest to find out what it’s all about. Life I mean. I also love the fact she isn’t too bothered by the intricacies of plot or character. In the two other novels of hers that I have read, PopCo and The End Of Mr Y, I got irritated when she reverted to plot or relationship details that interrupted the flow of creative thinking and speculation. So I am very indulgently disposed to her writing and accept that not everyone else might be so like minded. Continue reading

Cobralingus by Jeff Noon

cobrailingusWilliam Burroughs and Terry Southern’s cut up techniques were a bit too oblique to me. Supposedly cutting up classic texts and resuturing them together like the two halves of a car chop shop, while certainly creating a new text, but was also supposed to maintain echoes of the original ghost texts working under the surface. The problem for me was that I couldn’t locate any of the original texts, not being that well read classically, so that I didn’t get any undertones.

In Cobralingus (Codex, 120 pages) Jeff Noon provides the reader with the classical Continue reading

The Unfortunates by B.S. Johnson

unfortunates(Picadorm 176 pages) A book that comes in a book-shaped box! Twenty-seven sections, one labelled ‘first’, one ‘last’ and the reader is free to choose the order in which they read the interceding 25 sections. This isn’t a device for the sake of being tricksy, but the author wants to replicate the random and unreliable nature that our memories work.

Continue reading

The Master of Petersburg by J.M. Coetzee

TheMasterOfPetersburgCoetzee’s novel of Dostoevsky (The Master of Petersburg, Penguin Books, 250 pages) is a mysterious portrait of the artist surrounding his The Possessed. Suppose a preliminary to Dostoevsky’s demons story could extend it via a narrative featuring the great author himself. Coetzee’s portrayal is that novel. Dostoevsky becomes a half-fiction in this role, somewhat real and somewhat false. Does that matter? It’s not easy to answer. As protagonist-novelist, Dostoevsky’s most important function for Coetzee might be as guide and exemplar, somewhat disheveled and brooding into our own age. Continue reading

Witz by Joshua Cohen

witzOy vey you say. Another funny Holocaust book?

Now is the month of holidays, from the Jewish New Year through the Feast of Tabernacles and ending with Celebration of Torah. My (Orthodox) friend of forty years came to visit. I showed her a page from Witz (Dalkey Archive Press, 817 pages). She closed the book, fast. “There’s a lot in there I wouldn’t approve of,” she said.

Yes, O WickedWitz. Continue reading