Sunday, February 05, 2006

I am still not quite sure

what I really think about James Sallis. I just finished reading Eye of the Cricket (the fourth Lew Griffin novel, I believe? though it is difficult to tell their order; I'm just reading them by the dates on the spines of the library copies, I can't seem to find a chronological list).

Sallis must be one of only a handful of writers I can think of who write better second halves than first ones; the jumping-around-in-time in which Lew (narrator as well as protagonist) indulges is at the very least disorienting and sometimes quite maddening. But just as I'm most annoyed & feeling that the philosophical stuff is verging on pretentious (i.e. I've partially disassociated from the reading experience & am thinking too much "well, I like Sallis, this must be good" rather than actually feeling about the sentences I am reading that they are the thing gripping me) he totally turns it round; the last third or so of this novel is exceptionally good. There's a self-conscious chapter about this problem exactly (it's chapter 20, if you're curious, and includes the rather charming sentence "Moments ago I pulled out a legal pad and, reading back through these two hundred-some pages, tried to plot out, tried to untangle and write down sequentially, the sequence of events"; inevitably the narrator gives up and calls it instead "a kind of temporal plaid"). And near the end Lew calls the book his autobiography and says he "quit trying to finesse the failures and forfeitures of [his] life into fiction": "Quit trying to force patterns, however comforting and fetching and artistic these patterns might be, onto the catch-as-catch-can of what I actually lived, the rigorous disorder of my days." I still can't decide if this is a cheap trick (a way to avoid rewriting the manuscript!) or an entirely consistent narrative gambit for this particular narrator. A bit of both, I suppose: and will refrain from speculating about authorial intention and that sort of thing.

5 comments:

  1. philosophy=potentially pretentious. gotta remember that

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  2. Chapter 20 sounds somewhat Keeleresque (or maybe it's just a cop-out)...but that reminds me, isn't Sallis a card-carrying Keelerite?

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  3. Yes, card-carrying: http://www.grasslimb.com/sallis/GlobeColumns/globe.08.keeler.html (and there's various other stuff too)

    I hope I do not sound too anti-philosophical, btw! I have to resist my own common-sense tendencies sometimes...

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  4. Long-Legged Fly, Moth, Black Hornet, Eye of the Cricket, Bluebottle, Ghost of a Flea.

    --Josh

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