Friday, May 16, 2008

'The Changeling' & 'How Much of Us There Was'

Finished reading two books tonight. First, did the second half of Joy Williams's THE CHANGELING, forthcoming in 30th anniversary edition from Fairy Tale Review Press.



THE CHANGELING really is a bizarre wonderful book. If you've read any of Williams, the woman just punch-packs in every sentence with weird details and one liner jokes and bizarre juxtapositions of words that make you really spin, almost every paragraph has a sentence that wows. This book is no exception, and is even more up my alley than the others of hers I've read, in that it deals with magic and surrealist cloth, and it is very very fucking bleak, though done with an almost screwball method sometimes. Anyone who declaims bleak fantastical fiction, this is where I'm pointing from now on.

I can see why the book got panned a little in its first inception. It's definitely not a 'book' book, in that there is little resolution to things, there are a lot of weird mysteries that get cracked open, almost sentence after sentence of anecdotal weirdness, all that just gets layered as parts of the narrator's brain. In the end it really starts cracking up and going wild, but still under Williams's steady control, but I can see more standard 'literary' readers, people who read the big books and don't read smaller authors, could be like, shit dude she's not even telling a story. She's too good, she doesn't need to tell a story. This is magicmaking at its finest.

More formal review on that later.



Pretty much right after I finsihed THE CHANGELING, I picked up Michael Kimball's second novel HOW MUCH OF US THERE WAS. This book is fixing to get a proper american release after having done well in the UK when released in 2005. Looks like NEW YORK TYRANT's forthcoming book press will be launching it stateside, which is killer and exciting. I'd read this a while back and wanted to go through it again, as I remembered being so bowled over by its subject that I reeled for a while. Kimball is a sick sentence maker. He has rhythm like no other, sometimes sticking little parts onto sentences that cause jumps and skits in your thinking. This book caused one of the more emotional responses in me I can remember, which is strange because for the most part the writing is deadpan and methodical.

I read part one in a hot bath and had to get out. It was filling me too much. This book will sting you and not bat an eye, but then it will touch you on the face. HOW MUCH OF US THERE WAS is basically about a man losing his wife to seizure in old age and the weird transportive struggle as she goes and is gone, but the way it is rendered focuses not on the aspects that other people would cling to, but the weird angular moments, the light in rooms, the hair left behind, employing weird methods to keep time in one place. I really got welled up and started wanting to call my girlfriend and my mother, and I never get like that from reading fiction. But it's also done in a way that's subtle and withdrawn and picking up textures as if in an alien or child's mind. Really, by the end, of this, which I read all in one sitting after leaving the bath, I felt like I'd experienced a whole long ordeal but been guided by a silent presence that knew exactly and did not know what to do with itself. If you haven't read it, get ready.

Also even more excited about his new novel DEAR EVERYBODY that will be coming out I believe in fall, excerpts from which will appear in the first issue of NO COLONY, which is still open and randy for submissions.

PS: If you're in the Baltimore area next Thursday May 22 I will be reading with Michael and several others for this.

9 comments:

KEN BAUMANN said...

I reread House of Leaves today. The whole thing. I cut through it fast. Fastest I've ever read a book, I think.

On second reading: JLFAKKKKKLA:F:AJF

Danielewski is a wizard.

I want to read those books.

Adam R. said...

I read 189 pages of Dear Everybody in the bathtub then got out. It's so much more than all the excerpts that can be read or heard in places online. I am excited for the excitement of this book.

I recently acquired House of Leaves so I could read it again, but I cannot imagine doing it in one day. Nice work out there, Baumann.

And I am excited for the reading. I wonder what will it be like?

BLAKE BUTLER said...

bathtub reading is the way to go.

i read house of leaves in one sitting my first time through too. i was thinking of reading it again, except skipping all the parts about the guy who like wants to fuck girls or something. those parts really suck. i mean all the parts that aren't inside the house.

i wish he were a better writer.

The Man Who Couldn't Blog said...

First time I saw Brainiac, they had no idea that they had a small, rabid fan base in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We loved Smack Bunny Baby.

They got all flustered when we yelled stuff at them, thinking we were heckling. In three songs or so, they realized we were in love, and everything was okay.

They mentioned needing a place to stay. My friend Keef—who was wearing a homemade Devo t-shirt—screamed "You can stay at my house!" Really loud. Really enthusiastically. Again, they seemed shocked.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

haha. nice. do you like enon at all? their first and second records and pretty dope, particularly BELIEVO, after that i stopped following.

KEN BAUMANN said...

"
i read house of leaves in one sitting my first time through too. i was thinking of reading it again, except skipping all the parts about the guy who like wants to fuck girls or something. those parts really suck. i mean all the parts that aren't inside the house.
"

YES. I kind of skimmed these pages both times.

Peter Cole said...

I loved HOW MUCH OF US THERE WAS. I think it's the only book I've ever actually cried while reading. I read it in a few hours. Couldn't put it down.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

ken, yeah, i don't know what made him include that shit. it's so sore thumb, and the rest works so well. i think i actually thought about it in certain ways in my novel.

peter, yeah, i don't get choked up for much, but that book had me by the throat.

Josh Maday said...

Dear Everybody is stellar. top to bottom, front to back excellent. kimball is a master of voices and sentences. DE will cause blake to say BOOM many times. it's due out in september in the states. it's already out kickin blokes in the gulliver in the UK. you will read DE twice in a row.

i have House of Leaves. have not read it yet. will be reading it. looking forward. footnotes. complexity. yes.