Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Uses of Columns in Literature




I'm kind-of reading a novel called The People of Paper, by Salvatore Plascencia. I don't know how I found this book; in the blurb on the back cover, George Saunders says it's reminiscent of Borges and Calvino, but it is reminiscent of neither of those. Really this Salvatore is no legendary anybody: he's just one of George Saunders' former students.

Anyway I thought this book was going to be experimental. I was excited about that. But really it just has a strange shape, and a voice exactly like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who I used to love but who I now just think is sort of boring--and it is especially boring to imitate his voice.

Also the text runs in columns down the page, like Hotel Theory. There are columns for each character, though--and you have to read them in order so I don't understand why there are columns. I think they are columns for the sake of columns, and for the sake of making something appear experimental.

One of the columns is brilliant, though: it is pitch black. It is the character of Baby Nostradamus, a baby whose mother thinks he will someday make predictions just like the original Nostradamus, but really he is just retarded. So there is an inside joke with the reader via the pitch-black column. I think I will read just that column from now on. It makes me giggle.

Also in this book are people who are made of paper, and a child who is addicted to limes, whose mother was also addicted to limes. I think that is supposed to make it surreal and experimental also, but so far there is nothing very interesting about the characters.

This is not a nice review. I feel sad. It is winter. I hate when I get super excited about a book and then it disappoints me.

Over winter break I'm going to write a scholarly book called "The Uses of Columns in Literature." The sections will be called "Doric," "Ionic," and "Corinthian." The Corinthian chapter will just be pictures of Wayne Koestenbaum, who is the only person on the planet who can write an experimental novel that impresses me. Oh, and Selah Saterstrom. But I will save that so that I actually have something to post next week.

3 comments:

Tyra said...

yay, megan! i bet people who are addicted to limes get really sad in the winter because the quality goes down.

potato said...

Hahaha. I'm going to write an academic paper over the break about the seasonality of gin and tonics. Why do some bars switch from lime to lemon in autumn, while others are steadfastly lime? Is it like white shoes and labor day? Also, I cannot stand Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Elisa and I had The Discussion this afternoon, whereby both parties guiltily admit they hate magical realism.

John Heckman Wright said...

I heard so much about this book before reading it and it came off as a Marquez/Calvino imitation to me as well. I can see how, if you had read either of those authors in much detail, the book could be exciting but I thought most of the praise was way overblown.