Saturday, January 16, 2016

Renee Gladman, Event Factory/The Ravickians/Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge (2010/2011/2013)

Well, here's a trilogy of very short novels--novellas, really--that I read. They concern a fictive city, Ravicka, seemingly somewhere in eastern Europe, which is facing some sort of undefined crisis where everyone's leaving (Gladman specifically cites Samuel Delany's Dhalgren as an influence). The first book is from the point of view of an unnamed visitor to the city, the second and third from that of native Ravickians.

It's all very fragmentary and dreamlike, with characters flitting in and out and never really resolving into anything. It's in large part about language, and the difficulties of translation. The Ravickian language involves a lot of gestures and odd elements that we don't see--at least, not in a formalized way--in English.

I kind of liked Event Factory. I'm not really sure whether it's fair of me to judge it on the basis that it felt a bit slight, but it did; still, it was kind of interesting. The atmosphere wasn't bad. I wanted to keep reading. But then we get to...well, the other two books, and I should place a very large disclaimer here: my understanding is that Gladman is more of a poet than a prose writer, or at any rate, these feel like novels by a poet. I, as it happens, am not good at reading poetry, and with occasional exceptions, I'm not very interested in it. I'm certainly not good at reading/understanding/appreciating contemporary poetry. SO. You should take all that into consideration and evaluate my opinions appropriately when I say that I found both The Ravickians and Ana Patova to be generally dull and uninteresting, the latter in particular. There is a fine line between elliptical profundity and aimless mucking around, and I found that these books generally fell on the wrong side of it. For all that I'm not a huge fan of Dhalgren, Gladman's avowed inspiration, there is undeniably quite a lot of there there. Here, I'm not so sure.

And I am very well aware that I am leaving myself opening for anyone to tell me "you asshole, you didn't understand this AT ALL, you're pretty dumb, why don't you just fuck off?" Maybe, maybe not. I am undecided. But there you go.


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