Monday, December 18, 2017

Christine Brooke-Rose, Such (1966)

...and so, I narrowly avoid getting through the year having read only books by dudes. To be clear, it's not that I specifically read this with an eye towards getting a token woman on the list; it was quite random. I just thought reading more Brooke-Rose would be a good thing. I dunno, man. I don't feel sexist. But here we are. Well, I think I've probably already hashed this out as much as needs must.

So here's This is the novel for which Brooke-Rose won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Good for her. And my goodness is it abstruse. I mean, Out, the other Brooke-Rose novel I've read,was too, but this is more so. How can I describe it? So it begings with a protagonist waking up and escaping from a coffin with the help of a woman. She is only referred to as "Something," he "Someone." It's not at all clear what's happening. They have children named Dippermouth, Gutbucket, Tin Roof, Potato, and Really who are presented as kind of surrealist creations. Dipperhead has a clock for a head.

Aah! What's happening?!? This is driving me insane! Well, it turns out it's not just an exercise in weirdness. Should I, uh, "spoil" it? I dunno; I feel like with a book like this, you really want to read it yourself and see what you get out of it without interference. But what the hell. It turns out that Someone--who does have an actual name--is an astrophysicist-turned-psychiatrist who had some sort of near-death experience screwing up his perceptions. His wife and children are actual people who appear as actual people, and the whole thing is his experiences filtered through his own trauma and also the language and concepts of astrophysics. Does that make sense? No? No.

I mean, it does, kind of, but it's definitely one of those books where you have to be okay with not knowing what the hell is going on for long sections, and also one that you're gonna have to read multiple times to understand. I love that such an opaque novel could win a prestigious prize like that. And I liked the novel itself, and I'm definitely going to read more of Brooke-Rose, god willing and the creek don't rise. Experiences like this are essential. You can't just mess around with the same old thing! You must stretch your mind! Otherwise, why even call yourself human? You might as well be a mound of dirt! Or, god forbid, a republican!

I have this fantasy about teaching a class that consists of nothing but the most baffling, confusing books. This goes in, and Caliban's Filibuster. Probably something by Sorrentino. Also Robbe-Grillet, whom I have yet to read but I think would probably be perfect. Can I get every student to drop the class before the end of the semester? If not, the survivors are Guaranteed Rad, and I will buy them t-shirts to that effect. Anyway.


Blogger Pan MiluĊ› pontificated to the effect that...

So your class would be nothing but baffling, confusing books? I can imagine teaching a class where all students are easy to follow novels or perhaps old literally classics that are hard to read now but where consider page turners back in their day... but nothing but baffling and confusing reads? That's just silly!

4:21 AM  

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