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Only Revolutions

Mark Z. Danielewski's new novel, Only Revolutions, will be published in September.

That's a page from it. The book is about teenage lovers called Hailey and Sam, and it is printed on two sides--one side tells the story from Hailey's point of view, and when you flip it over and you get Sam's side. Above is Hailey, below is Sam.

I've been wondering what it is that Danielewski would do after The House of Leaves and I have to say that I'm not sure about this. I loved House of Leaves and it was always going to be a touch act to follow, but teenage lovers? The cover references Romeo and Julliet and Tristan and Isolde and that just sets my shit-o-meter off. And while I don't want to hassle the entire thing, the covers aren't reassuring me none here, either.

Worse, however, I must admit that I found that sample page there to be nothing but wank. Seriously. You walk a fine line with the wank when you do experimental things, I assure you, so there's always a chance that you'll jump that line and end up sailing through this world of one handed ideas and prose dressed up in some clever concepts, and shouting, "I'm doing something important, important!" but really, a monkey has been doing the same thing for years. On a certain level, you have to admire Danielewski for what he has done, and for giving a first page (assuming it is a first page) that at first glance is an incomprehensible jumble.

I'm signing on for Only Revolutions, because even if it is all wank, I'm sure it'll make an interesting use of the page and the forms across it, which I'm always interested in seeing. But I kind of hope that my first impression here is not going to turn out right.


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Jul. 25th, 2006 02:01 pm (UTC)
House of Leaves was stunning, but, yeah, I'm with you. What do you do next?
Jul. 25th, 2006 02:11 pm (UTC)
teenage lovers, apparently.

if it'd been me, i might've done a straight book. just because it was the total opposite. but it's a hard act to follow.
Jul. 25th, 2006 05:35 pm (UTC)
Danielewski did a "straight" story in Conjunctions a while ago. Really good stuff and very light on the experimentation. Can't remember which issue it was in, though. I'll likely pick it up and give it a read. I've been trying to get a story from him for years . . .
Jul. 26th, 2006 12:00 am (UTC)
does he do the straight stuff often? i have to be honest that until last night, i hadn't really given much thought about what he might do (i think i thought HOUSE OF LEAVES might've been a one shot deal)
Jul. 26th, 2006 02:41 am (UTC)
I've only seen two of his stories outside of HOUSE OF LEAVES, and I couldn't even tell you where the second one was. But the Conjunctions story is really, really good - I'll have to dig it up again and have a read . . .
Jul. 26th, 2006 02:47 am (UTC)
i might give it a bit of a track down myself, actually. thanks for the tip.
Jul. 26th, 2006 02:59 am (UTC)
OK, it's Conjunctions 37. The story is "All the Lights of Midnight". That issue, incidentally, is the 20th anniversary issue, and is among the best collections of short fiction I've read.
Jul. 26th, 2006 03:05 am (UTC)

also, if you're interested, turns out late last year he released a cahpbook called THE FIFTY YEAR OLD SWORD. limited edition--1000 thing, printed out of the netherlands, in english and dutch. there's a couple of editions on ebay, but they're a bit pricey for my likings.
Jul. 26th, 2006 04:03 am (UTC)
Yeesh, I guess. The signed/numbered limited editions, of which there are only 51, are going for $750-$1000 US on abebooks. I wish I could have sold my chapbooks for that much!
Jul. 27th, 2006 05:08 am (UTC)
...i don't think it'd cost that much to buy me ;)
Jul. 25th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
Funny - I have House Of Leaves on my desk, someone dropped it down to me earlier today. Apparently we discussed it in the pub last week (I remember nothing and had never heard of it until today).
Jul. 25th, 2006 11:59 pm (UTC)
it's totally worth reading. i'd knock it up to the 'read next' book, if it were me.
Jul. 26th, 2006 12:03 am (UTC)
It'd have to beat Chabon and Zelazney!
Jul. 26th, 2006 12:06 am (UTC)
i love that chabon book. it's a better 'straight' novel than HOUSE OF LEAVES, but that's like comparing an orange to an apple. it's a fruit, but that's about all. i'd be torn between the chabon and danielewski books, but i reckon the weirdness of HOUSE OF LEAVES would get me.
Jul. 25th, 2006 04:59 pm (UTC)
Like you, I'll give Danielewski the benefit of the doubt. House of Leaves purchased that much and more - one of the best novels I've ever read.
Jul. 26th, 2006 12:02 am (UTC)
yeah, i must admit, HOUSE OF LEAVES got a lot of credit out of me. at least two or three novels/projects.
Jul. 25th, 2006 05:56 pm (UTC)
With you all you all the way on this.

The new one does sound, well, wank. But then when I first saw House of Leaves as a submission for the Arthur C. Clarke Award I thought that looked like pretentious rubbish and boy was I wrong. One of the most amazing and memorable books for many years (still could not get it on the shortlist as I was the only judge who thought this).

So, time to get excited about a book release again (and find a reason to call it sf so that I can get it submitted for this years Arthur C. Clarke Award).
Jul. 25th, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)
how many judges are on the arthur c clarke award?

i can't remember if i thought HOUSE OF LEAVES was wank first up. i don't think i did--i seem to remember hearing about it word of mouth wise, and hunting it down.
Jul. 26th, 2006 06:22 am (UTC)
Clarke Award has a jury of five judges plus a non-voting Chair (which is what my role now is).

First I knew of the book was opening the package, flicking through and thinking: WHAT! Then had to force myself to start it.
Jul. 25th, 2006 09:22 pm (UTC)
I have an ARC of Only Revolutions on my desk right now - my review should be appearing some time next month at IROSF. I had much the same reaction to the first page that you did - come on, no one can justify this much wankery. Without giving too much away, I can say that Danielewski both does and does not repay the reader's trust in him - his structure has purpose and ties into the novel's plot, but the experience of reading the book isn't as interesting or as enjoyable as the one I got from House of Leaves.
Jul. 25th, 2006 11:56 pm (UTC)
cool. thanks for that. i won't read the review before i read the book (i tend not to do that for thing i know i'll read), but i'll track it back after i have. but it's good to hear that it's not all wank and uselessness.
Jul. 26th, 2006 05:16 am (UTC)
I going to sound a solo note and say I thought House of Blue Leaves was retarded, an intellectual trivia gone horribly wrong, a pedestrian story that had been tarted up to seem like more...and this new one looks a good bit worse. I'm interested in passionate writing, which doesn't exclude experimental writing by any means. Not long ago I blurbed the American edition of Vellum, which is by my lights experinental, and it was funded by all sorts of passion, intellectual and otherwise, but so much of experimental writing I read seems to be playing at writing, to be doing so from the master of the game Danieleski (sp?) like stance or from an effete, little-finger-curled-while-holding-a=teacup posture. The effect of such writing is, basically, to create a distance between reader and work that must be closed by the reader. It's arch, it says this is a story not once but over and over again, pointing to itself constantly. It sometimes reverts to what I call see Dick run writing, making simple statements that effect a kind of Emperor's New Clothes profundity cum zen. Writing like that is decadent in the worst sense of the word. Writers like Barth and Cortazor and Duncan and Beckett and David Foster Wallace amd other experimentalists manage to create work that does not point to itself, or does so in a way that sustains the music and story and passion throughout, and is brilliant in every regard. There were some good bits in House of Blue Lights, but was it worth the slog? Not for me. And I'm already so fucking weary of Hailey and Sam after two pages, I don't care what marvelous things they do with their fleets of Cadillacs and Appalachian Tours and new weird holocaust.

Now experimental writing by definition means that one is going to make mis-steps, but I don't see Danieleski (sp?) as an experimentalist, I see him as writing experimental-sploitation. Like all bad art, it exists to be discussed, not experienced.

Sorry. It's only one person's opinion. I'll now go back to my cave.

Oh, one more thing. I think all good writing is experimental. I just finished Black Swan Green and found it every bit as interesting as Cloud Forest. The experiments in Green happened line to line, not in the larger architecture.

And one last thing...Ben, I'm informed that a package has arrived fromm Australia. Looking forward to hearing it when I return home.
Jul. 26th, 2006 07:43 am (UTC)
Sorry. It's only one person's opinion. I'll now go back to my cave.

lucius man, you're such a fundy :P

i knew it was you, btw. the package thing was a giveaway. i hope you dig them when you get back. i reckoni 'm going to track down the bands first album in a bit.

anyhow, back to the book thing. i get what you're saying with the distance between reader and work--and indeed, i think that might be the point with some experimentation/language writing. i was pretty distanced from burgess' A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, for example, though i liked it a whole lot. but i didn't connect with it in the way that you can. with HOUSE OF LEAVES i did connect with the people in the house part, but i figure if you don't connect with anything, something the size of this book is just going to piss you right off.

i agree with the passion part. i'd like to see more books with passion--it pisses me off more when you read a novel that is by the numbers and dull as warm water, and is totally passionless. but for me, a passionless book that plays with language and page form will carry me--though not, i must admit, the five hundred odd pages of HOUSE OF LEAVES.

but mileage all varies on this stuff, in the end. i'm still not assured this new book is going to be worth my time--my faith is coming from that i did dig HOUSE OF LEAVES a whole lot.

i've got the duncan book to read, btw. so i shall soon. maybe i'll track down black swan green, too.

anyhow: hope you're enjoying your holiday.
Jul. 29th, 2006 02:36 pm (UTC)
I think "arch" and "effete" are bang-on terms; a lot of experimental fiction seems to have retreated into some sort of pomo "death of the author" thing where the metafiction is just a way of putting any authorial intent in inverted commas, which renders it ironic and therefore -- the true crime, to my mind -- safe. As ball-less, spineless, gutless, fleshless and downright soul-less as the equally safe formula product at the other end of the intellectual spectrum. It's like it was written by a ghost looking down from the cobweb-covered window of an ivory tower. The author is dead; long live the detached ironic intellect.

I reckon this is just cowardice in the face of a long-standing anti-intellectual backlash against the "experimentalism" and "elitism" of the Modernists. Social realism is nice and easy to understand. Pulp romanticism is just fun. But anything that might go over the head of Joe Schmoe from Idaho... well, we don't want the peasants to pick up their pitchforks and torches and come after the monster, so we'll castrate the monstrous experiment before they even get to it: Look, it's safe now; it's all just ironic; it's just a wee mind-game for us poncy intellectual types to play amongst ourselves. Hence that sense of disengagement, detachment, distance.

I think Danielewski -- for me, at least -- manages to do something more in House of Leaves. I thought there was a strong sense of sorrow that underpinned any tricksiness, relating the metafictional involutions to human psychology -- layered, digressive, full of denials, continually turning in on itself. It really struck a chord with me as a metaphor for grief, maybe not profound but at least... sincere.

Annoyingly, those pages of Only Revolutions aren't showing up on my browser; if the writing's as dodgy as it sounds, that's a shame. Personally, I don't mind the "teenage lovers" thing, but then I'm a sentimental cunt.
Jul. 30th, 2006 02:34 am (UTC)
i tookt he page samples off amazon.com. they've got a bit of a set up there for it, so maybe it'll on your browser if you just jump there.
Jul. 26th, 2006 06:09 am (UTC)
Oh, forgot to sign that Anonymous post.

Jul. 26th, 2006 12:48 pm (UTC)
Fundy? As in, Bay of? :) I've been doing some minor experiments myself, which probabky will never see the light of day, or, if they do, will be absorbed into something larger. I write so much, when I'm writing, the stuff tends to be uneven, so this probably won't be good - but I'm particularly interested in the subjett these days. I'm interested in marrying heavy emotional content to experiments in form...it's kind of fun, but I don't know. Anyway, Only Revolutions will forever remain a mystery to me. It smells like warmed over scraps of Joyce slathered in a post-modern white sauce. Yecch.
Jul. 26th, 2006 01:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Leaves
you know, i thought VIATOR had a nice thread of experimental in it, with the way that the paragraphs worked with that structure of small opening sentence, then long, long twisting one after it. it tied in nicely to the rest of the book, as well.

but anyhow, i'm like you, that i have an interested in this stuff, and i can't resist trying it. it probably doesn't help that i spent four years teaching an experimental writing course, as well.

as for ONLY REVOLUTIONS... you may be right. i'm far from convinced.
Jul. 26th, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)

Well, I'm thankful that the completed text of that's gonna be published. I wrote that last bit while fucked up all kinds of bad ways. But yeah, that kind of thing.

Four years of teaching EW. Hmm. No womder you have more patiemce than I.

Gotta run.
Jul. 27th, 2006 05:15 am (UTC)
Re: Leaves
Well, I'm thankful that the completed text of that's gonna be published. I wrote that last bit while fucked up all kinds of bad ways. But yeah, that kind of thing.

yeah, i'm gonna be interested in seeing the new end, and if you do more stuff like that, i reckon.

Four years of teaching EW. Hmm. No womder you have more patiemce than I.

yeah, guess so. a lot of what i've seen has been trash, but every class you get two or three people who really latch onto it, and who produce this work that just rocks you. most of the time there's no traditional way to publish it--i had a huge painting one semester, and it was just trippy; another time i had one that came in a suitcase, and later, the same guy gave me crime scene blowups. there's been burnt letters, baskets, maps, all sorts of stuff. a lot of it is maybe bordering that line of conceptual art, but there's others that don't.
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