literary lives in novels

I guess the linear (or horizontal– she has a sequence of ideas about form and like this term) story of Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the Crowd is: while writing a novel about a woman who translates poetry, a woman with a little boy, a baby, and a husband, is haunted by poets.  Her husband leaves and she begins to disappear or believe she is disappearing– or rather, b/c this book would not be cool with that cause-effect framing, she is disappearing and along the way her husband leaves but possibly only in the novel-version of him, though the point is that the distinction btwn the life of the writer-protagonist and the life of her semi-autobiographical protagonist is indeterminate.  What I learned from reading this book that I think applies to the writing of my own:  I like very much the slipping away and reemergence and recombinations of domestic detail.  I like what I came to think the conceptual framework of the book was about– a dissolution of distinctions across times, places and individuals as related to reading, gossip, and madness.  I liked about half of the sentences/passages very very much.  I did not like being too confused for too long or indefinitely for the sake of the experience, which I think is totally marred as an experience b/c the reader is trying to figure out how to read, and the character is not– so the experiences are necessarily different.  Plus the book has no authoritative narrator (something that I am VERY interested in) —  and reading is not able to set you up to “be there” with the character in the end of the book, which is where the most concentrated awesome prose is located for me– so the experience of it for me is distanced respect rather than immersion.  I did not like having the semblance of plot and action yanked away– I thought scoffingly– and I did not like references to the lives of poets (poets plus nella larson) that maybe I should know or know better or like or not like better, whether or not the lives are true or invented.  I like the use of biographical figures to your own purposes but I think the more interesting aspects are obscured when there’s largely unaddressed intellectual one-upsman-ing in the ether with it.  I think that aspect of the book would need more flesh on it (in a book of ghosts) for me to have any idea of what it was doing with those complex dynamics, where it might stand in relation to them.  Ben Lerner’s book, I think, balances this stuff gorgeously, but I like to think Luiselli would have a really different take on those dynamics, I just don’t see them played out fully here.  And I’ll be interested to see how Teresa Carmody’s gossip/femme maison house projects intersect.

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