Sunday, April 2, 2017

a purely bi-dimensional figure in outline upon the surface of my mind

Going back repeatedly over several days to Czurda's Almost 1 Book | Almost 1 Life I decide that what I like about it are the lines that feel like non sequiturs whenever I come across them, these cousins to the "rare, almost archaic phrases" that Proust's narrator discovers in Bergotte and which have no real force out of context: "mistresses are normal in aristocratic circles she thought and handed him his fur hat" (Mutilation With Intent). It's because of Proust that I think of them as long excerpts even though they are almost always short, or shortish anyway: but I still have that impression; he says:

I now no longer had the impression of being confronted by a particular passage in one of Bergotte’s works, which traced a purely bi-dimensional figure in outline upon the surface of my mind, but rather of the ‘ideal passage’ of Bergotte, common to every one of his books, and to which all the earlier, similar passages, now becoming merged in it, had added a kind of density and volume, by which my own understanding seemed to be enlarged.

The surprise is similar each time; therefore I can open the book anywhere, and have the pleasure that you might have in a nice dream: look, you say; we're flying again, we are aware of our situation. Books that can be sampled anywhere have to be developed by the reader who adjusts themselves internally and unconsciously as Proust's narrator does until they have their conception of the object in a state that can be regarded in the way that a petroglyph artist so many centuries ago must have regarded (judging from the way they treated it) a rock, the figures positioned without regard for the edges of the space, and no apparent idea that in centuries to come the idea of compositional framing would come to seem necessary. So, similarly the book, once you have developed it properly, has no shape or beginning, middle, end, no form like that: you have reformed it to a prehistoric ideal.


  1. The idea of an edgeless narrative is very attractive, and you can see where writers have attempted to create such a thing (Finnegans Wake springs to mind, or Swift's Waterland to a lesser extent). The idea of a sort of undifferentiated narrative, where a reader can open it anywhere and, through any sentence or passage, get an impression of the whole of the work, can only be created by a reader, I think. A writer can't write such a book, I declare provisionally.

    I just now realize that I've been writing novels that fight against the limits of time (as in, this moment is the narrative "now") since my very first one. There hasn't been any sort of progression of the idea in my work because I don't think I was conscious of it in those terms. But I'm strongly attracted to narratives that coil around themselves and ignore causation. Which is not at all what you're getting at here; I'm just using your blog as a notepad now.

    1. Probably the best and most useful thing it could be used for. The books that my mind picks out as its own edgeless narratives are usually ones with normal enough stories and no special attempt by the author to make them any different. I wonder if I need them to be either attractive or slightly stupid before it can work.