Monday, December 5, 2016

Gabriel Josipovici's Everything Passes

This episodic novelette from 2006 underscores several problems meta-fiction has found itself backed into. Ostensibly about an asshole who’s alienated his wife (now ex), daughter, son, and literary friends, these segments serve only as set-up to the book’s main focus: asshole creator shirking familial and literary duties in order to turn the tap of existential angst to ten, tricking himself with that faint hope of literary self-worth. But even that faint hope can never be realized, of course, because, as the narrator/Josipovici has it, the creator, post-Rabelais, is speaking to an invisible audience. The sections of meta-assertion, a historical critique much more fully positioned and developed in the author’s What Ever Happened To Modernism?, slams the brakes on whatever enchantment, interest, or intrigue his clipped narrative may have achieved, but there’s a more serious, more fundamental problem in the meta-critique.

Josipovici is, of course, right to point out the long history of novelist as self-conscious navigator in bellwether works . But Cervantes, Sterne, and others, used that awareness in the service of the author/narrator voice as fictional and imaginative hijinks largely separate from the transparent worries of the author over his or her own creative process. The reader of many late-postmodern works is often left with a solipsistic defense of the writing process, interesting, even fascinating, no doubt, to the author and (similarly) philosophically inclined writers, but of limited (and redundant when scrolling through book promos) appeal to those wanting to get out of the overseeing, stifling, never-ending loop.

The book is sixty pages, with plenty of white space. Most poetry collections contain more words. Despite that, Everything Passes isn’t compressed or concise. The refrain, some variation of, “He stands at the window./Cracked pane./His face at the window./Greyness. Silence.”, gathers irritation, rather than profundity, by repetition. The protagonist (if that’s the appropriate word) reminisces. Those thoughts aren’t interesting, and can’t be improved by pleading for a multiple suggestiveness from other characters or the reader her- or himself. The meta-commentary was philosophically problematic, but it was also problematic structurally. The bridge between glum remembrance and meta-aspiration was poorly synthesized, and the latter focus ended in a terribly overwrought ecstasy of creative explosion (however ironically one wants to take it) that reminded me of that ridiculous cliché to be found in the movie Amadeus, where the effervescent hero pens a new score in dramatic frenzy.

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