S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

If on a winter's night a traveller

I didn't finish it at home, although that's where I read the nihilist story. I didn't finish it at the GP's, although I thought i might. And that's how I came to finish it at the library itself, reading a scene set in a library while, myself, in a library. Rarely in my life has a book been so apropos and so story-laden in so many ways. (See yesterday's post, "The Haircut Book", for more details.)

This is a book about books, about reading, about theory, about quests, and about being human. It's a loose novel and it's a collection of short stories. The premise is that all of these "short stories" are the opening chapters in a novel which perennially eludes the protagonist; fortunately, they are all too self-contained to not be short-stories. It's an immensely self-conscious book, but recovers from the worst of that indulgence by the end of a few chapters, to my relief, after which stories only refer to themselves once or twice, rather than incessantly.

One of my largest disconnects from this book is that I am not male. The novel part of the book is addressed to a second-person reader of this book, a male reader, and I kept stumbling over the assumption that I am a man. Further, all women in this book were sexual to some degree or other; not quite as bad as the virgin/whore dichotomy, but erring in that direction.

All that aside, however, it's an impressive piece of work, as a means of thinking about storytelling, about why people read and what they read for, about the search for truth, and the elusiveness of it. Postmodernism has never seemed anywhere near so appealing to me as it does embodied in the lines of this collection.

If I ever had to teach a literary theory class, I would want to use this book.
Tags: haircut book

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