Tuesday, October 02, 2007

mark danielewski is a normal dude. sort of.

went to philly last night to see the notorious MZD, aka mark danielewski, author of House of Leaves and Only Revolutions, which just came out in paperback. dude is one of my heroes: if i were stranded on a desert isle i'd request House of Leaves and a bottle of jameson, in that order.

Z opened with a johnny truant passage from House of Leaves that he said had inspired Only Revolutions, then read sam's account of escaping the Juke Joint (S209) followed by hailey's take on leaving st. louis (H217) -- two subsequent chapters told in two voices.

now i'm going to do something appalling – he proposed – and read the end of the book. authors aren't supposed to read the endings, i know, but you may have noticed one of the peculiar things about this book is that the ending is also the middle. so he offered up sam's version of hailey's death (S353); and the difference in these 3 passages' voices – between sam's hormone-pumped description of the restaurant, to hailey's beatnik lovesong, to sam's heavy, wordsworthian sorrow as hailey goes – the shift in voices, the songs of experience vs. innocence, really comes through when read aloud.

like shakespeare, the Only Revolutions danielewski is the spoken word, whereas House of Leaves is the... well i still don't know what the fuck it is. it's like Lateralus, when OR is V is for Vagina. or something.


when asked the inevitable question about what kind of shit-fit pantheon threw when they saw what they had to publish, danielewski said definitively that HoL had made that possible. i got a decent amount for my second book - he revealed – nothing by movie or advertising standards, but in the literary world something decent – and i knew i could have just given pantheon a book over the phone, something easy that would have taken 3 months, but i had in my mind these two homeless kids, and i went with that. OR was a 6-year effort, during which danielewski was obsessed, working 10 and 12-hour days, 6 days a week, blowing up two relationships and continually wondering “what would hailey think about this” and approaching elderly gentlemen in coffee shops, asking “where were you in the 50s? were you ever in love?”

one of MZD's great loves is deconstructing the convention that language is independent of form, that it carries the same meaning regardless of appearance. he's all about leading the reader into meaning using typography and visual design -- tracking the flight of a bullet stretched in word-clusters scattered over squares of whitespace in House of Leaves, for ex.

Only Revolutions is more horsed: font face, size and color are strictly controlled, as are the number of words on a page, pages in the book; the physical orientation of the book itself; how hailey and sam's stories intertwine beginning to end, and chapter to chapter. it's a beautiful book, but i wonder if the story is compromised, constrained by its form. i imagine it's like the conundrum every translator of dante confronts: do you stay true to dante's complex rhyming verse structure? -or do you ultimately choose substance over form and resort to free verse? is it possible to have both form and substance without sacrificing either? because, to some extent, form IS the story of OR.

fuck it. i'm telling the mayor i'm taking a danielewski day. surely he'll understand.

11 comments:

addon said...

good questions finn. once went to a doctor whose regular diagnosis was "questions, questions ... lots of questions ...".

in this case my question is wtf are you talking about, that exposes my ignorance, maybe I should have a peep out one day and see what the world is doing.

it strikes me that, in general, there would be a great danger of compromising content in strictly adhering to a required form.

i am reminded of the awe that struck me when i first, in high school, peered down a microscope at an amoeba. i can feel the thrill to this day, more than 19,000 (!!) days later.

talking of numbers, if i gave you a dollar every second, it would take me 11 days to give you a million. and it would take me 13 years to give you a billion. ... just to put the shrub (bush)'s request for further funds in proportion ...

fatmammycat said...

Days off for book enjoyment. It should be written into your contract.
I'm dragging my heels here today, please tell me you were swimming or biking it this very morning so that I might flare my nostrils stomp my feet and hightail it out the door.

finn said...

alas fatcat, there was no swimming this morn on account of last night someone ran into a power line pole, which took out the electricity which runs the fan which keeps the bubble aloft atop the pool... so i came to work early, ate too much chocolate and sugar-crashed.

stomp and hightail, and i will live while the whole world dies.

adam, humor me and find yourself a copy of house of leaves. it's nabokov and borges and joyce, juicy stuff that will delite & thrill you.

fatmammycat said...

Dude is gifted and no doubt.
I ran to the resident eegit sound track and broke the 1 hour. I am confused and pretty pleased.
Also tomorrow I go forth the the amphibian king (http://www.amphibianking.ie/) to spend money I don't have. I believe I might even be foaming at the mouth a little.

finn said...

i'd say something about how we all float down here but i'm sure the amphibian king will tell you that himself tomorrow. are you to have your gait analysed??

i suspect that if your knees have held up this well thus far you must be generally biomechanically sound, which would make up for the rocks in your head i guess.

well done run today; you are in fine shape for the 29th.

fatmammycat said...

I'm going to get it looked at, the asics I have are good, although getting a lilttle worn, but we'll see what the 'perts have to say. I'm buying second skin socks and possibly a marthonesque vest that eliminates the mid bicep burn I get sometimes when I wear cotton and one of those fancy belts that contain liquid containers that all the other runners are wearing and...well I might be a while out there cooing at stuff.

finn said...

do you mean to say you're NOT going to run in denims, timberlands and a "waterproof" shell??

and here i was thinking you were tough...

are you going to pre-test your entire getup & routine so that come race day you're going with what's tried & true?

fatmammycat said...

Yep, I don't want any pinching, purple nurples, chaffing or 'oh, what the hell is that' isms on the day.
I reckon I'll have enough to keep me occupied without that.

finn said...

i want to see pix of your loot. (you NEED to get an iphone. you don't have to talk on it at ALL, honest. if anyone dares call, 2 button clicks send them straight to VM.)

i dropped $200 at the DE Running Company saturday. i couldn't remember or distinguish which of my 2 pairs of racing flats were the ones from last season, so to settle the issue i simply bought a new pair. and some shorts. and a couple shimmels. i was eying a new timex 50-lap sleek but held back.

fatmammycat said...

I'm on it.

pablobanila said...

I was led here by the keyword "Lateralus".

House of Leaves is pretty much the literary equivalent of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey; Tool's Lateralus is the musical equivalent, and Hideaki Anno's Evangelion the anime equivalent (:

BTW I reblogged your photo of your autographed Only Revolutions you lucky bastard j~j

Here:

http://pablobanila.tumblr.com/post/443164199/approaching-elderly-gentlemen-in-coffee-shops