Thursday, July 05, 2007

an untitled novel by Ken Sparling

Getting up in the morning had become a feminist
gesture. Meanwhile, the earth, rotating in the blinking
permanence of the firmament, had become a condem-
nation. One morning Alan got out of bed, did the dishes
quickly, and left. He started to pack a bag. He was going
to take the car. She might need it to take the kids some-
, he thought. Fuck her, he thought. But it didn’t
seem right driving away in a car. It didn’t seem manly.
He needed a horse. (p 67)
I spent my bus ride to Kingston reading Toronto author Ken Sparling's unpublished novel (Toronto ON: Pedlar Press, 2003); Sparling, an author I've heard of but never actually read before, is the author of the previous novels Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall (New York NY: Knopf, 1996) and Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt (self-made by author upon request). For something as conceptually simple as a novel without a title, I'm sure it threw a whole bunch of people off, including the distributor's sales force, librarians, booksellers and book reviewers. How to deal with such an unruly thing? How does it fall into "books in print," for example? How many authors, for that matter, self-make a book for a reader "upon request"?
The recommendations listed in the summary deal mainly
with new organizational structures, links with the city, the
integration of technology, and the development of new

Becker said: Diderot was already appalled at the volume
of books which was collecting, and he uttered a heartfelt
groan for future ages which would be literally swamped
by the sheer numbers of volumes; he predicted that it
would one day be easier to get facts by going directly
back to nature than by addressing oneself to the library
with its swollen stacks. (p 90)

There is something conceptually interesting about a novel without a title, a novel without a straightforward story or overarcing theme and such to hang the reader's hat upon. What is the purpose of this book? Where is the story going? Is there even a story? For this beautifully-produced (as all Pedlar productions are) hardcover novel, Sparling's novel exists in a series of short fragments, each of which start at the top of a new page. The opening seems simple enough, a series of moments that move and almost accumulate between two main characters, but after about fifty of these, completely switch into a whole other area, making me wonder if this book exists more like a series of compartments, rather than a sequence of individual accumulated moments. One wonders after a while, is the sequence of events even important? Is the sequence of events even a sequence of events, or simple moments written down to appear as such, while moving through the author's own thoughts and other kinds of actions? Is obscurity more to the point of the novel than moving through the beginning to the end?

When two words are put side-by-side, narrative already exists, and simply can't be helped. Somehow Sparling manages to move his novel aside from narrative, throwing in a sequence he knows you'll read in this particular order, but somehow he throws some bones in, as though it isn’t knowing or alluding to but instead obscurity itself the issue for the book. Is there even a story here at all to follow, or simply a series of events, non-events, and questions?
The deeper into the square you go, the closer you'll get
to the present time, but you'll never quite get back. Your
life will continue to get farther ahead of you. The real
trick is to make it look like you're there in present time,
that time travel is something you've never really consid-
ered, let alone practiced, but it's hard when you never
seem to touch down. (p 139)
Does the novel in fact work, or simply work as a question posed about the novel itself? Is the question better asked than read?

related posts: my "untitled" post about poems without titles

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