“To be fair, this country is safe, no one I know has fallen from a sniper’s rifle, and not since 1970 have
tanks roamed the streets. But that was in another province, another language, so it may not have
The sometimes confused, highly unreliable, ageing narrator of I’ll Be charts a path through days that rarely offer much change to his circumstances. Communing with his friends Bob, Blanche and Kiki,
this I in progress ponders tasks such as locating the perfect tomato, planning meals, having coffee, but rarely actualizes the m. “I’m living0 the dream,” he says, “the one with nobody in it.”
As he fumbles through his days, this narrator breaks boundaries: the concept of space is uncertain, language is broken, history is rewritten, identity itself remains a question. The futility of language is a central theme. Between sentences strewn with comma splices, existential questions and sundry deconstructionist strategies, the novel is peppered with poetic metaphor and laugh out loud humor . By working to unravel every strand of our understanding of the external world, the novel reveals the frailty of our thought processes, our humanity.
“This is fantastic. Requiring deep knowledge of history and world events. I like the courage for the inevitability of exclusion. I appreciate the fragmentation along the many links and threads of events. There is a continuous fusion and disruption between elements, the personal and the universal. I also love how the quotidian is used as a transition towards political statements. I see at least three parallels that Intersect and separate.”
Rawi Hage: Writer / Novelist: De Niro’s Game, Cockroach, Carnival, Beirut Hellfire Society, Winner of the International Dublin Literary Award.
I’ve read I’ll Be…a few times, and as bits. As with Texas, I love the immersion in excess that it gives me. I’m reminded of Robert Smithson’s essay on “a pile of language.” There is that Stein/Williams emphasis on a certain kind of materialization, which is nice because it allows for the contradictory impulse of destructiveness. There is a strong sense of erasure, that unlike writing that is intended to fix finalize and preserve, here forgetting is just as important. I mean, for there to be a ” here” there has to be forgetting. They seem to go together. So you engage me in an activity that is one of forward motion, relentless running over cliffs, rushing toward its own destruction which has always already occurred. You’re making space by way of dislocation, the constant jarring filling of pages that empty just as fast. I’ve forgotten the name for that speaking that can’t stop, that goes on no matter what. That’s our world. H.L. Mencken / logophilia.
I think you avoid that condition that someone remarked, (I think it’s in Craig Dworkin’s book on experimental writing) that we don’t really have to read this writing, we just get it. That’s how it worked out for Stein, with her large books. Not even her best readers actually read those books, we read a few lines and we know what’s happening, and that seems to be adequate. I think your book is much more experiential than that, one has to undergo the text, there’s a strong emotional dimension.
Stephen Horne: Writer and curator, Paris France. His writing appears in Canadian and European art periodicals, exhibitions, catalogues and anthologies.
I wasn’t able to read I’ll Be until yesterday. I’m glad to have done so: dark and caustic as it is, the humour did me good, drawing quite a few laughs.
Your writing is already very much distinct from anything that I’ve come across in recent memory. It’s clear that you must have had that trademark tone and rhythm inside you for some time now. As with Texas, what comes to mind is Beckett, but a Beckett who isn’t supercilious about history and would rather forget it in favour of ontology. You instead crowd any metaphysical — shall we call them that?– quivers with all sorts of references to the here and now. In I’ll Be both of these aspects are enhanced, reinforced, as it were: there is more ontology and more history, especially more recent history, than in Texas and they play off each other more often and more openly. That allows you to do all sorts of things with space and time, to compress or enlarge them at will, so that the “I” of the text seems to be speaking now from the next chair around the table or from next door, now as if from another dimension altogether, with the tension giving rise to the unexpected disjunctions one often gets from metaphors.
For this reason the prose is still very much “poetic”, as in Texas but, again, much more so. Here the paragraphs are almost like stanzas, in the sense that while in Texas there is a sense that something is about to happen, due also to the circumstances in which the protagonist finds himself, here there is a stillness rather than a waiting, a stillness that is almost willed or built into the way things are. I am curious to see how far you’ll be able to go with this, as of course it cuts into the consecutional features we associate with narration ( here only the stillness accumulates: there isn’t a war to nurture the waiting, to convince us that the what-comes-next questioning will be answered, that something will happen, we have only the structure of time, hence of narration, to keep that belief alive).
I am pleased to see that among the allusions that contribute to that sideways “poetic” thickness of the book are not only those to so-called newsworthy figures but also to musicians, writers and filmmakers. This too I would be curious to see how far you will take.
Francesco Lorrigio: Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Ottawa.
I’ve read the text three times. Interestingly, I have enjoyed it more with each additional reading. Here are some of the lines I underlined (though not all – there are too many):
“Nothing is something in the story I’m telling, and so there is absolutely no point in my saying that.”
“We are the governed, and therefore suspect.”
“Luck is just another word for proximity, like rings on a tree.”
“Whimsy is mostly for white people, since nobody else understands it.”
I really like the snappy dialogues too. I mean, it’s a great cast of characters – the unicorn, God, the analyst, the doctor, Hamlet! Still, I think it’s accessible on its own terms, if that makes any sense. There is a linear narrative of sorts, but the primary attraction at this point is the spin, which isn’t linear at all. Fragments adhere to form various shapes, then fly off into the ether, only to return to recombine with new fragments. Like stalagmites, perhaps, they accrue.
Ted Gossen: Professor of Japanese Literature, York University, Toronto. North American Translator of Japanese writers, including Haruki Murakami.
“…the Sudanese are always in season”.
Well you got that one right.
I suppose much of what I like about the book resembles what’s mentioned in the blurbs, but not quite.
I really like how the book constantly talks about political woes but isn’t exactly political. That’s hard to achieve. I value it because I’ve come to detest moralising. It’s probably a good fifty years since non-idiot adults could honestly think they or anyone else is going to change the world, in a leftie sort of way. It pisses me off when I keep hearing that people are going to support this or that, or call for something, or demand something. What’s that supposed to mean? It just seems futile, pretentious, childish and immodest.
Yes, there’s some resemblance to Joyce and Beckett or even Hunter S. Thompson, but what makes the book special to me is what it has in common with Laurence Sterne. I don’t agree that the narrative is disruptive, or dislocating, or that there is a lot of fragmentation. Much more accessible than Joyce and much less introverted, it’s nevertheless a stream of consciousness. (And a stream of consciousness, however it may jump about, is still a stream, it has unity.) And this is crucial to counter the moralistic ranting, or even undertone, that typically comes with calling attention to awful events.
Take Brecht – he wanted to cut moralising and drama with an Entfremdungseffekt; it’s generally conceded that he failed to achieve this. And Beckett achieved some distance with a terrific sense of humour, but that doesn’t really distance either, because his work is so mercilessly intense. But with you, your attention wanders. You don’t dwell on anything (I think of Joyce describing Hell), as if you don’t really give a shit about indignation. And I believe this works brilliantly because you don’t just wander off into yourself, away from the world. Other writers describing political or moral horror often affect an ostentatiously flat or contemptuous tone. But when you wander away from politics, you show regret and pain in personal life, not about world disasters. Soon after the dig about Sudan, you say, “Talking is how everything slips through my fingers…”. That’s successfully poignant. That tells the reader you’re not proud of any distance you may have achieved and – again, just my feeling – you’re not out to shock. After all, what would be the point of that?”
Michael Neuman: Writer: What’s Left? Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche (1988), The Rule of Law: Politicizing Ethics (2002) , The Case Against Israel (2005),