Rawi Hage: Writer / Novelist: De Niro’s Game, Cockroach, Carnival, Beirut Hellfire Society, Winner of the International Dublin Literary Award.
“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.”
Stephen Horne: Writer and curator, Paris France. His writing appears in Canadian and European art periodicals, exhibitions, catalogues and anthologies.
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.
Francesco Lorrigio: Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Ottawa.
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.
Ted Gossen: Professor of Japanese Literature, York University, Toronto. North American Translator of Japanese writers, including Haruki Murakami.
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.
In the end, it’s your style and I love it!
Robert Pinsky: American Poet.
Rich in imagination, timing and range.
Ian Thomas Shaw, writer, diplomat and an international development worker. Founder of Deux Voiliers Publishing, Prose in the Park Literary Festival and the Ottawa Review of Books. His novels include:
Quill of the Dove (Guernica, April 2019);
Soldier, Lily, Peace and Pearls (DVP, 2012)
“…highly experimental style in his novel Texas is poetry trespassing on the contours of prose.
Texas is neither an easy read nor a page-turner. The rapid-fire cadence of the narrative is best savoured in small doses—one page here, another there. For every four lines of text is a poem, and Gaudio’s mastery of allegory and epigrams invites the reader to journey through a devastating criticism of power politics and post-colonialism.
The plot, or rather the shadow of a plot, ostensibly has as its protagonist a diplomat, whose primary function appears to be to wheel cartloads of dollars through various third world countries, subverting their regimes and imposing more acquiescent governments in their place. The name Texas is a thinly veiled euphemism for the US.
The diplomat, having run his course of luck on several continents and leaving behind chaos and misery, is suddenly kidnapped in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, with a striking resemblance to Iraq, although perhaps seasoned with a little of Afghanistan. The diplomat, imprisoned in a barren room in a non-descript suburb, awaits his impending execution. His warder Hakim, his only human contact, is an infrequent visitor.
As the diplomat loses all hope that his political masters will ransom him, he confides to the only other living creatures in his surroundings—a bird and a mouse—his inner thoughts about his long career in financing revolutions and coup d’états, quelling rebellious nations and “state-building.”
Poetry as political criticism is not new, but Claudio’s exceptional talent in weaving it into a thoroughly enjoyable full-length novel is, at least for the Canadian literary scene.”
Barry Callahghan: Poet, Writer, publisher of exile editions and Exile Literary Quarterly
A very distinctive voice, in tone and syntax, demanding of the reader’s close attention.