jeudi, mai 10, 2007

BIG SAM


L'excellent Mumpsimus à la plume....En espérant qu'après la triste cessation du toujours impeccable label Désordres de Laurence Viallet (Sa survie aux éditions du Rocher tenait du miracle) un éditeur courageux reprenne le flambeau!

"Dark Reflections is a novel unlike any other Delany novel -- it's probably closest to Atlantis: Three Tales, but it's more straightforward and fictional, and one of the most immediately accessible novels Delany has written in ages. This is not to say it lacks complexity -- it's intellectually rich and structurally impressive, with hardly any moment lacking echoes and reiterations elsewhere in the book.

The story is that of Arnold Hawley, a not-very-successful poet, a black gay man who has lived most of his life in celibacy on the Lower East Side. Delany has, of course, included many black, gay poet characters (not always in that configuration) in his work from the beginning, but this is the first time I can think of that he has devoted so much attention to a character who hardly ever has sex. There are scenes that Delany has depicted before -- scenes of hustlers, scenes of public bathrooms -- but this time they are portrayed through the consciousness of someone who is mostly frightened by them, wary of them, even disgusted by them. (...) Hawley is a sad life, but not one we as readers are put in a position to laugh at or dismiss out of hand, because he is portrayed as possessing dignity -- much as the more socially marginalized characters in Dark Reflections and many of Delany's other novels are portrayed as possessing dignity, making them worthy of empathy.

Dark Reflections is a very literary book -- a book about a life propelled by literary passions more than any others. Names of books and writers populate the pages, and we get a more vivid view of Arnold's reading than of almost anything else. There are descriptions of people and places throughout the book, but they are secondary to the parade of names and titles. At first, this bothered me, but by the end the effect is extraordinary, much like that of a David Markson novel or Caroline Maso's Ava. Here, the technique efficiently builds character, giving us a sense of what Arnold most cares about and a sense of the depth of his reading life, the most vivid life he has.

Coincidence is also important to the novel, for better and worse. The middle section relies on a coincidence that I didn't find convincing, because it is tied to the book's most dramatic and violent moment, and seemed necessary more for narrative convenience than anything else. A less startling coincidence at the end brings some different strands of the book together, and this one I found both convincing and moving. The last pages of Dark Reflections are beautifully paced and evocative, ringing thematic and contextual notes from throughout the book, so that even though Arnold's life is not given any sort of clear resolution, the novel itself is satisfyingly whole and complete.

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