Derik Badman's Journal

2020-05-14 08:28

Yesterday morning I finished up Jean Ricardou's Place Names after starting it the night before. Ricardou is someone I've seen mentioned a lot over the years both as a critic and a novelist associated with the Nouveau Roman, but I never read anything by him. This novel from Dalkey Archive appears to be the only one of his works available in English (translated by Jordan Stump who also wrote a book about Queneau). It's a rather Oulipian affair, a guidebook clashed with a mystery/conspiracy, that is rather playful, turning in on itself, repetitions, games, puzzles, metafictional in the way it makes the novel part of the novel (but without bringing Ricardou/author into it). The structure of it is at point exposed as somehow based on 8 chapters in 8 parts following some kind of logic, and it all has an element of theory about it in regards to language and meaning. It was a quick and enjoyable read, but also felt kind of hollow to me in the end. Not as engrossing and mysterious as a Robbe-Grillet nouveau roman, and not as fun and amusing as a Queneau or a Perec novel.

Last night I finished up another story in Delany's Neveryon series. Probably about two thirds through the four books now. Noticing how much the stories... not exactly reflect each other... but keep switching perspectives from one to the next, to show different facets of the world and especially the characters. In Neveryona, Pryn, the protagonist meets a few of the characters from the stories in the first book. She also briefly spends time with two smugglers, who are really only seen a bit from her perspective. Then in the first story of Flight from Neveryon "The Tale of Fog and Granite", the protagonist and focalizing character is one of those smugglers (who... I believe we never get a name for), so we see him a bit later in life, still smuggling. At one point he is even reminded of Pryn (though he no longer remembers her name), and we get a brief moment of his perspective on a bit of the previous novel.

The subsequent short story (that I read last night), "The Mummer’s Tale" is a long monologue, a conversation where we only hear the one speaker, from one of the mummer's of a travelling show. The show appeared previously in Neveryona where Pryn ends the novel travelling with them, though I'm not aware the narrator of this story is explicitly mentioned. The mummer is talking to an old friend (unclear at this point to me if he is someone seem previously or not) and ends up telling a story about his other friend, who we eventually realize is the smuggler from the previous story. In this case the monologue is taking place a decade or more later (time has really passed!), and we learn about the smuggler, before he started smuggling. Do the later stories continue this kind of flip flopping of perspectives? I don't actually recall. I've definitely read the beginning of the series more times than I've read the end of the series.

In non book news... I keep seeing the two ducks as the creek during my morning walks. Perhaps they've decided to settle in here. I hope they are careful about the fox... and stupid people who let their dogs off leash in the park. I keep telling myself I should go down and "feed the ducks" but they seem to be doing ok. I was watching this morning as the female was dunking under the water to root about under a log that sits in the creek. She seemed to be finding something under there to eat, as when she'd came up her beak would open and close. The male just stood next to her keeping watch.

I stalled on my third story days ago, but I had an idea on how to radically change its structure (inspired by thinking about the nouveau roman), so it's not just a sequentially record of events. I could probably string out one event after another of a plot for a long time, but it starts to feel easy and boring after awhile. I like structure; I like constraint; and I guess I needed to remember that.