Read How I Wrote Certain of My Books by Raymond Roussel Free Online
Book Title: How I Wrote Certain of My Books|
Date of issue: January 1st 1977
ISBN 13: 9780915342051
The author of the book: Raymond Roussel
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 29.24 MB
Read full description of the books How I Wrote Certain of My Books:before: I was recently shamed into admitting that, though I champion the fantastic Exact Change Press loudly and often, I have actually only read two of their books. I've got an even dozen on my shelf, though, and I am resolving to stop believing that I'm not smart enough for them and actually try. I've always been especially intrigued by this title, so this is the one I picked for my first foray.
A long time ago, someone very important introduced me to Exact Change. (He radically shifted my entire literary landscape, actually, introducing me to many other wonders, including my True Literary Love, Cortázar.) As it happens, I was going to visit him & his wife at an art book fair today, and when I cracked this book on the subway ride over -- a book, mind you, that I've owned for probably six years and never opened -- I found a wonderfully sweet, drunken inscription from him to me on the title page. How great is that?
after: I have given myself permission to abandon this book.
Raymond Roussel is widely considered to be a hands-down mind-blowing genius. (Maybe widely is the wrong word, because he's fairly obscure, but you know what I mean.) He is also considered to be kind of insane, one of those turn-of-the-century decadents (or something like that), who was born wealthy and never had to work or do anything, who devoted himself tirelessly to his craft (at the expense of his health and society), who was unappreciated (and often mocked) in his lifetime, and who was posthumously determined to be madly brilliant. The kind of guy whom scholars write scholarly circle-jerk treatises about. The kind of guy who did everything with crazed precision, who made all sorts of new rules by which literature could be understood or written, even though academics are still trying to figure out just what those rules exactly were.
What I'm trying to say is that this book was fucking boring.
I was really surprised and disappointed by this. I'm not one to shy away from a "difficult" read; I'm a lover of Pynchon and DFW and Cortázar, I have a whole shelf for "companion" books, I'm going to read Finnegan's Wake one day. I've got no problem with complicated symbolism, twisted allusions, densely leveled double and triple meanings. I love that shit, actually. But this was something altogether else.
This was actually the perfect overview book, it turns out, because it's kind of like a Roussel sampler, with a huge long intro / bio, and then selections from all of his works. The intro / bio was terrific; it told me all I needed to know about Roussel's society and time and place and surroundings, allowing me to get a sense of his place within the literary spectrum, and learn a whole lot about his life.
Then we moved on to his writings. Here is what Roussel does: he describes. That's kind of it. One of the pieces, from Impressions of Africa, is a fifteen-page description of central square, painstakingly detailed. It has a stage with some dude playing drums at one end, some kind of statue with panels on the other; there's some other shit on the sides. Fifteen pages. That's the whole piece.
Then there's a play, which is so steeped in patois and inside jokes about 19th-century politics and weird non sequiturs that it is virtually incomprehensible.
There are dozens of pages of drawings he commissioned to illustrate one of his other works, with the explicit instructions (a sentence or two) that he gave the illustrator, and much is made in the intro to that section about how the illustrator didn't know anything about the context in which his illustrations would be used.
The title essay is a probably brilliant but basically impenetrable list of words Roussel used to inspire his utterly wacky-seeming ideas -- he took words or phrases that had double meanings (or could be subtly tweaked for same) and then combined the double meanings into a new third meaning. Ex: "1st Moullet (calf) á gras (fat); 2nd mollet (soft-boiled egg) á gras (Gras rifle); hence Balbet's shooting exercise." Yeah. That goes on for twenty pages.
Listen (if anyone is still there listening): Maybe this book is, indeed, too smart for me. But you know what? I don't give a fuck. It is too weird, too unemotional, too unsatisfying, and too fucking dry for me to waste any more time on. I now have enough of a sense of what he's about that I don't ever have to read him again.
Anyone want my copy of Impressions of Africa? I don't think I'll be needing it anymore.
Read information about the authorPoet, storyteller, playwright and French essayist, born in Paris in 1877 and died in Palermo (Italy) in 1933. Author of a singular literary production of striking originality and dazzling imaginative force, applied with real obsessive fixation experiments applied to descriptive techniques and came to deploy a sort of automatic writing that made him one of the most brilliant of the surrealist movement.
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