Review Index




Ron Sukenick calls for a less representational, more rhetorical fiction here but in this age of genre-blurring and fading authors, his use of rhetoric in the argument is particularly appealing. As such it crosses genre boundaries, if such still exist. It also refers back to Burke (and Aristotle's Rhetoric rather than Poetics) as well as the birth of 'experimental' writing. In essence, prose becomes a branch of poetics and joins with the 'experimental' tradition in the Eastern European visual poetry sense where the process of writing is an experiment or "try" rather than finished product. (While possibly present or latent in Western treatises on the topic it is not generally highlighted so generally ignored by those who like to dismiss non-mainstream writers as just those 'anti's.)

Simply put, fiction for Sukenick is a mode of thought and a mode of thought on a par with poetry as a way of thinking and being. The Narralogues are dedicated to Waldos and Waldosas everywhere, and we are everywhere and everyman and woman. This same invitation is now evident - if at times just implicitly - in much poetry written today in English and much of the newer world literature.

As Waldo the reader finds himself in a chateau in a philosophical or culinary chat with a chatelaine's cat who is of course named 'chat' but is not Corsican of descant. And in another fiction in the 'Name of the Dog' we are led to ponder if "maybe the real thing is what happens when the practical tom cats are away and the prodigal spirit starts to play." But all is not overly-intellectualized word play - we meet the Rose in striped bib overalls who could duke it out with all art critics in that Soho bar who tells us that "collage is out." and is designing an apartment ("her Reality series) with walls made of video screens screening video feeds from different TV news programs - "reality" TV or not TV. One is here seduced into a mode of thinking, isn't one? I'll take the Rose.

Reality intrudes in another and, at times, mysterious way in another story when the author discovers that the C.I.A. mysteriously wants an examination copy of one of his books - the publisher doesn't send it as there is no payment enclosed with the request. This does border on Sander's Investigative Poetics in several ways, and may or may not border on paranoia as some of us know. I myself was on the 'files' as someone who lost security clearance by joining the S.D.S. But the more interesting border here is that as a mode of thinking these stories become a documentary of the life we live should we choose to enter it.

Review of Ronald Sukenick, Narralogues, Albany, SUNY Press, 2000, $14.95 pbk.

Thomas Bell

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