More brief excerpts of books to be categorized as “required reading.”
Plats by John Trefry (Inside the Castle, 2014)
This is a difficult book to describe, and partially because it is a book that is so much about description. In the tradition of writers like Michel Butor & Philippe Sollers, but also seemingly so much in conversation with Gaston Bachelard and Rainer Maria Rilke, especially in relation Rilke’s famous declaration: “For a long time nothing, and then suddenly one has the right eyes.” The way in which the self notices the surrounding world, sees, notices one’s own self and inhabits a body that perceives so profoundly in language, is explored on a level that becomes haunting, unsettling, yet addicting.
With my own obsessions with slowness and space, this book is both slow and urgent, mesmerizing and hallucinatory, and it’s hard to look past things in the real world when the impulse shifts to looking within and without and between.
Joe Milazzo writes in a review: “Still processing the complexities of this text. Shades of Butor, Philippe Sollers and even Baudelaire in Trefry’s careful, even sometimes carefully grotesque, prosody—so, French—but this is a book that is deeply American in its concern with the self. Plats is also one of the most original meditations on sensory experience I can recall reading. And, yes, there is a narrative here, and it possesses dimensions (modern as well as ancient), but this is a book the requires you to perceive it first and only to read it ‘later,’ that is, through the medium of your own deliberation.” (Also read this great conversation between Joe Milazzo and John Trefry on Entropy)
Enormous things change. The ocean laps back and forth between the coasts and swirls down underneath itself into lightless caverns. The sand drifts along down the beach and the sky where it was filled with clouds turns bright brown and where it had been white a faint rain falls and will go on falling. I try to keep it off of my skin. It is a sudden discovery of old pain, rootless and rattling. It runs down my coat and over my shoes and through the veins on my hands. I lift the hair off of my neck and when I walk a raindrop falls under my collar, runs between my shoulderblades and soaks into my underclothes. It makes my neck hard and I feel that I need to pivot my head to keep my neck from crumbling into flakes. I stop under a street tree.
Each color body drifts through the fabric of the air bearing the profile of a local object: a chair back, a long conical pleat, a stack of table cloths. With a breath, the spectral furniture is drawn in, and exhaled in a cloud. The poses of the hall are exacted in the emptiness among the richly moist air. The darkness between the floating beads conjures the foliate pattern of the rug in waxy negative space and the air between each bead is the pale mauve of swollen breathing. The air space between each bead, each complete refracted room containing a breathing body, is an empty chasm filled with that breath. Each bead floating away from the rug makes visible the entire expanse of its pattern. In the space between breaths, in stillness, reflection is the ideal depiction of a disintegrating reality.
Farther Traveler by Ronaldo V. Wilson (Counterpath, 2015)
Desire and loss, mourning and fucking, the spaces in between, the crevices, the heartbeats and the waste, the trauma that belongs to someone who desires, the trauma that belongs to no one, love and weeping, nose hairs and stinging aggression. I wish I could articulate better what the writing of Ronaldo Wilson is and does, but more than existing, it moves and traverses, and more than doing, it complicates and enacts. Because the writing is so much more than simply being about something, the writing evades any label. Good. Labels are often so unproductive. I’ve admired Ronaldo Wilson for awhile. He is fierce and intelligent and witty and active in a way that seems transcendent. I remember one morning at a literary conference on my way to a morning panel, running into Ronaldo while on his morning jog.