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“… the random cannibalization of all the styles of the past, the play of random stylistic allusion.” Fredric Jameson.
‘Uncorrected Proof’ by Louisiana Alba could be seen as a labyrinthically shaped many-dimensional map, pointing above and beyond itself by showing mirrored images of other places in literary time and space. And that’s one reason why you do not feel trapped by the, also present, postmodern paranoia. In this book as in real life. Painting pictures pointing beyond themselves out into a vast literary universe, you may feel lost in a labyrinth but it can, and for me does, feel like an opening, or a broad road, in it’s freedom to play out and stay away from an apparent order of themes according to fit the forms in the styles of the past, and norms or ideas of originality and individuality. The text stretches out of and becomes wider than the thickening plot, which is something I think can be inferred if employing multiple perspectives on the puzzle pieces presented – which, to use the map metaphor again, can be viewed from a distance at the same time as you are caught up in it/them. In other words it does, in my opinion and to my appreciation, knit parodies and parallells into something in which it is possible to discern a pattern, in and through the somehow accented spy novel style, making the pictures and scenes full rather than fragmented in relation to the substratum one can sense somewhere in the heart of the text. To try and concentrate my impressions in one sentence I would describe it as confusion in association with the flexibility of not being one and itself. I have personally become deeply involved in this hectic story, and though I have read it over and over from cover to cover I still do not feel I am done with it. I use the word hectic as at many points there is a bit of a stressful atmosphere with the characters and the ones who in parts in their turn play the characters, as with the authors from various times and places who file past. Others such as the fishing scenes and the pasta recipes are a bit of a break, through being a bit more worldly. Alba’s work in itself is in my view an original one. To pick but a few illustrative quotes which echo my impressions when reading:
“It is not just a runaway relentless river of words following mental storms or unauthorized brainwaves”
“Themes do not overflow story into labyrinths of uncertainty, ruthlessly impoverishing if not demolishing, exactitude”.
Who in the book in the end is the one or ones who has/have done wrong, if there is such a one in the story, is hard for a non-literary person like myself to express. As for picking the parodies, who has written what may not be the (only) point of interest. Hopefully. I for one am unable to identify most of the over a hundred authors said to figure in the text. To try and espy one final conclusion, a main paradox may be that the novel builds a lot on parody/pastisch as technique and in turn plagiarism as a theme, which could lead to some interesting questions on where the line can/should be drawn, for what kinds of creators, and what you have the right to do what with/with what.
Notes from the diary of the reviewer’s work
raw thoughts which c(sh)ould be refined. the truth may be purer in this version than in the next. i’ll go with the next one. The first copy I read was from the library. I saw some review, got curious, and made a suggestion for the library to buy it (which is my normal way of getting many of the books I read). I read this first, borrowed, copy of the book, among other contexts, while washing clothes and while watching clothes wash.
1: Excerpt Six; Inside the plot (UP, Acknowledgements)
2: Excerpt Four; Archie thinks it through (UP, p 65)
3: Excerpt Five; Alessandro gets on the case (UP, p 71)
4: Excerpt Three; Archie & Cal try to sort it out (UP, p 81)
5: Excerpt One; Ellen Spartan contemplates her fate (UP, p 86)
6: Excerpt Two; Chaos at Folio (UP, p 109)
And later, through X months’ hard labour, resulting in the above, I won my own copy. Fair enough. And fair and square. “[I] found the order (or found the copy on Google Book Search 🙂 Either way, [I] did it.”
“Hi Kristin, the copy will be sent to you on Monday.”
I re-read it when on a flight to New York. And back. I might not have concentrated as hard as I should. At this moment a clarinet played by a neighbour is mixed with birds singing through the open window mixed in turn with relatively silent electroacoustic music from my computer. The temperature is very/too high. And in addition coffee pipyng hoot out of the glede. I also made my own correspondences between style, theme and reading. For example, eating haggis when I read the part on Scots. “And yer nae even scottish”. I made the pasta in the recipes in the book when I read those. Following the instructions I did use olive oil. And then I didn’t. (But to use another one of my jotted down quotes from the book “every author lies in every case”, you shouldn’t take my word(s) for this. As for haggis, I’m a vegetarian.) I have also been pondering on the author. One personal (but still quite unoriginal, I have read this opinion in other places) guess on the subject of the author Louisiana Alba, is that this is not a non-fictional character. But I would not swear on that either. “Because I know nothing about this guy.” But I am a “friend” of “his” on Facebook. Some other intriguing passages are for example the equations describing how the book (the book(s) in the book/the actual book) was written, the question “Is that Heidegger quoting Kundera or Kundera quoting Heidegger or Homer Simpson misquoting both?”, and speaking of Homer; blurbs by Homer and Brontë, the pictures of authors on the cover, the thank yous to many more in the preface. The familiarity of them seem to cover and cushion some of the literary tumbles of the eponymous author, the implicit author, the fictional author and the reader.
As at the moment being involved in library and information science, I also at points in my reviewing progress saw parallels to knowledge organization and cataloging, as well as some kind of hyper- or at least intertextuality, in the alphabetical list of authors and artist in the preface, pictures of some of them quite neatly organised on the cover, and and as mentioned reminds me of a map – which a catalogue can be as well, often concerning documents such as literature and often interesting in itself in what has been chosen for representing and how it is represented, making new stories out of, as well as new relations and associations, between older works.
Some of the charm of this book lies in it waking curiosity and associations, and some of the challenge with the book lies in it making you want to solve some of its riddles, such as where allusions are, to whom, and what this in turn might imply if interpreted “correctly.”
Reply from the Elephant: Many thanks Kristin for one of the best reviews I have ever read..If more readers had your capacities for seeing into and analysing a text there would be no decline in books!
On The Paste Land
“Lou maintains you have look through the prism of Duchamp’s Mona Lisa..the mustache on the most famous woman in art..Everything is a comment, a value add on, a parodic piece of fun, a slide off the original text into something else..built inside text which itself is built inside text and so on..Foucault’s comment in ‘What is an author’, an author is only a collection of statements that have come before, comes into play. Writers often play with borrowed stories (Shakespeare mercilessly so)..Lou borrowed styles. T.S. Eliot borrowed from the whole of the literary world.
The Waste Land could be The Paste Land. (You are quite free to use our emails as well if you like – Uncorrected Proof is an open book published by an open press)”
– Geoff Berry… ElephantEars Press – e-mail correspondence June 2010
Review published in Pacific Rim Review of Books Fall/Winter 2009 Issue no. 12 – page 33
PUBLISH OR DIE! by Paul Duran
Who is Louisiana Alba and what does she (or he) have against the publishing industry? It’s a rhetorical question since most authors inevitably have some gripe against the media giants they are forced to rely upon to shepherd their creative works to the masses. Yet usually, besides the odd drunken cocktail party diatribe or expletive-laden rant to one’s spouse, authors won’t, or can’t afford to, bite the hand that feeds them. Alba on the other hand has decided to go straight for their throats, going public with the writer’s eternal screech – the bastards have (add your own word here – ruined, stolen, fucked up, etc.) my book! –then framed it within a literary conceit so audacious and capricious, that to stumble just a little bit is to fall off the mountain completely.
It’s a high wire act that literally co-opts the style of dozens of literary untouchables and pop culture icons from James Joyce to Jimi Hendrix, Anthony Burgess to Andy Warhol, Ernest Hemingway to Quentin Tarantino (there are over a hundred authors and artists listed in the book’s acknowledgements starting with ABBA!). Alba (an obvious nom de plume)uses each successive voice in her vast arsenal to tell the story of Archie Lee, the plagiarized author who schemes to get his novel back from the people who stole it – the celebrity novelist Martyrn Varginas, his greedy publisher Menny Lowes, and his man-eater of an editor, Ellen Spartan.
Using The Iliad as a starting reference point (in a deliberate cracked mirror image to Joyce’s use of The Odyssey in Ulysses), the novel playfully winks at Homer not so much for his epic poem’s style as for its archetypal tale of love, abduction and revenge. The characters all are sly doppelgangers for their Greek counterparts; Archie Lee for Achilles; Ellen Spartan for Helen; Menny Lowes for Menelaus and so on. But the book does not rely solely on post-modern mimicry or clever homage to keep our interest. It more than holds it’s own as a thoroughly enjoyable pulp story about stolen manuscripts and deferred vengeance in the volatile, cutthroat world of publishing. Making publishing a life and death enterprise involving kidnapping, murder and the CIA is a nice conceit that no doubt will give even the crustiest of publishing execs a knowing chuckle.
The novel starts with Archie out to expose his literary theft at the Crocker Prize banquet (read Booker Prize). He gets cold feet when he comes face to face with his nemesis Varginas and Varginas’ attractive editor Ellen. She unexpectedly offers Archie a position at her new imprint when he stammers out that he’s “expert with espionage thrillers.” From there the story follows Archie’s desperate scheme to wreak revenge from inside the publishing mecca using his newfound influence to try to get his original novel into print under the name of an opportunistic young hustler he has hired for the part. Nothing goes according to plan as the novel ricochets from London to Barcelona to the South of France to New York and back; from pulp crime to spy thriller, memoir to meta-fiction, screenplay to redacted text.
It may sound like a daunting task for the narrative to constantly shape-shift from one disparate source to another but the effect is breathtakingly kaleidoscopic and in most cases wholly appropriate (even the few typos in the book seem correct given the title). In truth it would probably take a tenured literature professor with a vast music and DVD collection to decode all the stylistic shifts in Uncorrected Proof but that’s not really the point. Given all the literary byplay and conceptual ambition, the story is still amazingly accessible, so when you are able to pick up on a particular author or style, it just adds to its kicky pleasure.
In the end Uncorrected Proof is also a cautionary tale about ego and ambition run amok in a world where ego and ambition are the only character traits that seem to really matter. With no clear winners or losers it could almost be read as a twisted metaphor for our own troubled times, with the publishing industry standing in for Wall Street and the banks, where the “best and brightest” have had their way for too long and have grown fat on the bones of those crushed under their Gucci loafers and stiletto heels. Perhaps I’m reading too much into Alba’s remarkably varied prose, but the seeds of a revolution are there, if not on the economic front, then maybe just in the publishing house.
Paul Duran’s films include Flesh Suitcase and The Dogwalker.