Monday, May 24, 2010

Nothing funnier this week...

... or maybe this month.

SF writer Adam Roberts has been reading and reviewing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time and has gotten to volume ix (or Wotix, as he calls it). Having exhausted all the other forms of sarcasm and abuse in his reviews of the previous eight volumes, he turns to deconstructionist parody:

Insofar as Heroic Fantasy is a fundamentally narrative artform, to which readers go in order to experience the pleasure of following the movement of characters through time, Jordan says: no. Wotix is the closest he has yet come to a book that disperses that force of narrative momentum—that great strength of the novel as a mode—into a great swarm of indistinguishable coexistent characters and non-progressions. If the traditional novel takes the shape of a quest, a linearly horizontal progression through narrative time, Wotix explodes that linearity in a bewildering near-dimensionless knot or tangle of non-progression.


This is Jordan's attempt at a Barthean masterpiece, written in a weird yet ideologically freighted ‘blank’ style that is achieved not by neoclassical restraint but on the contrary by hurling great quantities (we might say, by a blizzard) of chaff at the reader: irrelevant detail and mass-produced repetition ... she tugged her braids, she smoothed her skirts.


But this is only to state the obvious: that the WoT series, despite launching itself with more-or-less conventional narrative stylings, increasingly sheds its narrative momentum as it goes on: each volume covers less ground, goes slower, dissipates so-called ‘narrative interest’ in a welter of pointless detail and endlessly proliferating characters. What Debord calls 'neosemioticist narrative' replaces sequential developmental progression with a frozen constellation of semiological placeholders. Now, of course, there is a temptation to read this on the level not of text but rather of author—to say, in effect: ‘Jordan prolonged his series because he found it financially profitable to do so’. The zeno’s-paradox of Jordan’s own writing practice, turning a trilogy into (five—eight—twelve—fourteen—) many books may indeed have had a practical moneymaking aspect to it. That doesn’t interest me. I’m struck, rather, by the fetishistic nature of the undertaking on a textual level.

1 comment:

Generic said...

Brilliant. "The zeno’s-paradox of Jordan’s own writing practice..."