Category Archives: libraries

Narratorial Unreliability

Christian Mihai discusses his ideas on unreliable narrators, something he likes to see writers use, and a technique he says he uses himself. Still, he misses a fundamental point – all narrators, storytellers, dramatists, poets, are unreliable. From Homer, Shakespeare to Sartre, no writer tells, gets close to ‘the truth’, even if he or she is prepared to die in the process of collecting all the observable details of a factually based fiction.

Catherine Lacey

Do we trust Tolstoy’s account of Napoleon in War and Peace? Perhaps… if we are Russian.

Narrator unreliability doesn’t have to be a first person account, though the most obvious modernist exploitations of narrator unreliability in fiction use that form. The best approach – for this writer at least – is when the writer sets out to deceive us, and by convincing us that he or she has told the truth, transfers any doubt on narratorial reliability to a reader’s interpretation of the tale.

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Pacific Rim Review of Books’ review of ‘Uncorrected Proof’

PUBLISH OR DIE! by Paul Duran

Review of Uncorrected Proof by Louisiana Alba – ElephantEars Press

Paul Duran – L.A. director and writer

from Pacific Rim Review of Books Fall/Winter 2009 Issue 12 – pg. 33


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.


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For another review by LiteraryMinded please go to:

http://blogs.crikey.com.au/literaryminded/2008/11/07/uncorrected-proof-louisiana-alba/

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Progress of the Novel

Image – ElephantEars Press

The novel has seen so many developments on so fronts through its long history in many languages and periods of history. It began with Cervantes and still is going strong. ElephantEars Press through its Facebook group Progress of the Novel, wants to learn of innovative novels, ‘gems’ published in recent years.

(posting for ElephantEars Press)

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=199000248124&ref=mf

Happy Bloomsday

Though they didn’t see eye to eye in everything a certain analogy there somehow was as if both their minds were travelling, so to speak, in one train of thought. p536 ‘ULYSSES’ – THE CORRECTED TEXT

As summer reaches for its solstice, as the stones of Big Ben time tremble from Stonehenge right around the world, as the polititudinous rage bleeds in ancient places and I sharpen these scribal tools to palimpsest my way through another 16th, I salute old JJ, for his ‘galaxy of new devices and stances and verbal antics, extravagant, derisive, savage, rollicking, tender and lyrical… ironic dominion.’ (thankees to Richard Ellman)

Let’s all salute  oldy-poldy JJ his voices talking at us still, twirling in time all this live long day, as we take a moment to let ourselves be literarily astounded  all o’er agin by  his thesis for true intelligence….

We are all equal every wingy, tready, swimmy, barking one of us

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Credit where, all hail to..

It is, I assure you, an infuriating mess, a refuge, a joy to behold, an acrimonious cesspool of computerisable angst, an endless checklist of outso(u)rcerized disputes – a hole in the wall for all the world’s minds to filter down onto damaged DVDs. They will in time. And this you will find will be their final resting place.

The staff are miraculous, critically underpaid, limitlessly incompetent, irritatingly profound, delightfully empty, lazified beyond imagining, utterly perfect in their rhombus like cartoon feature creatures silicon graphic simulatoring carnival spirit. They sit there one at a time in that hell’s kitchen like Camusian sentences in utter knowing decrepitude.

If I could ever find the title I crave, the one I have up here, I will throw a week long party for all of you (send me yr contact). As a photocopier – though – to be honest – let’s be fair – my local is the soul of efficiency. As a printer of documents it is besmirchless –

….any fault the computer hard-drives at you is not down to the poor beleaguered impoverished centre.

It is a meeting, as it were or was – point by point – planned, for the perfect silence of minds, brought to life ONLY by murmuring mobile phonies and at least one hundred SE-a-MLESS dialects.

Not a letter I know is transferrable in order to patronise misapplication by default (if you know how to approach it). So…All hail to my local

….– library.