Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Best Totally Different Read

Last week I finished this book called JR that I'd been working on forever.  (With books, "forever" usually means "two months or so.")  Written by William Gaddis, it won the 1975 National Book Award.  It is a tremendous book, mainly it is about the rise and fall of an 11 year old's business empire.  But the main thing about JR is that the book is written almost entirely in dialogue.  Which is an easy thing for me to write down, so I'm going to write it down again: the text of this book? 99% of it is dialogue.  And it doesn't go: "Let's start a company!" JR said, enthusiastically.  "I'm not so sure about that." Bast responded, ruefully.  Because half of those two sentences were not dialogue!  It's just straight dialogue, so you better be paying attention when you read it.  And also, there are no chapter or section breaks.  It can be a tremendously challenging read, you really have to stay on your feet.  Reading Ulysses and Infinite Jest and other bits of literary heavy lifting definitely got me ready for this book.  I think the brain has to get trained to handle such a different style.  I'm not saying "Oh, oh, look at me, I could read this book but you probably couldn't!"  I'm just saying that, like runs and races, there's books that are just more difficult, and a history of exercise will make a difference when you try to tackle them.  So, if you want to challenge your noggin and also really enjoy yourself, I totally recommend JR.  It's almost like a sample of another version of human cultural development where we decided this was going to be how stories would be told: by recording the dialogue.  Why aren't more books written like this?  Why aren't all books written like this?  Just wondering.

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