Leaving the 19th Century (and the French and Russians) behind for a little while, here are two novellas by Michael Heller who is a contemporary writer, poet and critic. When I saw this book on an independent publisher website (ahadada), I was attracted to the fact that Paul Valery and Ryunosuke Akutagawa were referenced in relation to it. These two were fantastic writers and I thought it would be interesting to see how they were interpreted, or at least given a nod to, by a contemporary author. I wasn’t disappointed – usually there are simply not enough ideas in modern writing – the disciplines of plot and form are slavishly followed. In this case, I spent a very pleasant afternoon reading both novellas and there were plenty of ideas and Akutagawa and Valery were vaguely brought to mind at times.
You can tell Heller is a poet – there are a great many images and scenes in the work, all of which are invoked with ease and simplicity – there is nothing awkward anywhere. Each novella draws you in and entertains. Marble Snows, particularly, leaves you wanting more.
Both novellas are concerned with memories. In Marble Snows each episode is lightly connected and limited structure is imposed on them. In The Study – which is a study of the memories, and thoughts, of a patient ‘M’ – the doctor attempts to impose form on these experiences and is concerned with their objective nature. This book contained much food for thought. I may read it again over the weekend and post an update if anything more comes to mind.
Soundtrack: Damon & Naomi – Memories.