sábado, 26 de junio de 2010

Moo Pak

Moo Pak (Carcanet, 1994)
by Gabriel Josipovici
England, 1994

"Why should I write a book of five hundred pages when Homer has said everything I want to say in three lines?"  (Moo Pak, 53)

Truth be told, I'd been predisposed to wanting to like Gabriel Josipovici--a novelist/critic who has written on authors as far afield as Chaucer and Kafka as part of his critical body of work--ever since I learned that Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual led him to write his first and only fan letter in a lifetime devoted to literature. Moo Pak, with its 151-page single paragraph, merely sealed the deal for me.  Sort of a non-snob/post-Oulipian response to that whole My Dinner with Andre concept, all but the final few lines of this talky, talky novel unfold in a series of monologues by one Jack Toledano, would be novelist of a major work in progress.  While Toledano occasionally comes across as a bit of a blowhard when speaking about the state of modern culture, his opinions on life and literature and the aesthetics of reading and writing--faithfully related by a rather retiring walking companion of his--are usually colorful enough that you tend to forgive him for prattling on.  In any event, Josipovici does a nice job in Moo Pak bombarding the reader with metafictional allusions, philosophical tidbits, and the like without quite saturating the text with too many such references.  I also enjoyed how Josipovici pulled off the nifty sleight of hand in which Moo Pak, the novel that Toledano was endlessly discussing and "writing," slyly evolved into Moo Pak, the novel that I was holding in my hands and reading, just before the words trickled to an end.  No Life A User's Manual II or anything like that but a nice homage to the way serious business of the acts of reading and writing.

Gabriel Josipovici

If I'm not mistaken, it was this Moo Pak review from Stefanie of So Many Books that led Emily to select the novel for this month's group read.  Next month we'll be taking on a pick from Claire in the form of Kenzaburo Oe's A Personal Matter.

8 comentarios:

  1. Love that quote. After having read The Iliad very recently, one of my favourite things about Moo Pak was the part where Jack talks about Hector and Paris, how Homer chose to glorify the good man over the philanderer.

  2. And I'm sure you caught Jack's very Perec-ish description of the constraints he placed on the writing of Moor Park! Clever. I didn't know about the history of fandom there, but definitely saw a connection between the two authors. Also saw a Woolf connection, though Jack never mentions either of those authors. I'm now super-curious about Josipovici's own relationship with modernism vs. postmodernism (as opposed to Jack's), and in which camp he would place the Oulipo group. There's a rich modernism/postmodernism conversation to be had vis-a-vis the end, anyway...

    Glad you enjoyed this & glad to have redeemed my book-choosing choices to some degree after the Kristin Lavransdatter fiasco. :-D

  3. Ooo, Richard, that few days of sports saturation has fed your writer self. Nicely done. Especially appreciate your point about a measure of its success rests in its light handed approach, it's playfulness. Just as I was beginning to weary of his modernist/postmodernist complaints, the novel turns and I realize the effect sought. Admirable sleight of hand. Need more Josipovici.

  4. So glad you liked the book! I had no idea Josipovici was an admirere of Perec. Now I'm really going to have to pull Life a User's Manual off the shelf!

  5. I appreciated all the references and like you, thought the balance was perfect - never felt like Jack was teaching me, but enjoyed listening to his prattle, and got a good amount out of it too. Definitely Perec-like in how the plot of the book was almost hidden until the end when all the pieces fell together. Very cool.

  6. *Claire: I agree that those few moments on Homer were wonderful! Made me eager to revisit The Iliad and The Odyssey, in fact.

    *Emily: Those Perec-like constraints you mention were very amusing, esp. considering Queneau was mentioned twice in Moo Pak and Perec wasn't mentioned at all. I didn't feel the Woolf vibe quite as strongly as you, but I do know what you're talking about there. Ditto for your redemption song, ha!

    *Frances: Thanks for the kind words. Although I did enjoy Josipovici's playfulness here, I agree with you and the rest of the group that this novel brought a lot to the table idea-wise. Look forward to reading more Josipovici with you lot* someday! *[trying to appeal to more anglophile readers]

    *Stefanie: It was a fun read, thanks! Josipovici's written at least one really good article on Perec (available on JSTOR), so I'm interested in reading more of his criticism as well as his fiction now. And Life a User's Manual is just absolutely smashing, as everybody from our online reading group can happily attest!

  7. *Sarah: Surprisingly enough, I didn't think of the end of the book as Perec-like so much as the nagging suspicion that Josipovici was trying to work in an endless number of references and "hidden" constraints. You've given me something new to think about, thanks!

  8. I didn't pick up on the Perec background at all. Glad you brought that up.

    Since you're obviously familiar with Gabriel Josipovici, I was wondering if you felt that Moo Pak was an accurate reflection of his views or if Jack Toledano is a totally separate character (as opposed to a mouthpiece). Reason I'm asking is because Toledano really is, as you pointed out, a blowhard when it comes to modern culture.