Saturday, 9 February 2019


A Hypocritical Reader by Rosie Šnajdr      {Reviewed by THOMAS}
Every work of LITERATURE these days comes caparisoned in a ‘Critical Reader’, a volume which elaborates, for the advancement of students and other such intellectual aspirants, upon the text and quietly harnesses the meaning of the work to the culture that currently drives it. How we long for a ‘Hypercritical Reader’ to cut the text loose and let it run. Instead, Šnajdr provides us with its opposite, a ‘Hypocritical Reader’ (who, me?), suggesting that our standards, in literature as in every other sphere, are less lofty that we pretend, that we would rather pick among the ornaments that fall from literature than follow it over the hill. Too right (if you can be too right). Šnajdr shows us how cultural detritus can be reassembled, seriously, into new forms which we enter on a ‘purely fun’ basis, captivated by the surfaces until we find ourselves nauseated by the depths. Vertigo! (And we don’t even know if vertigo is a symptom of depths, or merely of disjunction.) Although the reader spins one way and the text spins the other, we know what a choose-your-own-adventure is, don’t we? “If you want to tell everyone that delusions of exceptionality are unavoidable, go to p.60.” Ha. “Something is occurring,” Šnajdr tells us, helpfully. “Something is taking its course,” wrote Beckett, but the Šnajdr project is restlessly effervescent, Beckett on acid. Objects snatch metaphor and use it to assume agency, language engages the quotidian in a process of defamiliarisation that allows intrusion, inversion and diversion the plausibility they (we!) require to overthrow the given, high register swaps its underclothes with low. “Welcome to the desert of the real.” Any way out, please. The mechanisms of language supplant the sense to which they are usually subservient, and create, perhaps, new meaning. What are the risks? “Thomas is a gingerbread man crossing the Lethe on fox-back. The stream of consciousness deepens and Thomas inches closer to the savage-toothed snout. A crafty style threatens to gobble him up.” For its characters, fiction ceases to resemble real life (so to call it) at the moment that the characters become aware of the reader, or, at least, of their fictionality, which implies a reader and also a writer (beware this realisation, those who take the reality of life for granted). When writing about themselves, how can a writer create an insulating barrier between them and their character to avoid the continual “nauseating déjà vu” that would otherwise result? Will doubling do it? Tripling? The writer is everything they write about, but at what point does a doppelgänger morph into a dreifachgänger? (“He stutters on it, mispronouncing the latter in the mouthshapes of the former.”) What is the relation between the written world and the not-ostensibly-written world? If the surface of a balloon is an expression of the size of the vacuity within it, when it bursts, and the two vacuities - the world and the work (so to call them) - become one, all that is left are shreds of surface. What will we make of these? Was there ever any more meaning than could be found there? 


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