Upon Reading “Celesteville’s Burning”

Tom Bradley on “Celesteville’s Burning” 5 October 2010:

“Celesteville’s Burning” is brilliant. It’s the best thing of yours I’ve read. Assuming I’m familiar with all or most of your fiction, I would call this a breakthrough.

As always, the Gallixian wit is everwhere: the “doppelgänger given half the chance”; the “Holy Grail of Franco-Swiss rock criticism”; the “wind in his combover,” and countless other instances that pour forth from every sentence and phrase. You’ve always exploded with linguistic brilliance, syntactic agility and erudition. What a mood enhancer it’s been, throughout your work, to meet with these qualities in an author who does us the honor of assuming the same capacities in his readers.

In “Celesteville’s Burning” you’re displaying further technical mastery. With apparent effortlessness you move in and out of settings objective, subjective, and everything in between. The first to hit me was the light-speed spatial transition of the journalist’s cunt onto Zanzibar’s face, effected right in the middle of a paragraph. All of a sudden we are treated to a blending of her vaginal sensations with the literary sensation caused by Zanzibar: an announcement that we are in the light hands of a master.

You have achieved narrational virtuosity, signaled by your supremely perverse confidence in supplying a plethora of sensory detail in scenes that seem to come from out of nowhere, dreams whose larger purpose you haven’t yet established in our minds — e.g., Grandmother’s house. You know full well that we will not only endure but enjoy the moment of disorientation, and will follow.

The insistent, perverse, yet unfailingly lucid use of French and Franglais — is this also a symptom of a breakthrough? Have you staked out your own territory and sunk roots in the borderland between your two native cultures?

Zanzibar’s ludicrous early success, his lugubrious decline and late failure, his preposterously self-indulged “quantum” writer’s block, and the diseased way in which the established press will exploit it — I sense a breakthrough here, too. You’ve long acknowledged and bewailed the contemptible state of Franco-English letters. But here, with an amazing vastness of detail that only an insider could generate (where did you learn so much about these effete movers and shakers?), you have finally masticated this hideous situation, peristalsed it and shat it out. The despair which “the mainstream” must engender in less hardy souls can’t come near you any more. You are free to laugh from high up, to heap the kind of scorn that will humiliate any member of the lit establishment who reads this.

I can feel a Gallix novel coming on — and not an invisible palimpsest. This artistic unfolding of yours is heartening and exciting to watch. Some saggy asses in London-Paris-New York that have long needed kicking are in for it now.

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