The Critics’ Corner
Reading Floozman in Space
with Bill Bowler
[Bill B.] I don’t try to follow what’s happening in Floozman in Space in a linear fashion. I am not trying to keep track of who did what to whom, or even who’s who. It’s the opposite structure of a who-done-it, and more like listening to music or reading poetry, like immersion in a hologram where each part contains the whole.
The form or structure is associative rather than logical, although there is an underlying logic, heavily concealed. It’s not so much one event leading to another in a chain of causality; it’s more like things drifting back and forth, touching and separating, moving from level to level. And yet, the underlying epic plot proceeds. The chase is on. The Savior has been born...
I find Floozman intoxicating. Reading it is like a dream state. It can be read individual sentence by sentence, or paragraph by paragraph, or as a process of gradually absorbing the whole. Each part of it is complete.
And if you then make the effort to recognize the connections and attach the parts, the epic tale begins to emerge. The language — and in translation!! — is gorgeous. As I’ve said earlier, it is one of the most original and fully realized visions of a future world I have ever read. And it is, at the same time, if understood as metaphor, a complete and detailed description of the world we live in.
[Don Webb] That’s right, Bill. If, as Gary Inbinder says, Floozman in Space is a satire in the style of Rabelais, among others, we can expect serialization to do the novel a favor. It allows readers to proceed by episodes.
The literature of Rabelais’ time typically proceeded by “lopins,” small pieces. We might call them flash fiction or short stories, even though they combine to make epics the size of Gargantua et Pantaguel (1532-1552). And the lopin style would include even the Petrarchan sonnet, which enjoyed great favor in the Renaissance.
The style was still going strong a century later. Cyrano de Bergerac didn’t make any formal divisions in his novel L’Autre Monde (bef. 1655), but the internal structure lends itself readily to the 39 “episodes” of my translation. Not only does the episode format make reading easier, it does exactly what you say for Floozman in Space; each episode is a kind of holographic image that fits perfectly within the vision of the work as a whole.
Of course, Floozman in Space goes far beyond the Renaissance and Baroque eras. One can search it for touches of 19th-century Romanticism and 20th-century Surrealism as well as the 18th-century conte philosophique.
Is Floozman futuristic? O brave new world, that has such people in it — not to mention stimuli-shields, automobiles, artificial uteruses and even doors. The Internet of Things comes to life with a running wry or even sarcastic commentary on the action. In chapter 16.1, Joe Dasein contacts his hearse, only to be shocked when it rudely gives him a Bronx cheer. The automated entities sometimes become a kind of Greek chorus — as played by the Marx brothers.
Intoxicating, indeed. One might heed the advice of Rabelais’ oracle, the Dive Bouteille: “Trinch!”
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and Bewildering Stories
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