While she was writing her novel Crudo, Olivia Laing was reviewing Chris Kraus’ After Kathy Acker (2017), a biography of the experimental postmodernist. One passage caught her attention: it described an exercise in which David Antin told a young Acker in San Diego to head to the library, take out a biography, and rework it in the first person.
There’s no escape in Amparo Dávila’s fiction. None. Even when characters do escape physically, well, events shatter them mentally. Characters are trapped with demonic children, confronted by doppelgangers, stalked by murderous creatures, and, most insidiously, warped by their own ginned-up, misguided beliefs: those unsettling beliefs that assert, menacingly, You’re in danger.
Marc Nash is the author of five collections of flash fiction and four novels, all of which, according to his bio, “look to push narrative form and language”. His latest novel, Three Dreams in the Key of G, certainly fits the bill.
Three Dreams in the Key of G feels like an intervention. That’s how it has been published: the editorial aim of Dead Ink Books is “to bring the most challenging and experimental writing out from the underground”. That’s how it appeared on the shortlist for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize this year: chosen as a wildcard entry by the previous year’s judges, who commended its complexity and difference.
If a state-of-the-nation novel is at risk of being outdated on the day of publication, there’s at least one way for a writer to avoid calamity. They could write a novel that doesn’t quite take place in the here and now, in the nation of today — a novel set in the future, but only marginally and perhaps only nominally.
Isn’t there something contradictory about the state-of-the-nation novel? If there’s any truth to Ezra Pound’s dictum that “literature is news that stays news”, then the state-of-the-nation novel is a vehicle for radicalism: it flirts with being rendered out of date before it even hits the shelves.
That’s them, said Gabriel, and he turned about in his chair and looked back at the blue kiosk. Gabriel was squinting and holding one knee up in his arms. The negritas, he said. I walked over to the kiosk and I put my hand on the bar next to the two girls.