Monday, January 17, 2022

The Revisionaries, by A.J. Moxon: The Author Is God

This freakin' beautiful mess of a novel is likely what would happen if David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon, and Tom Robbins got together and tested the limits of how much a reader can stand before giving up and throwing the novel against the wall. But then Kurt Vonnegut showed up halfway through and goes, "But my dudes, we have to make it entertaining as well." And so they did.

I think I understood about two-thirds of what A.J. Moxon is up to here in his long, post-modern, super-meta novel, The Revisionaries. And I consider that a win. It's certainly a novel you need to read more than once, which is a tough ask at 600 pages. But also, in the moment, you're so dazzled by Moxon's language and sentences, you almost don't notice, that a) you're aggravated, because b) you only have a passing sense of what is happening and why. That's especially true in the last 100 pages or so as it's supposed to all be coming together, but it's told in a fractured, multi-perspective way that frankly drove me nuts.

So what's going on here? This is a novel about God, but it's sure not religious. It's a novel about the role of fiction, the author's authority, the reader's power, and where all those might intersect...but sometimes don't? That's my best guess anyway. 

The plot, which is important, but so zany it's almost beside the point here, is about a bearded acrobat woman, a preacher who performs a miracle in a place called Loony Island (so named because of it being home to an insane asylum) and builds a new church, a kid who flickers in and out of existence, a cult of weirdos dressed up as cardinals, and a guy who discovers a magical fountain and uses it to erase people's memories and recreate them as he sees fit.

Are you with me? IT'S SO WEIRD! But in a strangely good way. 

Again, I can't claim to fully understand this, but part of the point is how the author is God, but the reader still has veto power, even over God, because of how s/he interprets, understands, derives meaning from, feels about, etc., the text. And this is because each reader brings to bear a unique experience, education, philosophy on life, philosophy on reading books, politics, mood, etc. on every book s/he reads. I think?

Would I recommend that you read this? Yes, but with a bunch of caveats. If you like to be challenged, if you are okay with not completely understanding why or how or even what is going on all the time, and if you like something that's truly creative, inventive, and probably unlike anything else you've really ever read before, pick this novel up. Moxon is smart enough (you should absolutely follow him on Twitter, by the way — that is one of main reasons I bought this novel and read it), that someday soon, he's going to publish a novel that absolutely dazzles us. I can't wait for that, but I'm glad I read this one now.

1 comment:

  1. I think this book may be too smart for me and that I'd give up too soon trying to figure it out.