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http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/57983635270/a-history-of-books-by-gerald-murnane-p...

Written in the third person, the author, supposedly being the subject of this fiction, composed this title-story text in a style quite similar to Gerald Murnane's last book published titled Barley Patch, and it appears to me as surprisingly irritating I should go ahead and figure for most people to read except for those of us much as I am, and that being, a very huge fan. Though rarely do I recognize an author or a book being mentioned as image-memories I do enjoy the exercise the reading takes on my mind. I cannot say for certain that my reading of this book helps me to feel young again, but it is full game in the sense of play but still serious as a fatal heart attack.

I am most interested when Gerald Murnane uses himself as the subject. The trouble is in discerning who and what he is talking about at almost any given time. This new style of writing seems to have been initiated by Murnane after taking fifteen years off from writing, and there is every indication that he spent a few years of that extended break tending to his ill wife who eventually died in 2009. There is little to be known about that relationship except for what he alludes to in his fiction regarding the women he has known throughout his life. There is nothing but difficulty in reading a book written by Gerald Murnane. But the reading gives me an enormous amount of pleasure, and I secretly feel I am in select company along with his other somewhat elite and perhaps special other particular fans of his writing.

My personal challenge to myself within this reading is to recognize immediately in the text, and for selfish reasons, the eventual presence of the one author named Jack Kerouac and to realize at some point why Murnane holds the old drunken misogynist in such high esteem. Obviously, I do not, but I am interested in learning what is possibly wrong with my thinking. It does seem that the further I venture into the title story the more engaging it gets. At first my head was spinning but it has settled down now into a simple nervous twitch. Murnane is nothing short of amazing even when being somewhat irritating as hell with all his image-this and image-that dotting his ever-changing but constantly revolving landscape. But the history of Murnane reading twenty-nine authors of twenty-nine books of fiction interspersed supposedly into this work of fiction, and nowhere are the titles or authors named precisely, may cause some consternation no matter how maturely balanced and well-adjusted the reader might be. And to think I have challenged myself to only identifying one author of the twenty-nine is a bit ridiculous on measure, but the book is hard enough to follow on its own than to be constantly racking ones brain to figure things out. I read for pleasure and feeling anyway, and not for any meaning in my life. It is only after finishing a work that I can honestly say what it meant to me, and certainly not while I am in neck-deep and fighting for my life.

There is a wife in this fiction who screams at a husband in this fiction. This woman, it turns, is very sick emotionally, or maybe she is mentally unbalanced. It isn't clear, though she has been sent from the emergency room to a padded cell in a sanitarium for observation. It is also related later in this book of fiction that the same wife, or perhaps a different wife, had been sick for over a year and that the husband in this fiction was required to take care of her and the children during her illness. It is not clear if this is one and the same husband either. It is also a so-called fact I read somewhere online that Gerald Murnane's wife died in 2009 after an illness. It was also reported somewhere else that Murnane's wife was sick for a time and he took care of the family in her absence. I am not sure if any of these fictions and facts are related but I am hoping the last few pages of the title story in this book of fiction provides more light on the subject or at least adds something to my wild, and possibly false, ideas.

Spoiler alert- The mention of a singlet threw me a curve, but because the image-man described was a raging alcoholic and had died I knew, about the same age as the man mentioned in this fiction who was also dressed in the same clothes hidden behind a curtain in a darkened room and wearing a singlet as well, and drinking beer much as the image-man himself drank hard liquor, I put my twos and twos together and decided this was Jack, and Jack was dead, and who without a doubt said that you drive all day and you're still in Texas. It is my belief that as much as Murnane related as a young man of twenty to Kerouac, also wanting for himself someday to be writer and travel vast landscapes, the affinity for Jack he felt the most was in reading a biography of this image-man and learning that like himself Kerouac had never been involved with any political party or taken a stand against his country.

I was also surprised to have recognized an additional author who I knew was Hungarian and had fled his country to settle in San Diego, and by his own hand would take his life in old age after having written many works of fiction in his native language and refusing all publication of them in his country of origin. I have personally enjoyed reading no less than three translations of his work into English and know them all to be very good.


The last few pages of this title story in this work of fiction gained a traction I had not felt earlier in my reading. It was if Murnane was just getting up to speed and I was a bit distraught that too soon the work would be over, but I steadied myself knowing I still had three more separate short pieces ahead of me to read in order to complete this book. The ending of the title story came at me like a freight train. And wonderful! Now on to the last three shorter pieces in the collection.

… the chief benefit to be got from the writing of a piece of fiction was that the writer of the fiction discovered at least once during the writing of the fiction a connection between two or more images that had been for long in his mind but had never seemed in any way connected.

In a recently published story collection of my own titled Shorter Prose I had included three connected pieces of short fiction, the longest being Ponzil, the Pistolero, and his Comedy of Combustion. While writing this particular piece of fiction it occurred to me that I was actually connecting certain images and memories I had not done so before. Even the surprised narrator, Ponzil, states within the text of that story that he was indeed connecting and doing so obviously without a plan. Thus, it was rewarding to me to discover and read the Murnane quote presented above this paragraph where it gave acknowledgement to my ways of thinking; a confirmation that is quite hard to find within the confines of the world I mostly live in.

As It Were a Letter is the second story in this collection and the quote above is included near the beginning of it. Again, another charming piece but written in the style of the Gerald Murnane I am most accustomed to. None of the present-day image-this or image-that discovered in the previously read title story or his last long fiction book he titled Barley Patch. But this story rings of autobiography to the extent that I do believe it is. And it is totally engaging and repetitive of other anecdotes and characters previously written of and consequently read about. Of course, in its entirety connections were made, and by the end of my reading of this piece I felt as if I had possibly learned something of which I could not say.

Knowing there were only two more short fictions left before I completed this book I began reading the second to last in this collection with the title being The Boy's Name was David. Again, and this is why I love Murnane so much, immediately he prepares my mind for its own images while I am reading about his. He mentions almost nonchalantly how he hated studying math but loved to practice arithmetic. I, too, had the same experience and after quitting the smoking of cigarettes I calculated how many of them I had consumed throughout my smoking career. The total amount of cigarettes consumed numbered no less than 210,000 nor more than 250,000, but still within the range of certain physical abuse no matter how you want to cut it. I never did count, as Murnane did, the total number of beers I drank. I did measure the length of road trips back home from working as a carpenter as being a one-beer to four-beer excursion depending on the miles I needed to drive. I avoided counting beers for the most part as I really didn't want to know how much I drank. But my wife did collect a garbage bag full of them after a night of hard drinking in order to finally, and with great emphasis, prove to me I drank too much. It wasn't long after her submitted proof that I did indeed quit and have stayed sober for over twenty-seven years. But it is fun for me to witness on the page other people like Murnane whom I respect and who actually think like I do. For others this would seem too scary, but for me it gives me hope and some condolence that I m not so alone as I might feel I am some days. The Boy's Name was David is a treatise on memory as a whole and how at the end of ones life there are only certain specific images that are left to possibly consider. Of course, the narrative of this story is patterned around an unnamed man who taught fiction-writing for fifteen years. He is remembering his students and any sentences they may have written that he had assessed and seen and perhaps made comment on. It is another wonderful story and I am certain Murnane was a gifted teacher who was also much-loved.

The last story appears to be a letter written to his niece and titled, Last Letter to a Niece. Instead, or rather I think, the piece is purely fiction and meant as an epigraph for something previously unsaid and unwritten. Based on this latest book and his previously published long fiction titled Barley Patch, there is really no telling in my mind where Gerald Murnane will surface when he again comes up for air. But I will be waiting for him, diligently. ( )
  MSarki | Oct 10, 2013 |
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