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The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
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The Raw Shark Texts (edition 2007)

by Steven Hall

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2,0641033,219 (3.73)1 / 122
Member:thalassa_thalassa
Title:The Raw Shark Texts
Authors:Steven Hall
Info:Canongate Books Ltd (2007), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 430 pages
Collections:Your library, Fiction
Rating:**
Tags:_book

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The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall

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English (93)  Finnish (3)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Italian (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All (103)
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
"since his death my Granddad had become more a collection of scenes than a real man to me." (79)

When I was assigned to teach The Modern Novel, I wanted to teach a novel about being a book-- in the physical sense. Novels are often books, of course, but in this electronic age they don't have to be. My students were pretty split on the far-out ideas Hall advances in The Raw Shark Texts-- some thought the book was baffling in the extreme, others thought it was the coolest thing they'd ever read. I'm okay with such a contradiction.

We read the book in the context of what N. Katherine Hayles in Writing Machines calls the "technotext": "When a literary work interrogates the inscription technology that produces it." (An "inscription technology" is a device that initiates material changes that can be read as marks, e.g., print books, computers, telegraphy, video and film, basically any technology that produces interpretable, linguistic information.) When a print book calls attention to the fact that it is a print book, it is a technotext, and Hayles argues that you should look at technotexts not just to see what the text "means," but how that meaning interacts with the material form of the text. (Hayles has actually written about The Raw Shark Texts herself, but ended up going in a different direction than what I'm going to do with her ideas here.)

The Raw Shark Texts is preoccupied with inscription technologies and how we're remediated through them: there's the quotation I opened this review with, but also: the idea that when a person dies, they leave an afterimage in the machinery they set up to run their life, which slowly runs down and dies itself (101); "I think we’re going to wear away from the world, just like the writing wears off old gravestones in the aisles of churches" (229); the narrator, Eric, reading the guidebook of Clio, a woman he supposedly had a relationship with but doesn't remember (266); Eric's admission that the journal we're reading is incomplete: they were never that witty or cool, Clio wasn’t always sexy, and all he has now is stories: "well edited tall tales with us in the starring roles," as the characters in the journal aren’t the two of them but actors regurgitating Hollywood clichés (412-13). And of course The Raw Shark Texts itself is a life remediated through an inscription technology: we only know what happened to Eric Sanderson because we have this book to tell us.

The book ends ambiguously. Did Eric die? Was anything Eric experienced even real? My students wanted to say "no" to the latter question, that he was hallucinating to cope with grief, but I reject that interpretation on the grounds of it not being very interesting. As for the first question, I think it depends on what you mean by "die." As the book emphasizes over and over again, we are the marks we make on the world. We are the scrapbooks, the gravestone inscriptions, the journals, the stories we wrote down about ourselves. Eric Sanderson didn't die fighting the conceptual shark, and we know this because we're holding Eric Sanderson in our hands. The Raw Shark Texts records his very existence. He is the sum of the inscription technologies used to mark his place in the world, much as we all are. The postcard at the end of the book-- another inscription technology-- shows that he continues to exist, that he hasn't worn away from the world yet.
  Stevil2001 | Feb 24, 2017 |
The novel starts out so promisingly: metafiction, a deconstruction of narrative and narrator. About a fourth of the way in, it capsizes (pun intentional). The introduction of a love story (such as it is) puts the book right back on the track of standard fiction. The empty spaces in the novel are no longer philosophical silences; they're plot holes.

My trajectory of reading this one: eager page-turning, slogging, committing to to-trade pile. ( )
  ijustgetbored | Oct 8, 2016 |
Love the way Steven Hall has with words, but was very disappointed with the course of the story. From the deceitful premise, to the slog middle half of the book, to Eric acting like a nonsensical whiny teenager in the face of the solution to his problem, to the weird romance plot, to the myriad of unexplained plot points - it culminated in a fairly disappointing experience overall. ( )
  Kuroonehalf | Oct 8, 2016 |
0.00
  johnrid11 | Feb 14, 2016 |
If you take joy in reading, in the written word, in writing, in imagination... read this book. Go in with no expectation other than my hearty recommendation - that's how I went in, on the back of a single exhortative statement from a friend (thanks, Derek!), and it provided me with a gripping, smart, completely unanticipated reading experience. This is a wholly original story, told on its own terms and in its own time. It deserves not to be compared to but rather to be sat next to (on the shelves) things like House of Leaves and Tristram Shandy. And just remember to keep your wits about you, as you go swimming off to other linguistic currents...

More (albeit without much detail, because, I cannot spoil it for you) at RB: http://ragingbiblioholism.com/2013/12/06/the-raw-shark-texts/ ( )
  drewsof | Sep 30, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
The Raw Shark Texts manages to reach the loftiest goal of speculative fiction: making its outlandish situations illuminate real human emotion. When the second Sanderson begins to share his previous incarnation's affecting grief over his lost love Clio, the concept of a memory-eating shark takes on additional layers of significance.

Comparisons with The Matrix, Fight Club and Memento have been thrown around, and it's telling that all these action-thrillers were on the big screen. The prose is often self-important and less brilliant than the situations it describes, and many of the story elements dogmatically adhere to Hollywood conventions. But Hall borrows a number of effective techniques from film. A metaphysical book such as this easily could have become dense and inaccessible, but Hall's unrelenting focus on visual storytelling keeps it lucid.

The book fully succeeds in exploring the tenuous hold we have on our sense of self, which is, after all, only "a concept wrapped in skin and chemicals."
added by sduff222 | editUSA Today, Eliot Schrefer (Apr 24, 2007)
 
The rest of Hall's ambitiously conceived but irritatingly self-serious novel concerns Sanderson's "Jaws"-like quest to put an end to the shark before it eats him, punctuated by a stock romantic plot and pictorial games that include a flip-book shark attack. Oddly, given all the textual high jinks, Hall's weakness for ending chapters on cliffhangers suggests that his book may actually wish it were a film.
added by sduff222 | editThe New Yorker (Apr 9, 2007)
 
Quirky even for metafiction--the novel includes abstract diagrams and flipbooks--Hall's debut can be confusing. But when he hits his stride, particularly during a climactic manversus-shark chase on the high seas, Texts is exhilarating. B+
added by sduff222 | editEntertainment Weekly, Karen Leigh (Apr 6, 2007)
 
Though Hall's prose is flabby and the plethora of text-based sight gags don't always work (a 50-page flipbook of a swimming shark, for instance), the end result is a fast-moving cyberpunk mashup of Jaws, Memento and sappy romance that's destined for the big screen.
added by sduff222 | editPublishers Weekly (Jan 15, 2007)
 
First things first, stay calm." So reads a cryptic letter early in The Raw Shark Texts, but it's difficult not to get worked up by Steven Hall's dizzying debut novel. Already the object of a bidding war among filmmakers, the book grabs readers with a series of set-ups reminiscent of everything from Jaws to Memento.
added by sduff222 | editKirkus Reviews (Jan 15, 2007)
 
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Dedication
For Stanley Hall
1927-1998
A gentleman and a scholar
First words
I was unconscious. I'd stopped breathing.
Quotations
"Since I've left home on this journey, I've thought a lot about this–how a big part of any life is about the hows and the whys of setting up machinery. It's building systems, devices, motors. Winding up the clockwork of direct debits, configuring newspaper deliveries and anniversaries and photographs and credit card repayments and anecdotes. Starting their engines, setting them in motion and sending them chugging off into the future to do their thing at regular or irregular intervals. When a person leaves or dies or ends, they leave an afterimage; their outline in the devices they've set up around them. The image fades to the winding down of springs, the slow running out of fuel as the machines of a life lived in certain ways in certain places and from certain angles are shut down or seize up or blink off one by one. It takes time. Sometimes, you come across the dusty lights or electrical hum of someone else's machine, maybe a long time after you ever expected to, still running, lonely in the dark. Still doing its thing for the person who started it up long, long after they've gone."
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"Eric Sanderson wakes up in a house he doesn't recognize, unable to remember anything in his life. All he has left are his diary entries recalling Clio, a perfect love who died under mysterious circumstances, and a house that may contain the secrets to Eric's prior life. But there may be more to this story, or it may be a different story altogether. With the help of allies found on the fringes of society, Eric embarks on an edge-of-your-seat journey to uncover the truth about himself and to escape the predatory forces that threaten to consume him. Moving with the pace of a superb thriller, The Raw Shark Texts has sparked the imaginations of readers around the world and is one of the most talked-about novels in years."--from cover, p. [4]… (more)

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Average: (3.73)
0.5 8
1 19
1.5 1
2 46
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4 224
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Canongate Books

3 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1841959022, 1847670245, 184767156X

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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