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A Perfect Vacuum by Stanislaw Lem

A Perfect Vacuum (original 1975; edition 1999)

by Stanislaw Lem (Author)

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519633,603 (4.03)6
This is a collection of perfect yet imaginary reviews of nonexistent books. With insidious wit, the author beguiles us with a parade of delightful, disarmingly familiar inventions. "Lem is Harpo Marx and Franz Kafka and Isaac Asimov rolled up into one and down the white rabbit's hole" (Detroit News). A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book… (more)
Title:A Perfect Vacuum
Authors:Stanislaw Lem (Author)
Info:Northwestern University Press (1999), Edition: 1, 229 pages
Collections:Your library

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А Perfect Vacuum by Stanisław Lem (Author) (1975)

Recently added byM_Yalda, Kjelsen, Steve_Walker, IoannesOculus, reivaj-53, private library, kisarid580, munamuno, eniac, jimctierney
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Showing 4 of 4
Reviews of nonexistent books. One is a book entitled “U Write It”, which is a literary erector set. Another is “Sexplosion”, in which three giant corporations sort of have sex and meet ruin. In “The New Cosmogony”, a purported Nobel winner provides an address which is nonsense, but sounds like erudition. And of course, there is “Rien du tout, ou la consequence”.

Stanislaw Lem shines a mirror upon the dark world of hypocrisy. He brings a kind of understanding to human idiocy. ( )
1 vote keylawk | Sep 15, 2013 |
  Andrzej1940 | Jun 11, 2010 |
I'm not really impressed. Lem is a lousy reviewer, and a review of a non-existent book should if nothing else be an excellent review. A Perfect Vacuum starts out on a high note; the review of the partially fictional A Perfect Vacuum (heavily focused on the non-existent Introduction) is a good review, that, instead of being a mere plot summary, actually has the reviewer engage the author and the issues behind the book. "Being Inc.", on the other hand, is a limp science fiction plot summary; perhaps as Lem claims in back cover copy, he "capture[d] what was cognitively essential about [this] unwritten book", but he failed to capture what was artistically essential about the book. Plot summaries don't make good fiction, nor do they make good reviews. "U-Write-It" and "Toi" not only set up straw men to knock down, I have little idea of what they were straw men of. I bailed out a little more than half the book in page count, and 13 out of 16 reviews. The end of the book is lengthy philosophical essays (again, not reviews in any real sense), and it's content I'm not interested in wading through.

I know that I'm not exactly the intended audience; the back cover claims that he tackles "the French new novel, James Joyce, pornography, authorless writing and Dostoevsky", and I'm really only familiar with one of those. Two of the reviews definitely seem to be frontal attacks on James Joyce's Ulysses and Dostoevsky's The Idiot, respectively, so familiarity with those works may help. In the end, only two or three of these sections can honestly be called reviews, and the plot summaries and essays that fill the book don't make for good reading. ( )
3 vote prosfilaes | May 31, 2009 |
A collection of reviews of imaginary books, many of which make Ulysses seem devoid of ambition. ( )
1 vote Saerdna | Jun 8, 2007 |
Showing 4 of 4
Lem's new book is the first book reviewed in this book of imaginary book reviews. Lem as not-Lem reviewing not-Lem as Lem, or perhaps Lem1 enclosing Lem2, or the other way about. The title of the book means that it is a book 'about nothing'. In that the books, reviewed do not, and cannot, exist, the reviews cannot exist either. Nor can my own review exist. Let us pretend that it does...

Lem is too constructive a writer to be able to demolish through absurdity. Besides, literature can now take absurdity in its stride. In his review of Mme Solange's Rien du tout, ou la consequence, we meet the anti-roman to end all. Fiction lies, because it is fictitious; therefore let us create a verifaction ofdenials: 'He was not born, consequently he was not named either; on account of this he neither cheated in school nor later got mixed up in politics.' ... You have some idea now of the games Lem is playing, but towards the end they become not literary, which is easy, but philosophico-scientific, which is hard.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Spectator, Anthony Burgess
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Reviewing nonexistent books is not Lem’s invention; we find such experiments not only in a contemporary writer, Jorge Luis Borges (for example, his “Investigations of the Writings of Herbert Quaine”), but the idea goes further back—and even Rabelais was not the first to make use of it. A Perfect Vacuum is unusual in that it purports to be an anthology made up entirely of such critiques.
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This is a collection of perfect yet imaginary reviews of nonexistent books. With insidious wit, the author beguiles us with a parade of delightful, disarmingly familiar inventions. "Lem is Harpo Marx and Franz Kafka and Isaac Asimov rolled up into one and down the white rabbit's hole" (Detroit News). A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

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