Macedonia (gets a little love)

Assuredly this book is not for everyone. No book is, and some are far more eclectic than others. All books rely on their readers. Many are “aimed” at a specific “target” audience and use tried and true techniques for “hitting” that target (putting those suggestively violent aspects in quotes) – from cover art to directed advertising to product placements in various arrangements. For those books whose potential audience is small, anarchic and scattered, it can be something of a rarity when they actually do find a kindred reader. Their chances are elevated when there is a gatekeeper of sorts, a champion with their own audience. I discovered a lot of such books through the prism of Susan Sontag, who was a great hero for obscure, forgotten and often odd authors from around the world, such as Robert Walser, to give one example.

Macedonio Fernandez is one of those writers who, while well-known in his native Argentina (mainly as a friend and mentor of Jorge Luis Borges), could fairly be classified as less than universally recognized. His most famous novel is famous mostly not for the novel itself, but for the proliferation of prologues which precede it, a series of early post-modernist, even dadaist introductions that are full of deep humor, charm and playfulness. Written in the 1920’s, it was one of those works that remain well ahead of its time for decades. He even declared the book to be “open source” in the sense that he invited future writers to take it and rewrite it as they felt like. And I, a great fan of open source and one to never hesitate to make a fool of myself, decided to do just that.

I called the book “Macedonia“. The title may change in the future, as it does confuse people with the country of that name. Perhaps I will called ‘The Macedoniad’. I don’t know. In any case, the book was based on two strains of the Macedonio Fernandez legend. One is the prologues of  aforementioned “Museum of Eterna’s Novel“, and the other is a story from his real life, in which it is alleged his friends and followers went around the city distributing scraps of paper with his name on it as a farce of a political campaign for the presidency. In my version, the character named Macedonia is the pseudonym of a radio broadcaster who intersperses the telling of the time with ridiculous factoids. She has attracted the devotion of a group of homeless children who decide to distribute her name all over town – ‘Macedonia Presidenta’ – during a time of military dictatorship. Consequences ensue.

There is a strong element of post-modernism in the book, which is out of fashion nowadays in our post-post-modernist world, and some elements of magical realism, which is also no longer in favor. These are two reasons why the book is not likely to find kindred readers. You’d have to time travel and space-shift a bit. The book should probably have been written by an Argentine writer sometime in the early 1970’s and published in Argentina as well. I really wish I had the power to make that happen! I’m not sure why, but it seems you cannot read a contemporary book as if it were not a contemporary book! When we read an older book, we know it’s older and take it in that context, but if it’s written now, and published now, by a person living now, we don’t frame it the same way. That’s just how it is.

One of the great things about the current e-book flurry is that even the unlikely becomes likely, as a statistical matter. If enough people download a free e-book, some one or more are bound to be a kindred reader. It may be only one out of a thousand, or one out of a hundred thousand, but then it’s merely a matter of sample size! This is one reason why, for writers like myself who write books that don’t easily fit into existing categories, or are generally eclectic in nature, giving away the books for free is the best way for those books to find any audience at all. It becomes harder due to the ratings systems – most of the readers who find these books will not be kindred and will rate them low, making it less likely for others to even try them in the first place – but every now and then you get lucky. That happened to “Macedonia” just now on Amazon:

 An Exciting Find – post postmodern at its best March 5, 2013
The Amazon product page for this book is worthless as an introduction to or description of what you’ll find when you download this book and read it. Maybe this will help. Here is a more or less randomly selected excerpt:“The novel will consist of many parts. Each of these is called a chapter. The chapters will be very small. Each chapter will focus on one, and only one, aspect of the novel. The chapters will be short because I do not have much time. I can only write in short bursts and I am easily bored.”

Now, I have loved this stuff since the 60’s, from William S. Burroughs on the left coast to Donald Barthelme in New York, by way of Texas. It’s all called “postmodern”, but since the early 70’s we’ve all been heading toward post-postmodernism anyway. If you find this kind of fiction at all agreeable, you should try some Lichtenberg.

For what it’s worth this seems a little bit old school, and I mean that in a good way. A lot of the current work is too showy and too cute-clever. A lot of it is navel gazing and lame, maybe even spineless. Lichtenberg’s work has a little more muscle. Even as he playfully suggests, over and over, that you are in charge of the reading experience as the reader, he is actually in total control of what’s going on and of what you are experiencing. You are being entertained, educated and manipulated. You are being experimented on, but it will feel good, (like a lab experiment that activates the pleasure centers of your brain.)

But all of this is way too heavy. This is meant on at least some level to be fun and it is. There are some marvelous turns of phrase; some playful deception; a lot of joy and a bit of subtle aggression. There is much here to think about or to just appreciate. This is a great find.

I would certainly encourage you to take a look at this and see what you think. Please note that I found this book while browsing Amazon Kindle freebies. I have no connection at all to the author or the publisher of this book.

I’d like to thank the reviewer, but that’s not advisable on sites like Amazon, so I will just say ‘thank you’ right here.


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