Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review: "Only Revolutions" by Mark Z. Danielewski

Reading Mark Z. Danielewski’s second novel, Only Revolutions, is one of the hardest and most frustrating books I have read, but it somehow also made me a much better reader when I came out on both sides of the book (quite literally), much as I did for House of Leaves (which is haunting and fantastic) and The Fifty Year Sword. If I ever attempt to read James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, which I firmly believe no one has ever, it will probably feel a lot like this book, whose status as a novel can be argued. It is more of a prose poem that really doesn’t have a clear ending or beginning, like a snake that is eating itself. It has some fun moments, where Danielewski, a brilliant wordsmith as well as a mad scientist of literature, uses misspellings of words and rhyming scheme to uncover some really neat truths about love and dreams at his best, and is quite funny and briefly entertaining at it’s worst. But be warned, this book is far from a page-turner, with many vague notions presented that will leave readers wanting concrete solutions to this endless knot confused, or worse frustrated. There is no real plot, or at least anyone that I could discern by reading this. The focus is on two young people, Sam and Hailey, or Hailey and Sam depending on which section you begin with, traveling around the country, while a time line traces the history of the world from the mid-1800’s to the middle of this century. To get into the syntax of this book is kind of useless, since it works more on an emotional level than anything else, but the timeline seemed superfluous to me, but this books functions on a higher level of understanding than I was capable of. The best way to approach it is to read 8 pages at a time on one section, and flip the book over and do the same thing until you reach both ends of the book. A complete understanding of the book, even using this sound method, is really impossible. But if you want to challenge yourself over Christmas break with something gargantuan and labyrinthine, you can’t do better than a book like this.
Rating: 4/5

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