Existence is not a predicate

“By the late eighties the problem of how to write serious meditational fiction without being a counterfeit, avoiding the triple death of Neiman-Marcus nihilism, Catatonic realism and Workshop hermeticism was pressing. It remains as ever an urgent thing: ‘serious, real, conscientious, aware, ambitious art is not a grey thing. It has never been a grey thing and it is not a grey thing now’ wrote David Foster Wallace at the time. But it’s tough not to end up grey even with the best of intentions. Armand’s latest offers an interesting solution to the problem, and though not perfect it’s a damn fine thing. He picks up the lush wintery style of noir, its sense of ennui twisting like blue cigarette smoke through dark passages of light and sound, a music, sensuality and rhythm that overrides the need for sense and gives but the intense calando of the last framing moments of Casablanca, all done in brachylogy – those brief, concise phrases, speeches and images that mean less than what they convey. His characters, as in the finest pulp noir, are all living to Paul Verlaine’s lines; ‘A vast black sleep/falls over my life/sleep, all hope/sleep, all desire’. They are infected by ‘an infinite resignedness’ which can’t think of any type of beauty in which there isn’t melancholy and self-understanding which they can’t know, save by bad luck.”

Richard Marshall reviews VLAK editor Louis Armand’s latest novel, CANICULE, in 3:AM magazine.

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