Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 3 July 2011





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Six investigations of the act of reading

Caleb J Ross--Stranger Will

The aim of this series or six essays is not to bring a specific understanding or criticism to the individual novel or collection each is filtered through-indeed, the opposite could be said to be true. These are personal, individual investigations of the act of reading, the specific pieces serving as filter, grounding of sort.


I chose six works that I personally consider exemplary of aspects of the contemporary American Indie scene, a bourgeoning scene that I do not feel has established any specific boundaries-though not for lack of trying, such trying I think symptomatic of a peculiar illness afflicting new American literature but an illness I will only touch on incidentally in this series, not one I have a desire to take stabs at making explicit or suggesting cures for.

It is because of this unformed nature that works I feel bound in it are a perfect fit for such investigations as mine-with no crutch of general, unconsciously felt consensus or canonized, documented, argued specifics to lean on, these works are approached by me (and I would say by anyone) in a kind of ether-my reactions are delineated only by the very fact that I read them, how I read them, when I read them, where I read them. I could have chosen six others, I could have chosen six more-the works themselves are presented due to no specific allure beyond that I encountered them and feel they have wormed a place out in me, to whatever end


Though I will at times refer to specific scenes or aspects of these works, I will in no way make any effort to give summary of their plots, critique of their themes, or define their "natures"-indeed, one of my personal beliefs is that not sufficient enough time has passed since my reading of these books to allow me to honestly say I have an opinion of them, only that I had a reaction and this reaction has continued past the direct contact with the works.

Goodloe Byron--The Wraith

And though I at times will make direct reference to my remembered and my dwelled upon thought processes and personal feelings with regard to the material, I am in no way recommending for or against the reading of any-I believe there is an inherent value in the act of reading, the quality of the content irrelevant and so immaterial to these investigations.


Not to jump in entirely without context, though, I do want to briefly riff on some of the general lenses I read through, go over, so to speak, my "act in abstract" so that it is clearly understood I am not seeking to say anything Universal on the subject of reading, that I do not think there is anything universal except for the fact that the act must to each person be explicitly individual.

I feel opinion of a piece of literature is quite without value or relevance-if I read Saramago, Michaels, Topor, Chesterton it matters little if I have a fine or a low opinion of it, what matters is my being cognizant of my experience reading, my felt reaction to the thoughts I experienced, whether they touch on this or that novel in particular or no.

"What happened to me?" while I read X or Y, "What did the reading do and how did I interface or resist-what did I do while I read?"

Each essay will have a specific slant, I will bring out specifics with regard to things I think about most everything I read and even "reading in abstract", so I do not want undo emphasis to be placed on the filters, do not want to suggest "this is the primary thing" I thought about while reading the work in particular or even "this is the most interesting thing" I thought about with regard to the piece.

By this I mean to reiterate that the series is overall a whole-a single investigation of Act-and do not offer the subject of each essay as a suggested guide or codex for the works, in fact I would strongly recommend to anyone who reads the works I mention to do their very best to shut themselves of whatever I say (as far as such a thing is possible) and to approach them without the tethers of any specific referent.


Harlan Wilson--Peckinpah

In the order of the series, the authors and works I will be using, as well as the slant to each investigation, are as follow-Stephen Graham Jones, the Bird is Gone: a manifesto (Context); Caleb J. Ross, Stranger Will (Genre); Goodloe Byron, The Wraith (Subtext); Amelia Gray, AM/PM (Type); D. Harlan Wilson Peckinpah: an ultraviolent romance (Referent); Brian Olu, So You Know It's Me (Framing). While familiarity with the works has no bearing on what I investigate in the series, it also couldn't hurt-various excerpts, reactions, discussions can be found regarding all of these titles may places online. Additionally, I welcome any and all contact with regard to this series and will respond to all correspondence. I can be reach through


It is my sincere hope that this series will both be somewhat intriguing toward a further delving into the contemporary American Indie scene, and (moreso) that it will encourage a particular self-consciousness to reading which I believe is to be valued above all else, whether reading is done for leisure, study, or is merely dabbed at, incidentally.



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