Thursday, September 21, 2006

Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski

Some books are events.

"Then impudently a Moustached Toother jerks me around.
-Lost, Little Lemonade?
-There aren't no returns for those
with no starts.
-Sure. I got weed too. Where
you from?
-Wanna get down?
-You're all School and Summer.
-How'z that?
-No class.
-Yeah, but it's Spring baby.
And I lie down and let Him.
And when He goes I go too.
A round tear slips past, slides
from my life and on the soft paths
showers my dirt with strife."

Mark Z. Danielewski kicked the world in the nuts in 2000 with House of Leaves. He's back, six years later, with Only Revolutions, a delightfully abstract take on time travel, love, and recent human history.

Sam and Hailey are soul mates in two different times; which does nothing to keep them apart. Sam's story is behind the green-eyed cover above, while Hailey's story begins on the flip side behind an eye of gold -- but both stories take place on each and every page in the book. The trick, at least the manner in which I was encouraged to read it -- is to flip the book to the other side every 8 pages. I read it the first time in this incredibly frustrating fashion, but on my second journey with Hailey and Sam, I read their entire stories through, one after the other. Neither choice is bad, but I believe the 8 pages, then flip is the author's preferred method.

Throughout the book, there are keywords referencing historical events on the particular day being written about in a side column. I've spent hours looking up certain historical tidbits I did not quite understand, and as a consequence, have learned much of recent world history that I was ignorant of. It truly feels, at times, to be a novel-length version of Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start The Fire.'

Here's where I'm supposed to tell you whether I liked it or not, but it's not so easy. There were pages where I felt as if I were attaining a higher plane of existence, and passages that caused me to grind my teeth in disgust/rage/frustration. I loved it and hated it, but mostly I was challenged by it, and it's all I can think about these past few days.

Only Revolutions is a lot of things; some bad, most good, but all worthwhile. You just need to read it. Please. I need to talk to people about it.


Collector's Notes:

House of Leaves became an instant collector's item in 2000, and a signed first can sell for hundreds of dollars today. Only Revolutions will have the same sort of impact, but to a lesser degree due to its higher profile and a far larger first printing. That said, it's a no-brainer for collectors.

Danielewski is in the midst of a promotional tour for this book, and if he comes to your town, be sure to go to his signing/reading. It's an experience. Check the dates and locations here under Tour.

Comments on "Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski"


Anonymous Xray the Enforcer said ... (10:25 PM) : 

thanks for even more appetite-whetting. We bought it the day it came out, but neither of us has gotten the chance to actually *read* it yet.

As soon as we do, though, we'll come demanding a chat about the book. Guaranteed.


Blogger Nuevarine said ... (6:23 PM) : 

I'm in the midst of reading Only Revolutions and am in the early stages of frustration. It's 'dense' as I would say, and whenever I come up with an interpretation of it, further along the words'll complicate it. I'm not giving up on it, but boy is it hard not to.


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