Sometimes I prefer a novel that goes someplace . I like Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men , for example . A couple of guys get a job on a ranch ( at a ranch ? ) and this leads to this and that and Slim is this kind of a guy and Curly is another sort of a guy and Candy is there to add a little interest and Lenny and George are caught up in it all . And the rabbits , of course , the rabbits .
Well , you know , I’ve read books of more recent vintage too . I’m reading some kind of a mystery that takes place in Lisbon sometime after but also during World War II . I’m waiting for the two time periods to mesh in some comprehensible way that links to the murder of the young woman which seems to be the glue that tries to tie the whole story together . I’m trying to maintain a modicum of patience to soldier through and so I read on and on and on . Waiting .
I’m in the middle of a biography of Phil Ochs , too . I have to say that I probably should have abandoned the effort some time ago , but I usually stubbornly push on , an eternal optimist I suppose , hoping it gets better because it has to it couldn’t get worse , wondering all the while why in the world the thing was published in the first place . There’s a lot of crummy stuff out there ; I’m sure you know .
I just finished Alma Lolloon , a short novel by Joe Linker . There are no rabbits , but there are a host of characters showing up . I have to say that I’m not sure whether Alma Lolloon is a character herself or the harried author , or is it Annie ? Surely Hattie the prof isn’t the only true writer and puppet master of the bunch , writing them all into the novel . Tell me the beer joint is real , at least , where the novel folk tend to congregate . And why did Angel look away ? I’m still suspicious about that move . ( The Stations-of the Cross caper ! )
I’m not good at names . There are people throughout the novel endlessly shuttling in and out of literary skuttles . I found myself relating to Curly , the voice of Everyman , who asks the questions I’d most likely ask , who offers the comments I’d most likely proffer . Is Curly man or woman though ( not that it matters ) ? Is Curly another fictional being , munching scones and clicking those knitting needles at the regular writers’ conclave ?
I think Linker throws us into a novel experience , I mean a novel experience of a novel writing experience . He plays with American lingo with perhaps just a little too much glee , and we get quick tastes of these guys and those gals doing their things here and over there , bits of exploits altogether hard-boiled and idiosyncratic and indigenous .
But we never find out whether Lenny gets the land with George and raises rabbits . I remember about the rabbits , George . When you read Alma Lolloon , you had better have listened to Lenny’s friend George , I think : To hell with them rabbits . That’s all you can ever remember is them rabbits .
Ain’t no rabbits in Joe Linker’s novel , unless I somehow missed ’em . There are stolen Stations-of-the Cross . Maybe that counts for something like rabbits . The whole thing spins around the inner ins and outs of novel writing . Who the hell’s writing the novel sort of makes my head spin , but the fact that the effort’s ongoing is not in doubt .
I don’t think that we can put the entire effort on the shoulders of Alma Lolloon . I think Alma might suffer from postpartem depression when a novel is finally born . Or is it ? Or is Annie the author ? Or is Hattie there behind the curtain using another nom de plume ? Is it really a knitting group , anyway , sipping tea and munching scones while reading works aloud , or are they swilling mugs of beer and shooting pool down at Fowlings , the dive bar near to the gallery ?
There’s a novel in there somewhere , no doubt . While reading Joe Linker’s latest novel I was remembering an Irish novel I’ve read that dates back to about the time of of Mice and Men . It’s called At Swim Two Birds , by a writer called Flann O’Brien , but that name is a nom de plume too . O’Brien lets his characters loose , also , so much so that a reader like me ( as I ) wonders if it isn’t letting these fictional beings go a little too far . Sure , have them in a novel , but when a writer gives them the pen ( computer keyboard ) and allows them to run wild and even to write their own novels within a novel , well , then , who is in the end in control of the story ? The Curly in readers like me begins to wonder .
I’m not saying that I necessarily object , but these unrestrained characters can strangle a good prosaic plot , perhaps , and flip the tables over on an unsuspecting conscientious and self-conscious writer , the poor scribbler potentially cowed and bullied by her/his own fictional creations . What in the world is the world coming to , I ask ?
I would say , read Alma Lolloon if you have a hankering for a bit of literary exploration and creativity and you want a little diversion from the humdrum . It’s well written and fun to read .