Essays on literary criticism and on multilingual literature.

image

SHORT AUTHOR BIO:

ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a multilingual author, literary critic, and art photography critic; and a professional visual artist. He has published several literary books (including collections of poetry, short stories, and novellas, two science fiction novels, and essays) in the USA, Norway and India; as well as numerous works in international literary publications on several continents. He writes in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian. He has previously authored theatrical works performed onstage, and he has read his poetry at venues in New York City (USA), Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Kathmandu (Nepal). His book “Gaytude” (co-authored with Albert Russo) won the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award in the category gay/lesbian non-fiction. Powell was also the winner of the Azsacra International Poetry Award in 2008, and the recipient of a Norwegian Foreign Ministry travel stipend for authors in 2005. Powell also took initiative to planning and organizing the “Words – one path to peace and understanding” international literary festival in Oslo, Norway in 2008. He has been an author under the Cyberwit label since 2005, and he has published 12 literary books since 1987.

img_1977

ESSAYS ON LITERARY CRITICISM
by Adam Donaldson Powell
2017

I am an author of novels, novellas, short stories, poetry and essays. I also have reviewed dozens of books for various small publishing companies, including cyberwit.net. Cyberwit is extraordinary for many reasons, but the publishing company’s emphasis on being an alternative publishing arena, a place where first-time authors and those who have published less than three books can grow as authors, and a community that promotes new ideas and experimentations in literature by more experienced published authors — that is what I believe makes Cyberwit unique and important for new developments in contemporary literature.

Cyberwit represents “an opportunity” for authors, and it is important to use that opportunity well.

Most authors want serious literary criticism of their books. There are not many professional literary critics, or places for their reviews, at present. There have been many changes in the publishing market and the few high-status literary journals that remain often prioritize celebrity authors or books published by the most respected mainstream publishing companies. Peer reviews and reader reviews on Amazon and other such internet publishing companies are usually short and non-technical.

And then there is Adam. My reviews tend to be essays which are inspired by my experience of reading innovative and well-crafted works of literature. And that is what I feel that works of art should do: to inspire others to be creative in their lives — in whatever expressions that may involve for him or her concerned. Books that do not warrant a review by me simply do not get reviewed by me. Mediocre or unconvincing books, or books that do not stand out in the literary community at large may get reviewed, but perhaps only with a few sentences of encouragement to the author to keep working and improving.

I am very critical of poetry books. Many beginning poets do not realize that writing poetry is one of the most difficult literary forms to do well. It is easier to start writing bigger works (novellas and short stories) and then learn to create “big” with short verse. I do not critique individual books or stories — I critique complete published books; evaluated as complete works of art. Almost all published non-fiction books will have a few typographical or grammatical errors in them, and that is okay. However, a book that is riddled with these problems is not reviewable by me because the distractions make me more into a proofreader than a literary critic. If I reject a book or have advice to the author regarding specific literary problems and technical skills that need improvement then the author should ask the publisher why the book could not be reviewed. It is highly probable that I will have informed the publisher about my reasons for not reviewing the work. This is how we learn and improve. I do not reject reviewing books outright due to theme, form, style or the author’s viewpoints (even though I may not agree with them), but even a provocative or experimental book must be written with literary quality. And the more experimental or provocative the book is the more I will look for literary redemption. Book forewords that are essentially book reviews and which include a technical analysis and defense of the book that I am expected to review are very annoying. I will not review such books. So make up your minds: do you want to have your review in your book foreword by someone you know will write what you want to hear, or do you want an independent review of the total content of your book (including the foreword, preface, epilogue etc.)? In my opinion a book foreword should be short, non-analytical and inspirational. It is your own writing as the author that should stand up for itself.

I have written some thoughts about literary criticism which some authors may find relevant and helpful:

1)

BETWEEN US POETS …

I am adamant about the importance of understanding literary styles in historical, cultural and social contexts, and not merely repeating mathematical formulas and styles when writing – especially poetry. One reason I pretty much abhor most modern rhyming poetry is that few seem to comprehend why their rhyming verse is not as successful as that of famous poets from previous centuries. It is not only about rigidly-formed rhyme and meter, but also about what happens within that overall framework: the consonance and dissonance of rhyme and rhythm that occurs on an experiential level through choice of words, length of words, sequence of words, sequence of images, sounds evoked in the words and patterns of words chosen, the loudness and softness of words and their images – alone and in sequence, the beginnings and endings and overlapping of words, images and sounds in lines, the functions of periods, commas, hyphens, spaces; not to mention the color and psychology of words and sequences of words, and choosing the appropriate level of language. eg. I never use archaic forms such as “Thou” or “O, ….” OR words that most need to consult a Thesaurus to understand — unless I wish to show a change of status, wisdom, character of higher regard or of supposed superiority.

In this way poetry (and prose) takes on a cinematic, theatrical and multi-dimensional expression which more easily engages the reader to relate to his/her own experiences, memories, thoughts and feelings. Similarly, I have written much about the western “haiku moment”. F**k the damned haiku moment, and f**k the 5-7-5 prison if it does not work with your language. The entire haiku should reflect a haiku moment – a state of existentialism, where one breath is not distinguishable from another.

In literature and art and music we are always working to expose the “veil behind the veil BEHIND the veil”. Peeling an onion does not really result in nothingness, but rather a state of being that embraces a confluence of negations and perceptions that have burned their way into the eye-sockets of non-reality of any particular moment in non-space/time. The center of the onion is, if you will: the rhyme inside of / and in spite of / the rhyme.

2)

A LITERARY CRITIC’S LAMENT … for fellow book reviewers, authors and publishers

While many authors of books of poetry, short stories, novellas and essays are concerned with the problems with getting such books sold I would point out that:

1) people are reading such works today, but many are just not spending money on literature unless the author in question is a celebrity or a newly-discovered “sensation”; and

2) many authors underestimate or forget about libraries as important institutions, and of the inevitability of electronic publication taking an increasingly larger place in book publishing.

To make one’s living solely from book publication is not something many of the world’s authors can boast of. Most modern libraries are now digitalizing their collections so that they are available to multitudes. Try to get your books into local and national library collections. Libraries and national archives will have your books in their collections longer than private individuals, and they can be potentially read by several persons long after you have left this world.

Many small press and independent publishers find their authors on the internet. My publisher in India – Cyberwit – found me on the internet, and extended an invitation which I accepted. The rest is history, including many book publications with Cyberwit.net to date. Use the internet wisely … and you will be noticed.

Another thing: I note that many new authors-to-be seem to be offended when asked to share a tiny bit of the initial production costs for their books, when asked to help with marketing efforts, when offered an electronic publication first – in order to test out the market before eventual print publication … GET REAL PEOPLE! It is not ALL about YOU! Writing is an art form; but being an author is a career and a business. Put in the work, prove yourself, pay your dues, build up interest for your work, cultivate a clientele for your writing. That royalty contract you dream of can be yours if you approach the business of being an author in a professional way, and exercise patience. There are small press and independent publishers out there who are looking for the right authors “to work with” (not just to publish once); and there are still some freelance reviewers (like myself) that are working to present your books to the world.

That being said, publishers and reviewers of books of poetry, short stories, novellas and essays seem to be fewer in number than previously, and because production and marketing costs are often higher than possible sales profits in the short run, the author must expect to do more than merely write “a good book”. He/she should actively participate in the marketing process and use all possible venues (of which there are now many in this world of internet, eg. Facebook, Twitter, networking sites, blogs, etc.) to market their works. If mainstream publishers are to prioritize these genres then sales must go up. If small press and independent publishers are to survive and compete with mainstream publishers for readers then they need the help of both authors and reviewers.

Now, serious reviewers of books of poetry, short stories, novellas and essays do have their own issues … some of which are important for authors to be aware of:

1) The fast-paced world of today demands perhaps a new discussion regarding kinds of literary reviews that are produced, and their function. In my opinion, for most literary journals there has to be a happy medium between the overly-academic reviews of the past decades and the one paragraph summations that tell you nothing about why the reviewer feels the book has or has not literary quality – a type of review which is popular today also because of limited space in magazines, periodicals, journals etc.

2) I feel that it would be quite interesting with a discussion amongst literary reviewers about the subject and the art and the occupation of reviewing. What standards, ethics, guidelines are in place today? Is reviewing a thankless job or a useless occupation? What are the important elements of review-writing today as opposed to before?

3) How do reviewers today feel about and tackle the difficulties: in placing reviews, in being honest vs. taking care of the author’s or publishers feelings and needs: communicating the importance for the author of having balanced reviews and not just raves, the stupidity of authors flooding the internet with half-assed reviews of their books so that good ones are not interesting for publication, the problems involved with getting too close to the authors or publishers who wish to influence reviews or publish / quote only the most positive commentaries in order to increase sales etc.

4) How do reviewers feel about communicating to authors and publishers the importance of choosing the “right” reviewer – especially for the first review of the book? Serious literary journals rarely publish reviews of a book that has already been reviewed by several other persons and published all over the internet, or books that are more than one year old (yesterday’s news). Difficulties in getting reviews placed in serious literary journals has an effect upon serious reviewers as well. Reviewers are also interested in “discovering” a unique work of literature or a new exciting author, and being the first man/woman out with a review. I always “google” authors that ask me to review their books to see how many other reviews are already on the internet. And I sometimes decline to review a book if there is little chance of getting yet another review published. There are exceptions: new genres of literature, new voices that are so special or avant garde that they deserve a multitude of critical perspectives, and simultaneous multiple reviews from reviewers in different countries and in different languages upon worldwide book launching etc. Each reviewer must (himself/herself) judge the marketability of a review of a particular book vs. the importance of doing a review anyway either for the sake of supporting a particular work of importance or presenting one’s own literary skills in an essay about a particular work.

5) Is it appropriate for a reviewer to ask an author to tell about his/her marketing plans? I do pose such questions, as it tells me much about the kind of review to write, about the necessity of eventually writing a review that can be tailored by the publisher to be shorter if necessary – while still respecting the context of the criticism, and also much about the longterm motivation and investment the author has. I often review interesting authors more than once in their literary careers, addressing changes and growth and development in their styles from book to book. If the author or publisher is “clueless” about marketing strategies and how a review will be used, then writing a smashing or well-written review can be a waste of time, as most reviewers are constantly looking for more places and more prestigious places to publish their reviews, and the competition is very stiff. Often we compete with ourselves between the various reviews that we write and submit.

Nowadays, many good authors have also been reviewers. Why is it that many reviewers get burned out so quickly? It is perhaps in part due to some of the issues that i have cited above? The job of the critic is to write literary criticism; and selling the book and holding the authors’ hands etc. is really not our problem. It is – however – our desire to get our work published, and in good/appropriate literary journals, newspapers, magazines etc. Usually this is a cooperative effort between the publisher and the reviewer, but authors with “connections” to newspapers, literary journals and blogs that are interested in promoting their work should also actively engage in this marketing work — together with their publisher.

And what about the ethics of charging for book reviews? Many housewives make extra cash by writing short summations of books for large corporations in the USA, and make 50-75 bucks a shot. Good literary reviewers of small press literature usually work for free (unless commissioned to write a scholarly essay). Should reviewers get paid? If so, then by whom – the publisher, the author, the marketing company? And what are the possible ethical conflicts involved in that?

Some authors are highly sensitive to negative criticism, but yet authors crave assessment and “validation” … another interesting topic: the psychology of reviewing and desiring to get reviewed. Are some authors simply not “mature” enough for constructive criticism? And are some reviewers too closed-minded and old-fashioned in their likes/dislikes? I encourage all reviewers to publish their philosophy of reviewing, what they look for etc. from time to time. This will help authors not only in their choice of a reviewer, but also give many authors some helpful insight in their approaches to their own future writing.

How relevant is contemporary literature in non-English language countries for today’s global young people? Should all contemporary literature of quality only be in English? To be honest, in today’s international market publishing in English gives the greatest possible world public … albeit entails much competition. However, the reason that I employ multilingualism in most of my works is to reflect how today’s world is and also to drive up interest in other languages and cultures instead of the standardized/Americanized supermarket culture that is replacing everything all over the world. This is – however – hard work for everyone … but especially for you — the author. Do not expect that a small press or independent publisher has the staff, the resources or the knowledge of several languages. This is a genre that most mainstream publishers will not even touch. Be willing to work long and hard with special publications, and be patient with and courteous to your publisher. Small press and independent publishers are more often than not only 1-3 persons dedicated to keeping new literature “alive”.

If you as a reader or reviewer do not understand or know a word (in your own language or another) in a book … then look it up and learn something damnit! People are sometimes lazy and impatient in today’s fast-paced world society. And authors need to remember that every word is precious. Published writing should not solely be an act of self-gratification or literary masturbation. People do not have the patience for it. Choose your words carefully, and economically. Novelists can learn much from good poets and short, short story authors.

Another thing: let’s bring back the novellas. In today’s society they must be perfect for the on-the-go reader. The problem is that most publishers will not publish collections of novellas, nor will they publish prose that is less than 50,000 words because the book binding should be a certain width to be visible on bookstore bookshelves etc.

I am initiating this discussion because I feel that authors and publishers need to understand what reviewing is like in today’s world: what makes reviewers tick and continue to review etc.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

3)

THOUGHTS ON LITERARY CRITICISM.
LITERARY CRITICISM:
A FEW INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS
BY ADAM DONALDSON POWELL.

Much has been written regarding the history and development of literary criticism, the present “crisis” precipitated by trends and practices in the areas of publishing, marketing and distribution, as well as challenges posed for literary criticism by electronic publishing … including a renaissance of the age-old questions regarding which persons are qualified to write literary criticism, and the purposes and goals of good literary criticism.

All of these topics, themes and discussions are actual and important today. My main concern is to provide authors of literary works (poetry, short stories, novellas, essays, novels etc.) and independent presses and facilitators of self-published books of quality with a new form of literary criticism: which is informative, which incites debate, which challenges author and reader, and which provides entertainment, but which at the same time functions as a marketing tool and an opportunity for authors to consider their own development and accomplishments from the perspective of another literature enthusiast. I review both first-time authors and authors who have written dozens of books, assess individual books as well as compare several books by the same author, and sometimes follow a specific author’s development from book to book.

All literary criticism is subjective by definition. However, it can be helpful for both author and readers of literary criticism to discover new ways of perceiving their own writing, and writing in general. I am not an English professor, or even an English major. I am an author, and yet another who constantly struggles with the same questions, choices and challenges that all authors confront. It is my experience that reviewing others’ writing gives me greater insight into my own. This is (for me) an ever-going process of personal and artistic development.

I am often asked what I look for in poetry books that I review, or consider reviewing. There are many poetic forms being used today, with many hybridizations. There exists both a sense that there are “no rules” anymore and, at the same time, there are some unspoken literary guidelines that determine the probability for successful literary communication – beyond the subjective, and questions of personal taste. I believe that it is important for me as a reviewer to restate what I look for from time to time.

As I have written elsewhere, I look for many qualities including: evenness in quality, diversity in content and form, artistic intent, planning, execution and polish (the degree of polish being both intentional and commensurate with the desired expression), and an overall concept of the book as a complete work of art – beyond an arbitrary “stew” of individual poems. In addition, I pay attention to the author’s sense of originality, political and social awareness, mastery of storytelling, and visual, musical and philosophical expressions indicative of the author’s experiential personal history. I further look for: balance of intellectual rationalism and emotional presence, a solid command of the full palette of language(s) used, descriptive colour, clarity, intentional usage of abstractions, entertainment and theatrical/performance value, humour and occasional irony, and an overall sense of when to use poetic economy versus poetic rapture. And finally I am concerned that the author has an understanding of how to arouse within the reader a sense of personal identification, emotion and engagement – enabling the reader’s ‘inner artist’ to enter into a creative cognitive dialogue with the author, and hopefully even to inspire the reader to embark upon his/her own creative process.

I believe that art is both an intentional and an intuitive process, with many pitfalls: eg. overwriting, non-attention to levels of language used ($5 words can sometimes be more appropriate than $5000 words), stylistic and punctuation liberties that sometimes work and sometimes not, mimicking famous (and usually deceased) writers without sufficiently developing one’s own signature style, and getting all too caught up in – or ignoring – traditions of literature without having thought through why one has consciously chosen this or that style, or a divergence … just to name a few. At the same time, I believe that artists must always keep experimenting in order to grow and to develop further. That means taking risks … and sometimes even falling flat on one’s face. That is okay. We eventually learn from both our own … and others’ mistakes.

So writing is not a static process … and neither is literary criticism. While much criticism for first-time authors can be similar, it must be kept in mind that 1) there is no definitive “correct way” of writing, 2) criticism is personal and subjective to a large degree, and 3) there has never been a “perfect” book (and never will). I do not personally believe that writing a perfect book is an all important goal. Constant experimentation with technique, style, form and language is the real key to self-development and literary development. A not so well received book can be preceded by one or more very well received ones – who is to judge what is “good or not”? And the perhaps “not-as-good” book could teach author and reader much more than the “good” ones.

That being said, I do believe that literary criticism should be balanced – pointing both to that which functions well for the reviewer, and to that which the author might consider developing further or experimenting with in another way in future writing. Every now and then an author gets a complete rave of a review from me, but that is often because the author has managed to impress me in any of many ways that demonstrate overwhelming strength, courage, openness, visual imagery, musicality, movement, theatricality and/or originality … perhaps because I happen to resonate with the author at that particular point in time in regards to a certain form of expression or quality. There is no formula, there is no real checklist or form … it is an objective/subjective process.

Getting reviewed is exciting – for the author, the publisher … but it is also exciting for me as a reviewer to experience the reactions of author, publisher and reader, and to see if my comments help to incite further enthusiasm and growth in the author, and to encourage potential readers and new publishers to consider the author and his/her book(s). And yes, I am always curious as to whether (or not) the author and others share or understand my experience of the work in question. A work of art is – after all – a vehicle for mental, emotional and soulful transport, taking each of us to our own self-designed destinations. Reading a work of literature is – at its best – a dialogue between author and reader.

Lastly, I would like to say that I consider literary criticism to be an art form in itself – a form for expression that is constantly stretching and yawning, recollecting older traditions and recognizing the contemporary and the visionary in authors, and sometimes making associations between diverse forms of artistic expression and artistic disciplines. However, reading a book review or a piece of literary criticism is no substitute for reading the book, and is not a prerequisite either. Literary criticism is only a personal guide and commentary … a short essay containing the reviewer’s thoughts and reactions to having read a work (or works) of literature by another author.

— Adam Donaldson Powell

4)

Cyberwit is a multilingual and multinational community,
and cyberwit.net publishes in many languages. Here are a
few comments on:

PLAYING WITH THE MULTILINGUAL.

From “Le Paradis”, a tri-lingual novella with bilingual poetry by Adam Donaldson Powell:

“Il fait chaud aujourd’hui. Tu n’as pas soif?” asked Erik.

“Afaitu is in one of his serious moods today. He has been trying to get in touch with his spiritual ancestors, and is therefore staying away from the Devil’s brew (you know: pia). But I am certain that he would like some cold water and a joint,” said Eperona with a playful snicker.

“Pakalolo? Sorry man, I wish I did have some marijuana. But I do have some bottled water with me and (of course) a pack of Marlboro cigarettes. Will that do?”

Afaitu graciously thanked his Swedish friend for the water and a cigarette, while suggesting: “Hey, why don’t we take my boat out to a motu and spend the afternoon just chilling out? We can pick up some sandwiches and fruit, and perhaps even some mahi mahi on the way.”

“Mahi mahi sounds good to me,” said Eperona in his slightly post-adolescent manner … grinning, while adding: “and some more beers too!”

Afaitu shot his two-year younger friend a pretend-stern look, and then broke out into laughter.

“What? What did I say that is so funny?” asked Eperona, himself unable to keep from smiling. Erik thought he had been left out of a personal joke, and his eyes quizzically darted from Afaitu to Eperona, finally resting on Afaitu.

“It is nothing, my friend. You have been exactly the same since you were sixteen years old: the joys of your life are so simple. As long as you have fish, women and beer, ‘tu es au paradis’!” replied Afaitu, smiling and throwing a pebble at Eperona.

“Hey, cut it out!” retorted Eperona, as he playfully wrestled Afaitu onto his back, pinning him down with his muscular arms and shoulders. “And speaking of women … should we invite some to join us? What do you think, Erik? I know this hot …”

“Merde! What a fucking braggart. Don’t listen to his crap talk, Erik,” said Afaitu while pushing Eperona off of himself. “You would think that Eperona is the biggest stud and womaniser in the whole of French Polynesia.”

“Et alors!” joked Eperona, now standing over his two friends and thrusting his hips and groin forward in repeated erotic movements – half dance and half sex simulation.

“Damn, Eperona! You look like a raerae or a mahu impersonating an amateur Polynesian dancer for tourists,” shouted Afaitu … causing Erik to laugh and Eperona to pounce on Afaitu again.

“Amateur? Raerae? My uncle is a raerae, so I take that as a compliment. In fact, you should BE so lucky! Here … I will show you how a ‘raerae’ fucks a titoi (a wanker). Roll over … I’ve got something for you!” cried Eperona out as they tussled; and all three men laughed uncontrollably.

– – – – – –

From “2014”, a multilingual and intergalactic novella by Adam Donaldson Powell:

“Ha konwe ilucó Zeta, saj juhe la” (”Greetings our Zetan friends in Spirit, we wish contact”) repeated Eonurai telepathically in Vegan (the language used by the Greys), directing her energies toward the constellation that was home to the Zeta Reticulians. “Ha konwe ilucó Zeta, saj juhe la” … ”If you can hear this message, then please respond. This is Eonurai from Terra, with an important message to you from the Intergalactic Higher Command.”

“Ha konwe Eonurai-at. Saj miile ennwo. Len em Cuezpå. Ken ta sommo ?” (”Greetings she who is Eonurai. We are listening. This is Cuezpå. What is your message ?”) replied the Zetan on the receiving end of the telepathic communication directed at the Zetan Central Command Headquarters.

He then added: “Not to be disrespectful, but we speak English quite well here at the headquarters. Perhaps we should continue in English, as it would be more convenient for us. Your accent is a bit difficult to decipher telepathically.”

– – – – – –

Authors who write bilingually or multilingually usually employ one or more of the following alternatives:

1) to write and publish a work in one language, and then to adapt the work into another language and then publish it again in the new language;
2) to write sections of a work (usually poems) in one language, and repeat all of them into one or several other languages within the same book;
3) to write sections of a book in different languages, sometimes repeating the same small works and sometimes combining adapted and other works in the different book portions;
and 4) combining several of the above-mentioned techniques in the same book, and/or over a progression of books.

I employ all four approaches in my literary publications, and public readings – usually writing in English, Spanish, Norwegian and French, but also occasionally using bits of text in Greek, Arabic, Latin and other languages where appropriate.

Why do I find this fascinating ? First of all, we live in a globalized greater society today where many persons speak and understand multiple languages to various degrees, where few speak “the Queen’s English” anymore but rather national and local adaptations of English, French, Spanish and other major languages, where several individuals and groups of expatriates, immigrants and persons who have lived in many countries and cultures quite naturally employ several languages in the course of a simple conversation – you can hear it on the streets and busses in major cities all over Europe: persons in dialogue with another, in person, or on the cell phone, switching over from Urdu, West African dialect, French or Spanish to perhaps Norwegian, Swedish or Danish, and then to English, and back again. I enjoy matching this phenomenon together with the adjoining mixtures of culture – both as experienced by natives, by immigrants in their new countries of residence, by tourists who are experiencing and learning about other cultures … and also in culturally-hybridized forms, just as hybridized language today.

Secondly, by presenting the reader with this new globalized multilingual and multicultural reality, I hope that several persons will find interest in learning new languages (other than British and North American English) and that many will also begin to challenge their local and national perspectives on world culture today … and tomorrow.
This is not a “new” genre; as many authors throughout history have played with using different languages in dialogues within the same work; and bilingual and multilingual adaptations in all possible forms is as popular today as ever before (especially in the international haiku network). However, the intent to use this literary form to reflect a modern globalized and mixed up cultural and linguistic world is a fairly new concept. We are moving from national literature in translation to multicultural/multilingual literature and “global literature”.

The challenges for writing and publication are immense. Writing generally requires much decisionmaking, and when the question of merely choosing one’s target audience is suddenly opened up to something greater than primarily the English-speaking, French-speaking or Spanish-speaking world, the writing challenges increase proportionally. No longer is it good enough to find the right translation of Hindu ritual texts in the local dialect as practiced in Kathmandu (as I discovered in my book “Rapture”), but I needed to find a dialect that would be understood and accepted by all Hindus in Asia. In the end I opted to translate some of the special texts back to English, both out of global linguistic and religious-cultural considerations. There are many decisions that have to do with level of language used, grammatical and punctuation rules used (for example, which language’s rules should be followed in a manuscript that should show consistency ?), and the complexity of the text and story/poetry, decisions that have to do with whether one wishes to present a culture as a native might or as the outside world peering in (complete with stereotypes that are both promoted and challenged), decisions that have to do with political, religious and cultural values mirrored on all levels and in all perspectives (locally, nationally, internationally, and globally) and the accompanying perceptual differentiations therein, problems with getting language and cultural consultants, editors and colleagues to agree upon the “best” or “most correct” way to translate or adapt a text into another language … and then to arrive at the best possible compromise for presentation in the final book, finding a publisher who will take a chance on publishing a book where he or she does not understand all of the languages used and does not have staff or finances to check every detail in several foreign languages used … and the added responsibility this places on the author. There is much research, much reliance upon others, much insecurity and a lot of adrenalin that flows with expectation until the book has been on the market for at least a half year without a major international scandal or crisis having occurred. Words are not merely “words”, you see. Words have incredible power.

However, the thrills of doing this kind of global writing are also enormous. One gets the feeling that one is truly both “reaching across the world”, and “binding the world together” – contributing meaningfully and intentionally to global communication and understanding through literature. And the mental calisthenics can only be compared to successfully completing a long distance race with hurdles all along the way. It does get confusing sometimes. You need to have a solid base line – as in music – to hold it all together, but the “dance” itself is mesmerizing and offers countless possibilities to both fall on one’s face … and to get up again, and (at times) to soar through space like an eagle – with a view of the world rarely acknowledged in the hub bub of day-to-day situations.

It is my hope that more “global literature” will be written and published in the near future – including the employment of international cyberpunk and international urban dialects as language forms. Language is changing daily, and authors need to keep up … and stay ahead artistically. This is just the beginning of a whole new world of literature.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

5)

LA CRÉATION DE L’ART ET LA LITTÉRATURE EXIGENT UN ENGAGEMENT CONSTANT. PENSEES … DE LA PERSPECTIVE D’UN AUTEUR.

De la part d’un auteur qui utilise activement le multilinguisme comme technique … et également de la part de quelqu’un qui a vécu dans trois pays différents avec trois langues maternelles … je trouve le multilinguisme très intéressant. Bien sûr, je reconnais qu’il y a des problèmes inhérent à chaque langue employée et qu’il faut les surmonter en raison des différences culturelles, afin de ne pas mélanger les mots et les définitions. Parfois j’estime que je n’ai aucune “langue” du tout, entre l’anglais, le norvégien, l’espagnol et le français.

Ce serait plus facile pour moi de vivre quelques années en France et ensuite peut-être un été dans un pays hispanophone au lieu de continuer à résider en Norvège en tant qu’expatrié.

Cependant, je ne suis pas tellement intéressé par l’anglais parfait, le norvégien parfait, l’espagnol parfait ou le français parfait dans mon écriture. D’ailleurs, la perfection existe-t-elle, même chez les monolingues? Je suis plus concerné par l’utilisation des langues dans leurs formes intrinsèques, voire expérimentales. Cela exige souvent plus de connaissance que je ne possède, donc je dois souvent chercher l’aide d’autres personnes et d’autres sources. Il y a beaucoup de recherche impliquée dans mon écriture. Ceci est aussi valable pour l’écriture dans ma propre langue maternelle : l’anglais. Quand je fais une analyse critique de jeunes auteurs je leur dis souvent de penser au niveau de la langue qu’ils utilisent parce que le niveau de la langue conditionne la performance et l’exécution théâtrale, à partir des émotions. Les mots rares ou précieux (des mots compliqués, obscurs et intellectuels) ont leur place et les mots plus populaires ou du language parlé, également. Ecrire – tout comme l’art – implique un engagement.. TOUT LE TEMPS! Quel niveau du langage, de la narration est approprié, et quels effets cela aura-t-il sur le lecteur ?

La création de l’art et la littérature exigent un engagement constant, ainsi que des rajustements, dès lors que la création commence à prendre vie et doit se définir vis-à-vis du lecteur.

Mes lecteurs me demandent souvent pourquoi je suis “contre la rime poétique. Je ne suis pas – en soi – contre la bonne rime pour autant que l’on sache ce qui est considéré comme bonne rime. Je crois que c’est la voix de poésie elle-même qui doit définir la forme … la rime féminine, la rime masculine, des variations sur des styles, pas de rime, le mètre externe, ce que je désigne comme “le mètre interne” (que l’on ne repère pas nécessairement en lisant rapidement la poésie, mais qui est bien là dans sa forme), le niveau de langue utilisé (des mots de 5 € contre des mots de 5000 €) est important car ils donnent le ton, la voix, ainsi que le degré de difficulté de la création. La question est alors celle-ci: quelle langue utiliser et quand (l’anglais uniquement, comme langue principale?) l’utiliser avec les autres langues afin de créer un environnement multiculturel et multilingue ou une culture dite mondiale, en imitant la vie quotidienne dans toutes les sphères d’une culture donnée, en employant de surcroît des dialectes, ou peut-être le mot français ou espagnol au lieu du mot anglais ou norvégien, afin d’obtenir la plus juste expression – exemple: lorsque l’on dit ‘ciao’ en se quittant, dans plusieurs pays -, etc. Les poètes majeurs jusqu’au 21e siècle avaient un appui plus solide dans l’art de la rime. Rimer est beaucoup plus que la découverte de mots qui paraissent semblables musicalement et où le nombre des syllabes comptent. Le Haiku par exemple est beaucoup plus que le nombre de syllabes strict, car en procédant de la sorte on peut arriver à des résultats ridicules. Non, c’est l’esprit du Haiku qu’il faut respecter et non l’exactitude de son mètre. D’autre part, chaque mot possède sa force et son pouvoir de suggestion; particulièrement dans la poésie et les formes littéraires plus courtes – rien ne doit être perdu des intentions et de la force de l’auteur – parfois nous voulons raccourcir ou allonger des textes pour affecter le lecteur ou prêterau texte une certaine identité … cela vaut également pour l’utilisation des mots difficiles que la plupart des personnes doivent constamment consulter un dictionnaire.

La rime qui ne prend pas en compte les effets la musique du mot originel peut inconsciemment ennuyer le lecteur ou transformer une voix pleine d’humour en poésie plate … ainsi, les mots perdent leur signification première, ce qui par la même occasion, neutralise l’essence poétique elle-même.

Quand dois-je me décider quelles langues utiliser et comment ? C’est surtout dicté par la nature et le thème du texte, mais aussi par la culture … ou mieux, par “ma propre perception de la culture concernée”. Dans mon livre “Paradis”, qui est écrit en anglais, en français et en dialecte Tahitien, j’ai essayé de rester le plus simple possible, en m’approchant le plus possible du Tahitien parlé, le français dominant dans ce cas précis, tout en maintenant une certaine distance vis-à-vis des deux autres langues, la poésie anglaise dans le livre est la langue fonctionnelle et descriptive … elle est souvent le fait d’une impatience suggérée et du tumulte interne. Dans le même travail, j’alterne entre poésie et prose afin de créer le sens de la perte du temps et le ‘climat’ du Pacifique. Toutes ces décisions … et d’autres non mentionnées ici … sont consciemment et inconsciemment au travail par le truchement de créations littéraires et artistiques. Plus vous êtes mûr comme artiste, plus vous aspirez à “cette symphonie incroyable”. J’estime être un novice perpétuel … pourtant, je vise toujours très haut en espérant atteindre le paroxysme de la langue que j’utilise, quelle qu’elle soit, allant jusqu’à consulter divers méthodes linguistiques sur Internet, mais là il faut être prudent, car il y a à boire et à manger, et la qualité n’est pas souvent au rendez-vous.

D’autres décisions impliquent le rythme, le cadre, la quantité de détails, la vitesse à laquelle le lecteur entend lire le texte qui lui est soumis : Prenons l’exemple du Candide de Voltaire, ou mon roman “2014 : la vie et les aventures d’un ange incarné” – Il s’agit d’abord d’introduire le lecteur , pour ensuite le laisser voguer dans son imagination en lui donnant l’impression qu’il a écrit l’histoire lui/elle-même.

Beaucoup a été écrit sur règles de l’écriture, particulièrement quant à l’utilisation de la première, la troisième et la deuxième personne. Le défi est grand, car on ne raconte pas la même histoire à la 1ere, 2ème ou 3ème personne, et l’impact sur le lecteur peut être faussé. Un exemple illustre ce que je veux dire: les concertos de piano pour la main gauche seule, comme “le Quartet pour la fin des temps” qui avait été à l’origine écrit pour un violoncelliste ayant seulement trois cordes à son instrument, etc.

Je peux continuer jusqu’à l’infini…, mais il y a une cour de récréation énorme là-bas pour tous les auteurs. Et non seulement pour les auteurs, mais également pour les musiciens, les peintres et les artistes de la scène. Les règles servent à nous donne un contexte et une formation.

Nous devons décider, selon nos propres émotions, comment les utiliser (ou ne pas les utiliser), la palette de styles, de formats, des genres étant très vaste, elle permet à certains même de créer de nouveaux genres qui transcendent le seul roman ou la seule poésie.

AMUSEZ-VOUS DONC ! Et si par accident ou si vous n’écoutez que votre intuition en ignorant le plan original, vous découvrez peut-être un nouveau chemin, allez-y, le voyage risque d’être passionnant.

— Adam Donaldson Powell

img_1980

From the archives: Los Muestros – Coup de coeur de Adam Donaldson Powell.

PsychedelicAdam
Adam Donaldson Powell

COUP DE COEUR DE ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: MOSHÉ LIBA – SCRIBE OF HIS GENERATION, AND OURS (PART ONE).

COUP DE COEUR DE ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: MOSHÉ LIBA – SCRIBE OF HIS GENERATION, AND OURS (PART TWO).

COUP DE COEUR DE ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: MOSHÉ LIBA – SCRIBE OF HIS GENERATION, AND OURS (PART THREE).

Adam Donaldson Powell reviews literary works by T. Wignesan

 

 

 

LITERARY REVIEW OF “ICE IN MY EYES — SMOKE IN YOURS”, a novel by T. Wignesan, cyberwit.net, India, 2016.

This is T. Wignesan’s most ambitious published novel to date. The length of the book — 672 pages — immediately establishes for this literary critic his main question: do the story, the style and the execution of the writing justify such a long read?

In the author’s own “Note on the novel’s toile de fond”, he writes: “The narration of events in this novel, set against the backdrop of moral and economic devastation during the early post-war years in Western Europe (sustained by the Marshall Plan and military overseership), should best highlight the enigma of the ‘clash of cultures’ revealed in the behavioural patterns of the multi-ethnic characters thrown in together in a few of its principal cultural and artistic centres: Heidelberg, Berlin, London and Paris. And into this maelstrom of acutely conflictual and eddying emotions wanders an ingenue, an Asian, a Hindu by upbringing, an ex-colonial, hardly prepared for the blows and joys and humiliations and snares the anonymity of an “exiled” community of students and teachers proffer. These characters interact nonchalantly in academe only to find that ‘innocence’ — the only precious possession the protagonist finds worth dying for — deserts the unwary and leads them to undo themselves for life.”

The story itself is rather undramatically presented, in spite of the obvious underlying tensions and challenges to be expected from the given historical/political settings and intercultural relationships. The author could easily have made much more out of the various interpersonal relationships and events in this story, but he has elected instead to hold an even keel — perhaps “dignified”, in a stereotypical Asian face-saving way — as is the personality of Theson, the protagonist. Although this book is written as a story being told by the author, rather than by the protagonist as first person, most of the narrations and descriptions of events and developments are designed to align the reader’s sympathies with those of the affable, responsible and kind Theson. Wignesan does this quite effectively. Actually so much so that the book can easily be presumed to have been written partly from actual life (of that of the author himself, and/or that of persons or events known to the author).

In the first seventy or so pages this Reader sensed a bit of experimentation with stream of consciousness-style writing, which did not (in my opinion) work as well as I would have hoped. It was — to me — at times tedious, and textually so tightly wound that it was somewhat difficult to follow. And then in chapter three the T. Wignesan that I know from his earlier novels returned — not only in full force, but with a glory that even surpasses the level of writing that I have enjoyed in his work previously. From that point on, and until the very last page of this long novel, the author held my attention quite easily — in spite of the blanketing “laid back” undertone. Here it is obvious that the author’s adeptness both as a storyteller and as a journalist have been used satisfactorily (both as regards the more subjective reading experience, and to great technical advantage).

Aside from being a story about love and friendships (and Life’s other perhaps rather “fickle” occurrences and banalities) this book affords the reader with much knowledge and various other “insights/opinions” regarding historical and political events, as well as interesting perspectives on philosophy, religion and more.

This book is long — perhaps too long for me, and for the delightfully simple style of writing — but it is a good read. But then there are many persons who prefer books that are lengthy and unhurried. I would recommend that they, as well as history buffs, and especially fans of Wignesan’s other books read this book. Well done, T. Wignesan!

— Adam Donaldson Powell, Norway, 2017.

 

We the People - Democracy by gun, 100x81 cm, oil on canvas, 2016.
We the People – Democracy by gun, 100×81 cm, oil on canvas, 2016.

Review of “…the smell of piss an’ shit in his pants – The vicarious memoir of a Vietnam War veteran -“, by T. Wignesan, 120 pages, Cyberwit.net, 2015, paperback.

From the author’s Preface:

“This is the story of a Vietnam War veteran. It would hardly be appropriate to use the word veteran for one so young, for when Ulixes was de-mobbed he was only twenty-two. He was born in the borough of Queens and grew up mainly there and in Brooklyn, New York, before being conscripted at twenty. In all he had spent a year and 67 days in Vietnam during which time he saw action as a foot-soldier. On three occasions, he and his patrol were ambushed by the Viet-Cong and North Vietnamese regular army personnel. There were seven other skirmishes as well. The first time a month after his arrival on October 1st, 1968, he went through the shock of seeing and handling mashed-up and dismembered bodies of his buddies while staving off an attack from the Viet Cong. The second took place two months later during the Mini Tet Offensive at Long Ogygia Base on the Cambodian border and lasted some twelve hours. He killed two North Vietnamese Army personnel; one with his M16 and another with his Ka-Bar knife. He sustained no great injuries himself; that is, not visibly on his person, but the scars of shock and fear were scorched deep under his fatigues and skin and rose with time to render his life a vacant yet furies-filled passage between the embattled three-room quarters he occupies and the Veterans’ Hospital. On the psychologist and psychiatrists’ cards he remains tagged as a post-traumatic stress (PTS) case.”

And with the following additional sentences from the cyberwit.net description of the book:

“Is he a hero? Or an anti-hero? Or just a victim of circumstances? A pawn on the chess-board moved by invisible hands? Judge for yourself.”

T. Wignesan is a literary provocateur, and reading his books always presents the reader with challenges and tests. These are not so much tests of academic or literary intelligence; they rather “allow the reader to understand” that not all in life (or literature) is as expected, or as presented. Wignesan is adept at creating constructions that ensnare, release, and then change again. He is clearly interested in how persons think, and how they are conditioned. In this book he boldly states that the story to be presented is purposely not written in a linear fashion, and he explains why — blaming the interview subject, communications difficulties, occasional apathy on the parts of both the author and the interview subject, and other issues. While much information is presented in the book, it is highly-deconstructed. Some sections are highly-detailed and engaging, and others read more like journal entries — recording disconnected, but yet connected conversations and narratives. The reader who does not hold out might well conclude that this book is merely poorly-written. But alas, Wignesan is far ahead of us. For those who are paying attention there are many “coincidental” revelations throughout the book — and a bit of reflection while reading successive chapters and passages is enough to leave you both cursing the author and praising his weird genius by the time you reach the last page. You see, this story is really not about any big or important story, and it is truly not about the protagonists (the “author” and the interview subject). In fact, the only protagonist in this “novel” is the Reader.

Already from the beginning we are drawn into a series of puddles which become concentric circles — of both small and meaningless, and greater and more significant proportions. We will not find our way through the labyrinth by linear thinking. It does not matter where this “story” begins. It begins and ends in the mind of the Reader. It is up to you to let the process mix up and possibly explode your mind, or to give up — blaming the author for not being a coherent, traditional, non-academic … or good writer.

Wignesan has fun throughout the book — with repetitions (and comments signifying that he knows that he repeats himself), with references to earlier books (and what I assume has been criticism for their academic style), and more. When Wignesan finally gets to the promised “story” over half-way through the book, he does give us exactly what we wanted from the beginning: a fluid, descriptive, engaging, and well-told story that only requires that we follow the words. But by then it is too late, dear Reader. Wignesan has already penetrated your mindset with literary guerrilla warfare. You have already been disabled, and had your literary ego neutralized and violated.

And finally — in the last few pages — Wignesan cleverly manages to extricate himself of responsibility by revealing his mere advisory role in the whole vicarious mess of piss an’ shit.

What do you expect, dear Reader? He has a doctoral degree in aesthetics, for chrissake! Hahaha …

I have previously written three essays based on books by T. Wignesan:

– Literary criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon “Poïetics : Disquisitions on the Art of Creation”, published by Cyberwit.net, India, 2008, ISBN 978-81-8253-104-8, 214 pages, paperback.

– Literary criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell – based upon “Victorian (pen-in-cheek) Vignettes” and “The Night Soil Man”, both published by Cyberwit.net, India, 2008, respectively : ISBN 978-81-8253-107-9, 207 pages, paperback; and ISBN 978-81-8253-124-6, 193 pages, paperback.

– Literary criticism (2009) by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon “Mere deaths and the mostly dead : a collection of six long and four short stories”, published by Cyberwit.net, India, 2008, ISBN 978-81-8253-122-2, 275 pages, paperback).

These essays can be read here: https://adamangel.me/2011/07/10/adam-donaldson-powell-reviews-literary-works-by-t-wignesan/

– Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2017.

 

T. WIGNESAN : INTELLECTUAL SLUMMING WITH A GENIUS.

 

Literary criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon “Poïetics : Disquisitions on the Art of Creation”, published by Cyberwit.net, India, 2008, ISBN 978-81-8253-104-8, 214 pages, paperback, US$20.

What happens when a genius and a scholar and a writer compiles and publishes a series of essays and interviews on poïetics, with the aim of both presenting this all-too-obscure area of investigation on a level that is understandable to a non-genius and perhaps even to a non-scholar? For most readers the consequence is perhaps that of easily getting lost – much as in the process of digesting the long-winded sentence I have just presented. One needs to either quickly “learn” or “recognize” the language of multi-leveled thought processes and communication – or to give up, with the rationalization that the book is “boring” or “uninteresting”. The latter unwittingly reveal themselves as interesting subjects for the author and his interpretation of poïetics, as the experience of “boredom” is a central concept in his oeuvre. For those of us who share T. Wignesan’s interests in philosophy, abstractions, existentialism, surrealism, the development of literature, analysis of the difficulties in both artistic expression and translation etc. this book is more than mere “eye candy” – it is a walk through Wonderland. This walk together with Wignesan affords the consenting “genius” the opportunity to intellectually slum through a multitude of complicated, competing and converging presentations of reality and “sub-reality” … with accompanying elements of entertainment, including small commentaries that bring forth the occasional snicker, as well as hidden “checks” by which the reader can himself determine if he is truly still awake in the classroom, and even more importantly: the fun of following an otherwise academic presentation while subjectively being presented with the very points of the analysis in the writing form itself. THIS is where the true naughty genius of T. Wignesan makes itself evident, a genius not entirely unlike that of Jean-Paul Sartre, Voltaire and other masters of literary presentations of philosophical thought.

Many readers are possibly wondering ‘what the hell’ I am talking about – and quite understandably perhaps. It is therefore appropriate to define a few terms. The title of this book would be for some an abstraction in itself, but which is yet perfect when dissected. “Disquisition” refers to an elaborate analytical or explanatory essay or discussion; a formal discourse or dissertation; or a diligent inquiry. “Creation” refers to starting or introducing something new, everything that exists, the human act of creating something, the event of bringing something into existence, and a thing or artifact that has been brought into existence. And finally, “poïetics” is defined by T. Wignesan himself as “the science and philosophy of creation. It is the tie which links the creator to his work while the work, as Passeron (René) puts it, is in the process of being created. The study of this act of becoming is the object of poïetics. Once the work is created or the act of creation is consummated, three conditions (according to the French “school”) prevail:

1) that the finished product or oeuvre constitutes an unique entity;
2) that the finished product be invested with a personality of its own, and
3) that the finished product compromise the creator in that he is in some ways still responsible for the oeuvre through his role as the progenitor of the product.”

Fairly basic stuff actually. However, every philosopher has the burden of defining his/her concepts on both sides of the margin. As a discussion of ”being” necessitates a complementary discussion of “nothingness”, so does a discussion of creation require an analysis of what is or is not a creation. This larger discussion affords the author a wide range of opportunities to draw upon many related discussions pertaining to human perception and systems of thought, which he does with expertise. However, as indicated above, Wignesan also combines his artistic literary talents together with his love and understanding of philosophical analysis to make the reading experience itself an active illustration of his concepts. For example, Wignesan discusses at length the impulse and function of “boredom” in the process of creation and aptly manages to produce a book that is designed to illustrate and experientially convey both boredom and the desire to promote understanding of complicated universal processes in a simple way. (I can almost hear the snicker of a few readers at this commentary of mine. Yes, I did find the oeuvre both boring at times and often incredibly thought-provoking and stimulating.) His discourses on translation constitute yet another example of this active communication and active dialogue, in that the reader is invited into an active thought process triggered by Wignesan’s examples and writing style. To me, this is the highest form of creation and art: a work that entices the reader, viewer and listener himself/herself to think creatively.

This is an ambitious work. Does T. Wignesan succeed in making this analytical and literary experience accessible to the “uninitiated” and the layman? In my opinion, he both does … and occasionally does not. As an author and reviewer of books who shares many of Wignesan’s philosophical perspectives regarding the nature and function of creation and of existentialism, as well as an understanding of the difficulties of writing on many levels of comprehension in one work and attempting to simplify where possible … even I found myself getting “lost” a few times – having to go back and take a comprehension and reality “check” for myself. But then again, literary “entertainment” can also include self-reflection, new learning, academic language and abstractions to be explored. And not everything needs to be explained in entirety or in the simplest of terms.

Even the cynical or lazy reader who would dismiss this book as “uninteresting” or “folly” will be left with a nagging question that at least momentarily disrupts his/her inner peace: ‘have I – in fact – all too quickly set up barriers in self-defense against an important area of exploration and self-knowledge?’

By Adam Donaldson Powell, Norway.

¤ ¤ ¤

T. WIGNESAN : DELICIOUSLY NAUGHTY 20th CENTURY FICTION.

Literary criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell – based upon “Victorian (pen-in-cheek) Vignettes” and “The Night Soil Man”, both published by Cyberwit.net, India, 2008, respectively : ISBN 978-81-8253-107-9, 207 pages, paperback, US$20; and ISBN 978-81-8253-124-6, 193 pages, paperback, US$20.

“Victorian (pen-in-cheek) Vignettes” is based upon the Victoria Institution and its alumni, and the Malaya Hall community in London. The Victoria Institution being a secondary school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia which upholds the British public school tradition for Malays, Chinese and Indians in the capital. The classical literary flow of the first half of the book is abruptly broken in the second half (starting with vignette no. 7), as that portion takes on a style and character more likened to a gossipy and trivial (albeit saucy and humorous) quasi-historical account from the author’s perspective (more specifically that of a cat named Timmy). I personally found the first half of the book to be of greater interest to myself as a reader who lacks even the most rudimentary historical, political and social knowledge of Malaysia or first hand experience of the Victorian Institution and Malay Hall. However, the storytelling by Timmy the cat is nonetheless entertaining even though not all world readers will have the necessary background to glean the most out of this writing.

The first section of the book (Vignettes one through six) is quite magical. On the surface, this collection of vignettes appears to be loosely strung together – much as a set of heirloom pearls on a threadbare necklace – and written in authentic twentieth century descriptive literary style. The effect of these rather peculiar vignettes is somewhat reminiscent of Ravel’s glittering yet playful Valses nobles et sentimentales, as each vignette is in essence a pond reflection of the previous one(s) – thus giving an impressionistic feel to the dance through this odd construction of tales. However, these vignettes are also written in a style that recalls the masterful storytelling of Voltaire : Candide-esque and a bit “naughty” in that they are written both with the purpose of amusing and challenging the insider group of former Victorians, as well as serving as a playful betrayal of “secrets” to the uninitiated. Moreover, the overall work lends itself to the philosophy of the author in regards to Poïetics – with its much ado about nothing other than the embellishment of the boring … and giving equal weight to both fact and fiction.

The author’s incorrigibility – falling short of the outright impudence of an “enfant terrible” — and his inherent understanding of Asian and French sarcastic wit and humor lend to these vignettes a delicious edge whereby the inclination is to laugh … but in a guarded fashion. This because inside ourselves we readers know that each expression of the adventurous and unwitting Fool must also be accompanied by a good measure of apprehension, for no one is to be trusted absolutely – not the police, not our colleagues, not doctors or lawyers or bureaucratic systems … and perhaps not even ourselves.

On a slightly less positive note, I would comment that T. Wignesan occasionally breaks the magic he creates by failing to adjust the content length, endings and transitions in some passages – thus running the risk of both overcrowding with too much information and abandoning an otherwise sparkling quality with overhurried endings (eg. Vignette no. 6). This is a challenge for all writers but is of particular importance when working with collections of short works which should both function as separate, individual pieces and interlocking parts of a larger jigsaw puzzle. The solutions available are many but the decisionmaking process is often rather difficult – especially when the author is struggling to simplify information along with complicated techniques, style and language.

That being said, the “Victorian Vignettes” are an interesting and entertaining read.

T. Wignesan employs the same fundamental signature storytelling style in his novel published in the same year by Cyberwit : “The Night Soil Man”. In “The Night Soil Man” T. Wignesan weaves yet another tale using social commentary and sarcasm – and inciting more than a few snickers from this reviewer. Mr. Wignesan is no stand-up comic, but rather an intellectual who uses his insight and command of language to question the status quo. His wit is – surely – a formidable weapon; and his ability to wield that sword so adeptly makes him a dangerous man (un homme dangereux).

“The Night Soil Man” is a unique work : well-crafted and well-written. Chapter two features a bit of stream of consciousness style writing that I would compare to the writing of William Burroughs at its best. Here the author describes “shit” in a social context and using a riveting narrative style that only contemporary Asian bad boy authors can master. Without giving the story line away, I can promise the reader a roller-coaster ride deep into the depths of societal muck and complete with sensory stimulation.

This novel has the artistic quality of effortlessness – achieving natural balance between the difficult and the relatively simple, and possessing an aplomb that suggests that the work has essentially written itself.

I recommend “The Night Soil Man” both as a cultural and social study and as a thought-provoking story with relevance beyond its time period and geographical setting.

In conclusion, I would describe the spirit of these two ambitious literary works that insist upon not taking themselves too seriously by quoting Henri de Régnier – whose words appear in Maurice Ravel’s dedication at the top of the score of his Valses nobles et sentimentales : “le plaisir délicieux et toujours nouveau d’une occupation inutile” (the delightful and always novel pleasure of a useless occupation).

By Adam Donaldson Powell, Norway.

¤ ¤ ¤

T. WIGNESAN : TRANSCULTURAL ABSURDITIES.

Literary criticism (2009) by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon “Mere deaths and the mostly dead : a collection of six long and four short stories”, published by Cyberwit.net, India, 2008, ISBN 978-81-8253-122-2, 275 pages, paperback, US$20).

T. Wignesan’s peculiar collection of short stories is a study in many disciplines (i.e. absurdity, the transcultural, the multilingual and the delicate art of short literary forms), expressing originality, political and social awareness, humor, proficiency in storytelling and visual-literary adeptness. He is most clearly in his “element” in the story entitled “The Viva at the University of Solfège or the under-upholding”, which is one of the more engaging and entertaining of his tales. This particular story made me recall the words of Albert Camus : “From the moment absurdity is recognized, it becomes a passion, the most harrowing of all.”

While I would recommend this book as a “good read”, I personally feel that there is a slight unevenness in quality due to the challenges of mastering diversity in content and form, artistic intent, planning, execution and polish in a very difficult medium : the short story collection. This is not only a question of planning what events are essential to in-depth description according to the storyline, but also in regards to overall length of the individual oeuvre. In a few of the stories I found myself getting involved in comments or sequences that proved themselves to be confusing or unneeded distractions in the context of the total story. The sharpened red pencil of an independent editor who both looked at individual stories as well as the total sequencing and contents of the book might have produced a different final product.

That being said, the longer short story seems to be a successful genre for T. Wignesan, and one which I look forward to seeing him develop further.

– Adam Donaldson Powell, Norway.