Theories of Forgetting
Fiction Collective 2
First and foremost, Lance Olsen (English Professor at the University of Utah) is the literary astronaut we dreamt of being when we were children—turning far-out worlds abuzz with the difficult imagination, surviving re-entry with stories to share. His latest, “wunderkammer,” an avant-novel called Theories of Forgetting, is a textual embodiment of Robert Smithson’s land artwork Spiral Jetty and its intrinsic entropology, which here, amounts to wearing down and decay at sites of language—narrative, character, sentence, word, letter—and the blank spaces in between that give them meaning. The book runs three narratives cover-to-cover from opposite ends, upside-down from and parallel to each other. In this way, the reader chooses which to privilege—either the diary of experimental filmmaker Alana struggling to make a documentary about Spiral Jetty, who succumbs to a mysterious illness called “The Frost,” or the story of her husband, Hugh, owner of a bookstore in Salt Lake City, who slowly disappears while traveling in Jordan, at the call of religious, barbiturate-worshiping poetic-terrorists and whose manuscript is annotated by the couple’s daughter Aila, an art critic living in Berlin, penciling in a one-sided conversation with her estranged brother, Lance. This isn’t an S.O.S. (same old story): It’s a gorgeous wind-up into intricate spirals of human lives that we lead and the loss that we’ll inevitably face. –Christian Schultz
[[ there. ]]
“[[ Because how does one write the contemporary? ]]” wunders Lance Olsen in this “trash diary,” 130-ish pages of critifictional tweets, cultural reflection and memory-raking that amounts to a remarkably fluid narratological assemblage. Written over the author-professor-literary activist’s five-month stay at the American Academy in Berlin, [[ there. ]] is a casual and sharp text about the confluence of travel, curiosity and innovative writing practices, or what it means to be alive here, now. From film and philosophy to avant-garde music, art and hypermedia, to personal reminiscence of world travels and life in the restlessness of Berlin, Olsen makes the slurry of flash narratives and observations compelling. Whether you read [[ there. ]] chronologically or bounce around the book among its clusters, you’ll find a hypertext’s rhythm, a Wiki-wormhole of cultural knowledge, a poet’s narrative slant-rhyme and wonderful human-being-ness all in a beautiful whirl from one of innovative writing’s greatest minds. –Christian Schultz
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