Savage Theories

I tried. But when I read this sentence, I realized it was futile:

As seen morphically in things like “consciousness-in-itself” and “consciousness-for-itself,” the Suffix Generation focuses on that which results, that which extends a posteriori (syntax never lies) from consciousness, the following generation, on the other hand, discusses the issue of consciousness in terms of the biases inherent in its gaze and thus opts for the prefix, for preceding and therefore intrinsic characteristics of this selfsame ability to reason (e.g. self-consciousnesses).

I was never going to make it through this book.

At first I was optimistic. Perhaps that sentence was an anomaly and at any moment sentences would stop being paragraph length, filled with words that yes, I understand, but because they all smashed together and require quite a lot of context, are nearly impossible to discern. Hope deferred sickens the heart.

I have no idea what is going on in Savage Theories, by Pola Oloixarac. I have read reviews and explanations online and yes, I can see how the themes may eventually shake out. I identify the bits of satire and irony (Is it irony? Is it something else?) about loving McDonald’s. Ok. I admit it. I actually didn’t actually understand that bit.

A few years ago I read A Confederacy of Dunces. I forced myself through it, because, hey, it won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981. It is canonical. Apparently. I found that book’s plot obscure and the characters unlikable. The details and devices are different in both books, but they share some things: characters with weird names, characters who self-identify as being entirely ugly, and characters who like to pontificate in regards to their own intelligence. (I think?). Both novels left me bemused and unable to wholly understand what the fuss is about. Maybe the point is complexity to the point of absurdity.

Having said that, I’m willing to accept the fault is mine. Oloixarac was named to Granta’s list of Best Young Spanish Novelists and Savage Theories is her first book be translated into English. It might be that I’m terrible with non-sequiturs like: (And do I play with the hair ball, or does the Hair Ball play with me? So might wonder Montaigne, my kitten. Soon, I’ll tell you more about Yorick, my fish).

In any case, the title suits the book perfectly. I caught that much. You’ll see.

Pola Oloixarac appeared at Event 53 (Freeman’s New Voices) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

Related reads: The publishing history behind A Confederacy of Dunces helped me wrap my brain around that one, but only after the fact, years after reading. Click here to read the Guardian’s article.


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