My gestalt real-time review of MEMBER by Michael Cisco continues from HERE and will appear in the comment stream below as and when I read it:
1. A distinct part of a whole, especially:
a. Linguistics A syntactic unit of a sentence; a clause.
b. Logic A proposition of a syllogism.
c. Mathematics An element in a set.
2. A part or an organ of a human or animal body, as:
a. A limb, such as an arm or a leg.
b. The penis.
3. A part of a plant.
4. One that belongs to a group or an organization: a club member; a bank that is a member of the FDIC.
5. Mathematics The expression on either side of an equality sign.
6. A structural unit, such as a beam or wall.
[Middle English membre, from Old French, from Latin membrum.]
Pages 239 – 258
A long-term favourite quotation of mine:
“From the cosmic point of view, to have opinions or preferences at all is to be ill; for by harbouring them one dams up the flow of the ineluctable force which, like a river, bears us down to the ocean of everything’s unknowing. Reality is a running noose, one is brought up short with a jerk by death. It would have been wiser to co-operate wih the inevitable and learn to profit by this unhappy state of things – by realising and accommodating death! But we don’t, we allow the ego to foul its own nest. Therefore we have insecurity, stress, the midnight-fruit of insomnia, with a whole culture crying itself to sleep. How to repair this state of affairs except through art, through gifts which render to us language manumitted by emotion, poetry twisted into the service of direct insight?”
from ‘The Avignon Quincunx’ by Lawrence Durrell (‘Constance’ 1982)
I hope the author and publisher of MEMBER will forgive me if I now quote below the following long passage from this section of the book, one that seems to crystallise something for me similarly and may well become another long-term favourite quote of mine:-
“Unseen or at least unremarked, I orbit the camp. That’s what I want: a place in which I have no part. I want to ride through space like wind in wind and sleep on the void, and be a go-between with nothing but between. I only know useless knowledge. The camp spins there to one side of me like so many floating candles collecting in a weak eddy. What I feel inside myself is fierce and calm; it’s a ruthless desire for an immortality of perfect weakness where I can be a tirelessly efficient functionary turning things over from one end of the message circuit to the other and back again, so that I never stop going back. As long as I’m going back, logically speaking, I yet won’t be back, only now am I getting under way. No one sees you while you’re in transit and the moment you arrive is the moment you have to turn around and leave again, provided there is some return correspondence, and even if there isn’t, it doesn’t matter, because there’s nothing to do but wait for some other message which will sooner or later have to go out and take you along with it.”
I am deeply affected by that.
Hopefully I shall be able to read some more of this landmark book tomorrow. A landmark with its longueurs as well as its stunning jolts and extended prose textures of pure writerly goto-Heaven.
Pages 259 – 269
“not everything unique is special.”
The game’s rationale or non-rationale becomes even more fascinating, e.g. losing to win, bluffing and so forth and I can possibly relate it to situations in my own life, like me, say, responding on-line to a questionable review of my book, the reviewer or his representative then going into long-term-meltdown, then someone else speculating publicly that author and reviewer are both in it together for mutual publicity purposes…!
“Chorncendantra is unsabotageable. QED.
— Unless you pull a big active stunt feebly: start off strong, then wimp out at the halfway mark, when everything else is committed. Betrayal, any abrupt change of plan or side has to be excluded as a foreseeable event. But petering out…”
Pages 269 – 292
“It makes too much sense to be wrong. So to play, I should try to think of something drastic and unpredictable to do.”
On the negative side of this book, I miss the main protagonist having a well-grounded backstory on Earth (as Keith does in the Valiant Razalia books) before getting involved in the planetary fictionatronics and in the human/machine extrapolations towards the incredible ‘artifact’. To appreciate the artifact in full, you have no option but to read MEMBER, whatever the book’s seeming drawbacks, and its drawbacks may indeed be plus points when the game is finished! And the concept of the ‘contact sun’ and the ignition point, and the controlled ‘automatic writing’, and the pecking order of gamesters…
“There is a jolt against I don’t know what.”
Pages 293 – 323
“…something analogous to trying to take a step that isn’t there, the jolting downward step into sleep that only spins against the mattress, and which is more of a jolt than an actual step would have been.” (cf ‘The Sixteenth Step’ in another very recent and hence serendipitous RTR of mine here: The Burning Circus.)
Well, would you believe it, the Earth backstory emerges as if my asking for it just now duly produced it, here towards the end of the book’s journey, but, thinking about it, was the Chorncendantra game the backstory and this is now the front story? And is it really the protagonist’s life on Earth we are now following? You know I do these real-time reviews to help me understand books better and it normally works, and indeed HE now seems more lost than I am. Perhaps I did appreciate the significance of the Stationery Office after all, as he is a courier again, that satisfying go-between job I highlighted earlier in this review, i.e. taking an envelope to a new as yet inscrutable character called the Empress. Envelope = the word that Envy was short for? It’s now ‘human jealousy’ he mentions in this section. And the logistics of his getting to reading the letter from out of the envelope to the Empress (from the Empress to herself?) reminds me of those Operationals nailing themselves in coffins from the inside! It’s all coming together by coming apart. This is the book’s coda or is the preceding major Chorncendantra part of the book a retrocausal coda that needed his ‘EDITING’ rather than his being EDITED himself?
“The warehouses look abandoned, too. Their black doors are welded with age to the runners.”
This real-time review concludes HERE.
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