Introduction for Renee Gladman

Perhaps to ease your social anxieties here tonight, I have a message from Luswage Amini, “The Great Ravickian Novelist,” who states in her riddle-like-fashion: “There is nothing inherently complicated about attending an intellectual event.” This message is a copy of a thought stemming from a long contemplative walk before Zàoter Limici’s poetry reading, the mid point in Renee Gladman’s trilogy of novels about the far but not too far away place of Ravicka.

Gladman has been honing in on, by way of swarming around, how “Writing itself [can] become a character” as she reveals this core of her practice nearly fifteen years ago in The New Narrative textbook Biting the Error. This is the work of warping fiction where the readers watch language take over the body. Brute subject matter disperses in to body parts, so they bend, and the test is flexibility. What leaks out are the true wanderings of dream states. The language of the body becomes movie projections on to local architecture, or “streets from sentences, that showed awnings in paragraphs.”

Writers are often characters in Gladman’s work. But these writers, no matter how loved by their writer friends, or prolific or recognizable on public transit and in the local bookstore they are, truly struggle through the process of language trying to leave their bodies. Ana Patova, the lead voice of the last novel in the Ravicka trilogy confesses, “the book that was this story could not be written.” Perhaps only to prove the point you can know nothing, but have written a lot of books.

Is language a copy of the crisis or the crisis itself? What is the strategy in being vague through insistent isolation? What if the crisis is all reference? Why avoid the directness of naming? Why translate if translation proves futile in keeping up with the disappearance of Ravicka’s population?

Things happen and unhappen in Renee Gladman’s writing. When I have read her work, and I admit to having reread all her books, I have the distinct feeling of un-remembering the contents almost immediately. I have come to expect a map that will “blur what is already inscrutable.” This is an intense tactic for the book as a real place to go dissolve in. Gladman’s work is a complex fold in abstraction, always titling us on our sides, ready for emptiness on a forever loop with its reading and writing.