Sunday, January 11, 2015

Moment of Silence

•Toma Longinović: Moment of Silence..
San Francisco: Burning Books, 1990. 134 pages.
ISBN 093605008-X.

Portland, January 10, 2015—

Collect your thoughts and examine the matter carefully, for it is not to be understood as you at first sight think, but as you will find after due deliberation. 

—Moses Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed

THE EPIGRAPHS AT EACH chapter-head in this beautifully designed book are in a font so light and small as to be nearly invisible, no doubt deliberately, as Longinović's novel is deliberately obscure, the investigation of the closed and occasionally deranged mind of a writer living in the fatigued and pointless days near the end of Tito's Yugoslavia. "Bubblehead," he is called, in reference to his large moon-faced head, I suppose, which harbors thoughts alternating between paranoid Burroughs-worthy obsessions with evasion and, in what might be called more lucid moments, speculations on the possible literary description of and response to the suffocations of his impoverished Communist consumer society.

Toward the close of the book, for example, the narrator is rehearsing a couple of actors in his new play, trying to persuade them of his views. His actress challenges them:

"All right, but how can you be no sure that things are that way ... Is your vision so . ."

"No, it's not. But I have no other choice. As soon as I say something it doesn't belong to me anymore, and I can't tell whether it's right or wrong. But at the moment of speaking, as the word is shaped by my lips, I know that it's close to the real, that it finds its fullness At that moment I know I'm there ... That's how I wrote the play ..."

Longinović: Moment of Silence, p. 88

and we know that he is speaking to us, his readers; we are his actors. Longinović has designed this novel cunningly: the short chapters, each with one off those irritatingly fugitive epigraphs, move from surrealist obscurity to persuasive narrative. Twenty-five years old, it is postmodern but not dated. Cult, communism, and Christianity compete with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll in the minds and activities of his intriguing and often memorable characters, from Uncle Boris digging his well to Cross-Eyed Mary mistakenly ascended as a saint. It's an intriguing and interesting book, and I'll have to see what he's written since…

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