THE PAGAN ELLIPSIS by CHE ELIAS. Six Gallery Press, 2255 Tilbury Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217. ISBN 0-9746033-8-4.
It took me a long time to read this book. It's a work of fiction (I guess) but it doesn't use any of the traditional hooks. There's no plot. There are no characters to speak of. It kicks off, it continues for 300 pages, it ends.
But I stayed with it. At times I got really cross, but something about it- its chutzpah, its unpredicability- kept me turning the pages. I didn't think I was going to understand it any better by the end than I did after 20 pages (and I was right) but I still didn't want to miss any of Elias's tricks.
It reads like automatic writing. Maybe this effect is precisely calculated, intensely laboured, but I doubt it. The randomness feels too real to be faked. The way I imagine it, Elias charges at the narrative, fingers dashing across the keyboard, not pausing for thought, accepting whatever word his subconscious tosses up, capitalising at random, switching tenses and narrative voice, dropping one story before it's finished and picking up another. Sometimes he sounds like James Joyce, other times he's more like Daisy Ashford (9 year old author of The Young Visitors.) Occasionally he becomes completely incoherent. Dreams, fantasies, self-analysis, fragments of verse are tumbled together like clothes in a washer.
Picasso said he'd spent a lifetime learning to paint like a child. Elias seems to be on a similar jag. By writing fast he by-passes the inner censor, the inner critic, the inner grammarian. Nothing is too filthy, nonsensical or stupid to be said. Awkwardness equals innocence equals beauty. The result is an extended portrait of consciousness, of a particular consciousness, more daring, careless and tripped out than anything I have ever read.
P.S. This will eventually appear at New Hope International Review On Line