le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Grasshopper Jungle + No Future

I'm jumping happily onto the Grasshopper Jungle bandwagon; I read it over the weekend and loved it, of course. I love Austin and Robby as characters; I love Austin's histories; I love Eden Five Needs You 4; I love that this is a book that stars a bisexual teenager (bisexuals get short shrift everywhere); I love that sperm and balls are major plot points/motifs. I love that, very late in the book, there is a wonderful small clever joke referring to a whaling accident. I love that the book manages to be funny, anxious, deeply loving, dissatisfied, and completely horny all the time. I love that everything makes Austin horny. I am dying to teach this book already, though I anticipate students disliking the - what should I call it? omniscient isn't the right word - multidimensional? view and knowledge of history that Austin has, which is one of the things I loved most about the book. Austin is writing from a kind of 360 degree view of history - the only way I can describe how it felt to me as a reader is the way that certain video games and google street view and things allow you to rotate your view in every direction. Austin sees the past, the present, the future - they are both diachronic and synchronic. Everything is always happening, everything has always already happened, everything will always have happened. It's great and a bit dizzying. Andrew Smith has knocked everyone's socks (and Eden jumpsuits) right off with this novel, and all the praise he and the book have gotten are totally deserved.

The thing I mainly want to say is that Grasshopper Jungle and Lee Edelman's No Future belong together. Late last night this occurred to me - the "no futureness" of the book, the dying Iowa town, all those lost balls and discarded sperm, the "unstoppable" everything, the fact that it is a record, as Austin tells us immediately, of the end of the world. There is a smidgen of reproductive futurity in the book, but not in a way that really makes the reader believe in that future. Grasshopper Jungle, with its gay hero Robby, and its bisexual narrator Austin, and the lurking megalomaniac Dr McKeon are all figures of non-futurity. What I find wonderful and curious is that Smith somehow makes this non-futurity seem, if not exciting or positive, then far from bleak. This is not an unhopeful book, though it is not a hopeful one, either. It is an exercise in synchronicity, in apophenia, in lines converging, crossing.
But it is not for one moment a book where Our Hero takes the Romantic Interest by the hand, and steps out into the sunshine and into the bright new future. There is something Else in Grasshopper Jungle.  I don't know what it is, exactly, other than queer, though queer doesn't seem totally accurate. It's been several years since I read Edelman carefully, and I don't have time to revisit him now, but I think if you put No Future and Grasshopper Jungle alone in a room together, some kind of exciting and intriguing critical reaction will take place.

1 comment:

TAndracki said...

I think there's definitely a lot here, Kerry! I think, too, the "360-degree view of history" (a phrase I love, good job there) that you mention gives us some thrust into queer temporalities, too. There's a sense of what Elizabeth Freeman calls "temporal drag" throughout the ways Austin obsessively blends backstory, distant events, and the current moment. I also think I'd agree with the something Else that's going on, though I also can't quite place it, yet. There's something deeply unsettling but also wonderfully beautiful in the messy convergences here. I think you've picked up on something very interesting...I know you don't have much time to play with it, but I would love to see/play with it more.