Just finished this, please tell me other people here have actually read it. I need to discuss what is definitely the most difficult book I've ever encountered. It's confusing and at many times as excellent as it is confusing but it is also not without its flaws.
It's an intense read, it takes a lot of commitment because it's really erudite but also like the third longest single volume book ever written. It focuses mainly on Jim Mayn a middle aged man who has never had a dream. The book jumps between stages of his life and the stories of his grandmothers youth. These stories are intimately linked to almost everything in the book, particularly Grace Kimball who lives in Mayn's building yet never actually meets.
Mayn also seemingly knows about the distant future and something known as simultaneous reincarnation.
There are also sections known as Breathers that are very complex when first encountered that are narrated by a group of "angels" who face an unknown interrogater. They tell the story in a spiral manner revealing more and then a little more each time if you get the idea. These parts can be nauseating as they change focus numerous times during long run on sentences.
I don't think anyone could understand the book entirely on first reading anyway but it is worthwhile I feel because when it's good it's unbelievably good. Highlights include Mayns relationship with his mother and later his father, the chapter on his failed marriage and Grace's masturbation classes and the end. If you're willing to take the time then it's definitely worth it. A very hard book to summarise for a pleb like me but hope it helps
She's a new age feminist or something and holds groups where everyone masterbates together in this big mirror room she's all into empowerment of self sex or some shit, there's a genuinely hilarious bit when carpet fitters visits the apartment
I like to think of the interrogator(s) as the reader trying parse the dense double talk of the Angels so called breathers. Particularly when the Angels are forced to give only one answer to a question and everything becomes clearer as a whole.
The fact Mayn's present is also his past is difficult to initially get your head around and even though for large sections his name is only mentioned fleetingly to show how it all comes back to him, he still feels like one of the most fleshed out characters I've encountered. I love the way his memories of past, present and future slide back and forth. His relationship with his father though barely touched upon in comparison to the size of the novel (a sentence about Mel hitting Jim and not knowing how to say sorry and then nothing for hundreds of pages till Jims visit where through very little actually being said in the text you can feel and see their entire relationship. McElroys subtly is superb at times.
The dialogue is also some the best I've seen since Gaddis; Gordon's story to Mayn of the year he missed, Barbara (Jean!) telling Mayn he couldn't have known a torus was the best shape for a space station years before even Sci fi comics as a child or even Grace and the carpet fitters for comic value.
The book does slip with regards to trying to contain too much with some short stories or side plots complicating or distracting for the sake of it, others are sensational: Ship Rock being a favourite of mine.
This is a hard book to put across to someone else it's as I said the hardest book I've come across but like the final line of the book tells you , just take some time to sit and appreciate it. Don't rush it it's not a competition it's an experience.
It's being reprinted you fucking nonces
I've read the collection of short stories Night Soul, it was the only book of McElroy's I could find at my public library, but even that was a victory. But yeah those stories fucking baffled me, some of them I had no idea what was going on.
It was like being given individual pixels from a movie still and told to sort them out. Kind of engrossing in a purely intellectual way, plus it actually works as a thriller.
I decided to go through McElroy chronologically after reading Night Soul and have not gotten to it yet. Plus is up next.
In my experience reading 40 pages of McElroy a day would be counterproductive if you want to get out of it. After skimming through my copy trying to keep that pace up in Women and Men would be a slog.
I think he's changed his tune since then. This is secondhand but apparently he was mad about the errors in the Knopf and Dalkey printings, which while I understand His style in a book that long is prone to errors. He's now working with Dzanc to reissue ebooks of most of his unavailable stuff with a print run of Ancient History and potentially Women and Men.
The holdup is his proofreading. He's anal about it and with proofing the ebooks of his other books and working on the nonfiction book he's been writing for over a decade that he wants to finish before he dies lol proofing W&M is taking a back seat.
His novels through Lookout Cartridge and Night Soul. I think if you're interested in him Night Soul is a great intro. Contains some of his best tendencies and some of his worst. You will likely love some of the stories and hate some.