Through Trickery and Sheer Luck: Sasha Fletcher's amazing escape from his inner editor:
a review of Sasha Fletcher's WHEN ALL OUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED MARCHING BANDS WILL FILL THE STREETS & WE WILL NOT HEAR THEM BECAUSE WE WILL BE UPSTAIRS IN THE CLOUDS
(Mud Luscious Press, 2010>
reviewed by Ken Sparling
His music, while comprised of small fragments, possessed continuity as a whole, like a giant puzzle made up of extremely small pieces, each having its own shape. -- Bill Cole in JOHN COLTRANE
At once we find ourselves facing a vast canvas, full of symbols; some of these are relatively easy to decipher; others are not so easy; still others appear to be weird hieroglyphics which may well defy all our efforts to fathom. -- Fela Sowande, quoted in JOHN COLTRANE by Bill Cole
There's always someone on the ground, calling you down from the high places. And if there isn't, there should be. -- Elise Levine in REQUESTS & DEDICATIONS
. . . there's no in-between where you learn who does what to whom, or why. Just beginnings and endings, each time different, things you can never predict, you get caught up, end Christ knows where. -- Elise Levine in REQUESTS & DEDICATIONS
I don't want to try to convince you to read Sasha Fletcher's book, WHEN ALL OUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED MARCHING BANDS WILL FILL THE STREETS AND WE WILL NOT HEAR THEM BECAUSE WE WILL BE UPSTAIRS IN THE CLOUDS.
I don't want to try to convince you of anything at all.
I've never really wanted to try to convince anybody of anything.
I don't want to pass judgment on Sasha's book, either. I don't want to tell you why it worked or didn't work for me. I don't want to examine what Sasha manages in the words he provides, or the sentences he produces, or the quantity of sentences he puts together to make up his book.
And I don't want to examine my reaction to Sasha's book, either.
I don't even want to try to explicate my feelings for the book.
And I certainly don't want to label the book, or label any part of it, or label Sasha.
I do want you to know that reading Sasha's book put me in a place I never expected to find myself.
But I don't want to try to tell you the nature of that place.
Trying to tell you the nature of the place Sasha's book took me would only send you to Sasha's book expecting something, and when you expect something from a book, you've already failed.
I try to move covertly as I approach the perimeter of a book. In the time before I read the book, when I'm not yet reading a book, when the book is sitting on my bedside table, when I'm putting on my pyjamas and brushing my teeth, when I'm setting my alarm, when I'm lying in bed in the dark in the middle of the night knowing that I'm not going back to sleep, when I know that any minute now I'm going to give up trying to sleep and I'm going to reach over and turn on the beside lamp and I'm going to pick up the book that is sitting on my bedside table and I'm going to start reading it, I try to move covertly.
And even as I enter the book, I try to be covert. I try to move up the outside of the book and slide quietly in without noticing that I'm practicing the act of reading. Without noticing I'm doing anything. I try not to notice myself as I enter a book.
And as I continue to read the book, I try to remain covert, unintended, un-arrived.
When I read a book written by someone I consider a friend, I'm always afraid that the writer will fail. This fear isn't peripheral. This fear lives at the centre of my experience of reading a book by someone I consider a friend.
I want you to understand that if I say here that Sasha Fletcher is a friend, it doesn't mean that we've known each other a long time, or that we've hung out a lot. We met once, spoke for less than five minutes, and have exchanged a few dozen emails. But, without getting into a long discussion about the nature of friendship, I think that two people become friends not so much when they feel a direct kinship one to the other from having been around each other a lot, but, rather, when they come to understand friendship as a common love for something that lives outside them both. Friendship is something like being together in your love for something greater, something beyond.
When I feel like the writer of a book is a friend, it makes me feel like the writer is someone who I will have to answer to. Because the writer is someone who loves what I love, because the writer is someone who I feel I might look to and, in looking toward this person, I might be able to see beyond this person to find the something greater that I love, that we both love, I feel like in reading the writer's book I will have to answer to this thing that is greater than the two of us, this thing that we both love.
It isn't the writer I'm answering to. It's the thing that we both love better than ourselves, the thing we come together in friendship to contemplate. Call it literature in this case. Although calling it literature -- calling it anything at all-- is always going to be a shorthand that continuously calls forth its own need to be excavated.
If it's an idea of literature that I'm called upon to answer to in my reading of a friend's book, it isn't this alone that brings the fear I feel in approaching the book. What brings about the fear is being called upon to excavate this idea of literature in the presence of someone who I understand to also be called upon to enact this excavation.
It is the fear that my writer friend will fail to successfully excavate a compelling idea of literature and that I will have to bear witness to this failure.
Finally, in the end, it is the fear that I will fail. It is the fear that I will fail to access my friend's writing in a way that will allow me to successfully excavate a compelling idea of literature in the work I do here, in the words I assemble in my review of the book, in bearing witness.
It is this final fear that I face in reading a friend's book, and it is in facing this fear that I have come to realize some of my most deeply and profoundly felt reading experiences.
When I come to a book with a fear that the writer will fail, the fear manifests itself quite granularly. With every sentence I encounter as I enter into the book, I feel this fear, and I feel it in every cell of my body, like something carnal.
So it's hard for me to say whether the fear is solely a product of my relationship to the writer -- my relationship to the something greater that I perceive this writer to represent, that I perceive this writer to be friendly with -- or if some of the fear maybe comes from the character of some of the individual sentences themselves.
Certainly, as I read WHEN ALL OUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED, there were moments when I felt afraid because a particular sentence seemed doomed to lead inevitably to other sentences that would, I feared, inevitably have to fail. Even when I felt myself in the presence of an especially successful sentence -- perhaps especially in those moments -- I felt sure that subsequent sentences would have to fail.
So, when I say I feel fear as I read a book by a writer who I consider to be a friend it means that my feelings for the book are inextricably wrapped up in the roller coaster ride that is my fear as I enter each sentence, and my elation, or disappointment, as I ride out the book and realize that I've come to believe that the writer either has or has not failed me.
And if I say I feel the writer has not failed me, it can only mean that his love for the thing that is greater than both of us has been consummated, in the end, by the sentences he proffers.
I don't ever remember, as I was reading Sasha's book, feeling like Sasha had failed in the final sentence of any one of the short passages that make up his book. I believe that this is because Sasha made the final sentence at the end of each short passage in his book always feel as much like a new beginning as his beginning sentence – as much like a new beginning as every other sentence he set out before me, every single sentence he dared me to proclaim a failure throughout his entire book.
In the end, Sasha's book silenced me.
I tried to find a way to articulate this silence.
I tried to pick some sentences from the book to share with you, sentences that would make you feel the feeling of silence Sasha's book left me feeling.
But the sentences I picked to try to make you feel the feeling of silence Sasha's book left me feeling left me feeling the way I felt because of the sentences that came before.
And each sentence seemed to lead to the next sentence.
And each sentence seemed to follow from the sentence before.
And, yet, each sentence sat alone and made me ache with the silence Sasha put inside me in a way that stopped me from being able to quote a single sentence that might make you feel the way Sasha's book kept leaving me feeling.
However he did it, Sasha managed to take exceptionally beautiful single sentences and fool me into believing the one followed the other, so that quoting a single sentence seemed a robbery of sorts.
In the end, I won't wind up telling you what I set out to tell you when I set out to tell about Sasha Fletcher's book. What I told you in the beginning, as I set out to tell you about Sasha Fletcher's book, will look now, toward the end of our time together, like a lie; and what I tell you now, here at the end, will look like a lie when you look back at what I set out to tell you when I first set out to tell you what I set out to tell you about Sasha Fletcher's book.
Sasha's book is a lie. It's a lie because it makes sentences work on me in ways sentences should not be able to work on me. It's a lie because it makes me believe that sentences can do things they should not be able to do.
Sasha's book is a lie that makes me hurt in a way I like to be hurt. My writing here about Sasha's book is a way to prolong the hurt, to resurrect the hurt, to make the hurt come back alive and live in me for a little bit longer, because I don't want it to go away.