Finished Marcel Benabou’s Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books. Read My Life In Heavy Metal by Steve Almond. Began Room by Emma Donoghue and Moby Dick by, you know, Herman Melville.

Didn’t get much from Benabou’s book. There were many sections that were conceptually interesting, but the overblow, baroque style jarred with me.

Take this sentence: “Thus, I drafted without too much trouble, and sometimes even with intense jubilation, a great quantity of first pages: were someone to take an interest in them one day, that person would create an anthology that might not be lacking savor.” It could be rewritten as “I wrote many first pages, some of which had merit,” without shifting the meaning too much. It could be that Benabou is trying to parody ornate prose, but I’m not sure that’s what he was going for.

Another possibility (and this is possible for most Oulipan work) is that the piece operates under a constraint I don’t understand. However, many of the constraints and generative techniques in Perec’s Life A User’s Manual are not readily apparent, but served the novel well. For example, his lists of items provide characterization as well as introducing dramatic weight into the story — these are characters whose stories are told partly through the accumulation of objects.

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