Item description for Text: Ur by Brian Evenson Forrest Aguirre...
A beautifully surreal masquerade. World Fantasy Award Winning editor Forrest Aguirre brings you fantastical fiction from the most imaginative minds of our time. Contributors to this hallucinogenic spectacle include Brian Evenson, recipient of an O. Henry Prize and an NEA fellowship along with Lance Olsen, a Philip K. Dick Award finalist and Associate Editor at American Book Review. This anthology also features Rikki Ducornet who has had an L.A. Times Book of the Year has been a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award and Terese Svoboda whose first novel was one of SPIN's ten best novels of 1994 and recently received an O. Henry Prize.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.9" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.7" Weight: 0.75 lbs.
Release Date Mar 1, 2007
Publisher Raw Dog Screaming Press
ISBN 193329339X ISBN13 9781933293394
Availability 148 units. Availability accurate as of Jan 24, 2017 04:27.
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Forrest Aguirre is a World Fantasy Award-winning editor (shared with Jeff VanderMeer for co-editing Leviathan 3) and writer (his short fiction was recently collected in Fugue XXIX), so he must know what he is doing. But who is the target audience for Text: UR -- The New Book of Masks? Is there a theme, other than inscrutability? Is there an intent, other than strangeness? An introduction from the editor would have been very welcome in this regard.
I've read surrealism, and I've read bizarro works, but I've never read anything like the stories in Text: UR -- The New Book of Masks (the first in a projected series of Text: UR anthologies). But there must be a market for this level of articulate experimental fantasy fiction.
I have to give Carrie Ann Baade credit for setting the tone of Text: UR (which I assume is pronounced like texture) with her bewildering take on the "mother with child" portrait. Each story threw over my expectations, but not always positively: Nadia Gregor's "Faure, Envenomed, Dictates" stopped right when the title finally made sense and the story seemed about to truly start. And Rikki Ducornet's "The Scouring" is less a story than the setup for a story.
There are others either too confusing or unaffecting to mention by name, though most of the stories in Text: UR are difficult but worthwhile reads. There were only two I didn't even bother to finish. After several pages into one, I was not interested in what was happening. And I didn't get very far into the other because the writer's punctuation choice was so distracting I was unable to concentrate on the story.
A handful of the tales in this New Book of Masks are worthy of singling out, however. The first one to really impress me was "The Avatar of Background Noise" by Toiya Kristen Finley. On the surface, it appears to be about the search for Jasmine Waters, a famous writer whose favorite subject for discourse was the collected works of ... Toiya Kristen Finley! If that weren't confusing enough, Finley also sets this story in an alternate realm with different linguistic rules, and includes interesting (but only mildly helpful) selections from Waters's journal, ending up with a compelling piece of metafiction that, while overlong, remains thought-provoking throughout.
"The Fifth Tale: When the Devil Met Baldrick Beckenbauer" just goes to show that, no matter how many times the old "footnotes take over the story" gag is used (a much older tradition than it would seem), it can still provide dependable entertainment when executed with style, confidence, and imagination as Tom Miller does. The story runs ten pages, less than half of which are actual story (an original folktale, its own admirable feat), and the rest of which are layered footnotes (think House of Leaves as written by Frank Sullivan). In "The Theater Spectacular," Catherine Kasper contrasts a theater devoted to the recapturing of childhood fantasy with the nearby Diorama Alley, whose specialty is the depiction of past realities. This plotless description is nonetheless compelling, as Kasper makes each place exist fully in the reader's mind, and offers an insightful look at the nature of humanity.
It is a good thing I read The Epic of Gilgamesh the week before I picked up Text: UR -- The New Book of Masks, or I would have had no clue what Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold were attempting with "Incipit." Their expansionist retelling is impressive but is unlikely to reach its potential with readers unfamiliar with the world's oldest known story. Lance Olsen's "Six Questions for an Alien" handles the question of is there life out there? in an allegorical and frightening manner. Though some of Olsen's more insightful points are blunted by their lack of subtlety, a decisive ending redeems the story.
But towering over them all is Brian Evenson's spiraling study of identity and memory, "Fugue-State." It is by far the most evocative, engrossing, and involving tale in The New Book of Masks. Evenson made me identify with a character I have nothing in common with, and wonderfully befuddled me with every layer he added. In an anthology containing a few really good stories, this is the great one.
Aguirre has done an admirable job of assembling authors and stories that have few fellows in the current marketplace. This will lead readers to love or hate the selections he has made, but this matters little, since Text: UR -- The New Book of Masks is not for a general reading audience. To reiterate, then: who is it for? It is ostensibly for readers who feel that such famously off-the-wall writers as Mark Danielewski, David Foster Wallace, Kurt Vonnegut, and Anthony Burgess are simply too mainstream. And maybe that's you.
Text:Ur - The New Book of Masks Feb 18, 2007
Forrest Aguirre, ed. Text:UR - The New Book of Masks. Hyattsville: Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2007. Hardcover. ISBN 1933293209.
Featuring such award winning writers as Brian Evenson, Lance Olsen, Rikki Ducornet, and Terese Svoboda, Forrest Aguirre's anthology Text:Ur - The New Book of Masks includes both experimental and more traditional fiction, all of which is imaginative, quirky, and wonderfully surreal. Short stories and flash fiction in this anthology depict such diverse subjects as the strange worlds that lurk within libraries, children built from parchment and twigs, and evil dictators. These pieces are similar in their match-up of form and content, often using the shape of the narrative, sentence structure, and other formal devices to convey the story to readers.
Toiya Kristen Finley's "The Avatar of Background Noise," which portrays the libraries of people's thoughts and daydreams as well as the scholars who research there, exemplifies this match-up of form and content. Told from the point of view of one of these scholars, Endnoter, the narrative is often interrupted by pages from the manuscripts of the author's thoughts and musings, simultaneously explaining and complicating the main story. For example, as Endnoter and his crew sift through the thoughts of an author who is writing fantasy novels, the narrative is interrupted by one of her thoughts: "Fantasy novels set in Ratasharia sell very well, and now I'm going to be writing a ton of them. They will `mimic reality'" (35). The narrative itself is set in Ratasharia and mimics the reality of university scholars. Notes like this one create ironic twists to Finley's story. Other stories (e.g. Tom Miller's "The Fifth Tale: When the Devil Met Baldrick Beckenbauer" and Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold's "Incipit") use similar formal devices, such as footnotes and text boxes, to augment their stories. Each writer gracefully weaves together multiple strands of narrative.
The collection is self-consciously experimental, but it also features more traditional work. Nadia Gregor's "Faure, Envenomed, Dictates," for instance, is the tale of an attempted assassination of an evil dictator that employs other formal devices, like sentence structure and repetition, to create a narrative style that mirrors the content of the story. Constructed mainly of declarative sentences, the narrator's tone is formal, reflecting the order and militarism of the dictatorship that he describes. The repetition of character names and the absence of contractions add to this staunch, military quality, which contrasts nicely with the story's humor.
Text:Ur is diverse, fun, and well-crafted. A rich introduction to these innovative authors, it is filled with inventive, audacious, and intelligent work. Anyone looking for a compilation of high-quality fiction will enjoy this book.