LITERATURE: April Fool’s Day

Just about finished with this, but wanted to write down some notes on both story and technique as well as content.

As I’ve said, Josip Novakovich’s style is crisp to the point of bluntness in bringing Ivan Dolinar from youth to middle age with many twists and turns along the way.  Horrors of war, an overall sense of fate and expectations of never achieving greatness all have been related in a very matter-of-fact manner, tinged with dark humor along the lines of "I’ve been down so long it looks like up to me."  Though Ivan has dreams, he is formed by both the old tradition ways of the Balkans and the wars that plague them through the years. 

Then I was surprised by a particularly poetic voice that took some time with the story and coincided with Ivan’s changes in life.  Further reading brought some slapstick sex into Ivan’s life, and then, in a dramatic turn of both voice and event, things are seen through Ivan’s eyes in a more philosophical and yet appreciatively real frame of mind when Ivan dies. 

Novakovich gives us an amazing journey through the process of death, from the moment Ivan is discovered by his wife unresponsive in his bed through his lonely peace as he lays in his grave.  Here we get more imagery and feeling of the character and his surroundings than we have ever been given before, even back to his childhood as his funeral cortege makes its way to the cemetary.  I would think that Novakovich is using the narrative voice to follow the mood and changes in Ivan’s life in a way I haven’t noticed in fiction before, except perhaps such as in McCarthy’s use of sentence structure, length and imagery to establish pace and drama.  Or maybe I’m just becoming more aware of techniques as I read.

Very interesting execution of a very unusual situation.  I’m thinking that this lends itself beautifully to a new media presentation, even if just to the traditional film event.

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5 Responses to LITERATURE: April Fool’s Day

  1. Mark says:

    Don’t get mad Susan but you deserve this:

    “I would think that Novakovich is using the narrative voice to follow the mood and changes in Ivan’s life in a way I haven’t noticed in fiction before.”


    Are you kidding or just happy Sunday with a wine cooler caught up the the sweeping emotion of your own cadence?

    Would you be similarly stunned by a descriptive voice over a dead body? Or an omniscient independent analysis of sweet death laid over with Balkan history and perhaps a girl with kleenex?

    You are good but I must call you to account on a post like this.

    A very unusual situation? Here is the unusual situation: Youth to middle age and expectations of never achieving greatness. Hold me back. Never happened before. Only to every living man walking this planet.

    I can’t speak to Novakovich’s “particularly poetic voice” except to wonder about the slapstick sex and questionable world view, if there was one.

    What exactly was the journey from the moment his wife found him dead through his lonely peace? Was it a long journey? Did he stub any toes?

    Hamlet imagery is nowhere to be found. In its place? Nothing.

    If you are speaking of Cormac McCarthy’s use of sentence structure, length and imagery to establish pace and drama as a technique you have never before seen, I think you might be typing too fast.

    Cliffs are lined with writers waiting to jump off for such particular distinction.

    Length and imagery is new?

    In what way is this person’s writing startlingly separative? How about Theodore Dreiser? Or go for exquisite length with Henry James? I could name Jane Austen too for style fine and polished except I don’t know what I’m defending even though I’ve read your post five times.

    You apparently found whatever you read evocative, and that’s good. But your analysis stands not up to sunshine.


    Mark dreading Monday

    In any case, the monopoly on narrative voice to express philosophical implications of being dead remains with Shakespeare.

  2. susan says:

    Mark, I’m obviously not expressing myself very well. In my literature postings, I tend to focus on writing techniques–none of which are new, except perhaps to me in that I am not as well-read nor was I as aware of style and technique in years of reading. Certainly, the stories aren’t new–there are only what, 37 basic plots? I read for the delight in the moment, and have no great desire to compare writers. My use of McCarthy comes from my recent readings, although he will most likely stay with me, much as you retain Austen as a favorite. I do not say I have never read before but rather that I have never been aware of certain values I am happy to discover in my reading of late.

    As these are neither academic essays nor legitimate reviews, I am lax in clarifying some of my ruminations. For example, by “unusual situation” I was referring to Ivan’s thoughts as he considers his life in relation to what is happening around him as he rides through town in his coffin. And no, I hadn’t read anything similar to this that I can recall. Perhaps my musings are of no interest to anyone but myself, but I wrote as an explorer, not an archaeologist.

  3. Mark says:

    Oh you are tremendously interesting. I blather from time to time.

  4. steve says:

    Is the question then about the aesthetics of rendering the process of death in fiction? The other possible examples off the top of my head would be the death of Jose Arcadio Buendia in One Hundred Years of Solitude and, of course, The Death of Ivan Illich.

    Susan, I’d love to see some examples of the narrative movement you draw from.

  5. susan says:

    Am doing so in a few more postings. Should have done this earlier as I read, but will suffer through the going back and researching for samplings to back up my observations. Jeez, and I thought I’d graduated! But then again, I should have used what I’ve learned.

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