Recently, I (re-)read an excellent book. It’s called “Rohstoff” (=crude material, raw material) and was written by Jörg Fauser. As far as I know, this book has no English translation, which is a shame but what can you do! For a very brief and precise biography of Jörg Fauser see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B6rg_Fauser This is spot-on and I’m sure Jörg would have liked such a biography.
Anyways, the reason why I mention “Rohstoff”, this truly outstanding book, is its beat. Its style. It’s written in a very precise and floating language. It makes for an extraordinarily entertaining read and is sad, dark, and suprisingly funny at the same time. Often I find “sad” books the funniest ones and sad authors to write the best jokes.
But I’m distracted. The real reason why I mention this mind-blowing book is… its mentioning of another book I’m reading at the moment: “Under the volcano” by Malcolm Lowry. In “Rohstoff” Harry Gelb – the protagonist of the book – recommends “Under the volcano” to his friend Fritz – a chronic alocoholic. Months later, after they had lost sight of each other, Harry stumbles upon Fritz during one of his shifts as a night guard. Fritz tells Harry he had read “Under the volcano” and it was a life-changer. Indeed, after reading the book, Fritz stops drinking and decides to go to Mexico, the setting of “Under the volcano”.
(This one of the rare instances where Actor Network Theory makes sense… and stuff – like books – actually possesses agency.)
Always when I find references in books to other books and writers, I ask myself what we didn’t find (or what was NOT selected; or yet in other words: what was left out). What didn’t we find in the books that filled us with joy and sadness and contained references to other books (we probably didn’t even know)? What we didn’t find in the books were the stories of ourselves. What we didn’t find in these books pointing to other books, either, were the books themselves. I have never seen a book referencing and containing itself (except for books saying “This book” but that’s of course yet another story).
Is this even possible? Can referencing itself be a story? Yes, but it has to be very convincing. Imagine Harry Gelb recommending the book “Rohstoff” – that he himself is the protagonist of – to his friend Fritz. In the course of reading the story, Fritz would become self-aware. That is, he would have noticed that he is an (not so central) actor in this novel. It’s like seeing a video that you are part of. Such a book – possibly also containing references to other books that might even contain other versions of your story (we are not even aware of) – could really be a life-changer. According to my proposition, such a book would rule. So, what we didn’t find in the books we read was this self-encapsulating.
Can literature and storytelling self-revolutionize itself by providing us with what we didn’t find yet? Can we be provided with our own stories that shape and change our lives? Maybe. I’m rather optimistic in these regards. Leaving traces and documenting our lives within the digital realm, a clever algorithmic writer could some day potentially create something truly novel and intertwine us in what we didn’t find.