01 July 2006


Like any interesting novel, R.M. Berry’s FRANK is a multilayered work; but there’s one reading of it that I thought people on this list would really relate to. In case you haven’t read it yet, FRANK is a re(un)writing of Shelly’s FRANKENSTEIN. Berry stays faithful to Shelly’s plot though it’s all transposed to the present-day America, and the monster FRANK (Victor’s doppelganger in Berry’s book) is (and here you’ll see where I’m going)—HA!—an experimental novel. In this regard, the novel is an embodiment of a number of the worries, rants, pissing and moaning, that run through a lot of the NOW WHAT posts: a writer being unable to be less savvy about language than he or she is in order to write a book that is “pretty,” that the general public would find “attractive”; a novel creating the novelist as surely as the novelist creates the novel (or at least the work determining what kind of novelist/thinker/person its maker is); a novelist trying to run from his creation.

That is, once Victor’s created his monstrous collage of language, and the NY establishment, i.e., commercial houses, reviewers etc. see it for what it is—that most odious of creations (save possibly poetry), the novel with miniscule sales, Victor does his damnedest to distance himself from his creature. It follows him wherever he goes, though, insisting that he create a bride, a sequel, which Victor realizes would be the death of any chance he would ever have of being recognized as a “real” author by most of civilized society’s standards: appearances on Oprah, NYTBR ads, etc. Like I say, this is only one slice through a very funny and philosophical novel that takes up ideas of realist authors killing family members by turning them into characters in their thinly veiled memoir-novels; how a text can take on a life of its own once its brought into the world; how fictions have real-world consequences; author as artist vs. author as blacksmith of commercial product; an artists/author’s responsibility; an author-artists being responsible for what they write. This last point seems most apt given Joe Amato’s earlier points about critics not taking any responsibility for the ramifications of valorizing crap by making it the subject of their studies (a subject I’d love to see someone—Joe?—explore/develop). Lastly, did I mention how FUNNY this novel is?—especially if you get the “inside” experimental/Wittgenstein/Cavell jokes….