Sunday, September 17, 2006

Noah Cicero: The Condemned

Reviewed by: Tao Lin

Tao Lin acknowledges he personally knows Noah Cicero. In fact, Noah has reviewed one of Tao's books on this site.

Noah Cicero's The Condemned uses clear, concrete, and concise sentences. The advantage of direct and concrete sentences is that no one feels stupid. Give Noah's book to anyone walking on the street and they'll read it and understand what is happening. When I read it I read one sentence and understand. Then read the next, and so on. Sometimes I laugh. I feel different emotions continuously while reading, instead of feeling no emotions and being removed from the reality of human beings, which is what most books do to me. Noah writes:

I try to make friends.
But I never can.
I can't handle people.
They never stop lying.
I can't think anymore.

Noah doesn't create something from nothing. He understands reality as it is, without preconception or delusions. He doesn't use abstractions. When you use an abstraction you yourself are defining that word or best, better, for example which by itself has no meaning, then forcing that definition onto the reader. Therefore you are saying that in your relationship with the reader you are GOD and the reader is a HAMSTER or something. A dirty hamster. And that's what the reader feels like (or what the reader will feel like if he or she has low self-esteem, does not know how to think for him or herself, or has been raised to believe in things like higher-education, authority, going to college, getting a degree, wearing suits, which is most of the population) if they read something with indirect, abstract language, where the meaning is not clear most of the time because the meaning is not clear to the writer him or herself (which is okay if the writer is sarcastic or self-conscious about it, and lets the reader know that him or herself is confused, which Noah will do sometimes; like if he uses a cliche "belly of the beast” he will bring attention to the meaninglessness of the cliche.)

Here is a random excerpt from something on elimae:

Keep it up with olive
oil soap, just like Sophia

Loren, they call
from their chipped sea

tile stoops, their emblematic
brooms like spears piercing

Some people will read that and feel smart and think, I must be smart to understand that. Some people will read it and think, I must be too stupid to understand that. Most people walking on the street will read it and think, I'm too stupid to understand that, which makes them feel retarded and inferior, which sets them up to be exploited by someone else, because lowering someone's self-esteem and making them feel like an ant is the first step to oppressing them, after which you use them as means to your ends.

Meaningless, abstract, indirect language causes and perpetuates racism, sexism, genocide, war, injustice, etc. and takes away responsibility from actions by way of muddling the links between actions (cause) and effects (Just look at the language of all oppressive governments ever.) But if you ask a Thomas Pynchon reader who is trained by reading Thomas Pynchon, in a way, to be more unconcise and meaningless in his everyday language if they are against oppression they will all say, Yes. I'm a liberal.

With Noah's writing no one will think, I must be too stupid to understand that. Therefore Noah is not contributing to the shit, pain, and suffering of the world.

The more dilute the language is in terms of meaning the more shit, pain, and suffering will exist in the world, because the more meaningless and indirect the sentence is the less people will be able to comprehend the message, which in addition to making some people feeling stupid makes it harder for people to make choices and act based on the truth. For example, if you know that buying Coke causes suffering in the world, and it is proven to you, then you probably will stop buying Coke, in the same way that you won't just punch a homeless person in the face randomly. Direct, factual language can prove that, can link the action to the consequence. But indirect, abstract, and unconcise language does the opposite; it can be used by the Coca-cola corporation to hide facts and muddle the link (you can extrapolate this to everything; government, tobacco, relationships, etc.)

Here is another excerpt from Noah's book:

In a small rented house.
Kathy sits on her couch.
Eight months pregnant.
She bends over.
Using a rolled up dollar she sniffs a line of coke off the coffee table.

You can't delete any of those words. Noah used the least amount of words
possible to convey the information in his head. He was concise. This is compassionate of Noah. When you use more words than it takes it's nalogous to going up to someone you don't know and saying, I'm going to start talking for a while about things that don't mean anything. You're going to listen. Then standing there talking. That's what it's like when you write a 1000 page book.

Look at Thomas Pynchon. Have you ever met a humble, or unpretentious
person who reads Thomas Pynchon? Have you ever heard someone say something about Thomas Pynchon's writing like, I was depressed and alone, then I read Thomas Pynchon and felt good about life, or, I read Thomas Pynchon and then gave away my Hummer, sold my horn-rimmed glasses, and gave all my money to a homeless person?

Besides language there is also tone. Noah's tone is consistent with his language in terms of its effect on the reader. (Mostly consistent. I'm not sure about some of the things, like when Noah starts attacking religion and things like that. Though I guess that's still consistent, because he's attacking specific things that cause pain and suffering.) For tone the equivalent of meaningless, abstract language is confidence, authority, and excluding information if it shows weakness; while the equivalent of direct, concrete language is self-doubt, admitting weakness, admitting confusion, and being honest. Noah does this:

It was hard finding free internet porn that would get me off back in the late nineties. It wasn't like it is today.

But I always persevered.

If it took two hours on my knees in front of the computer, I would do it.


You just sit on your ass staring at your living room.

Looking at what little you have.

I didn't talk much about the subject matter of the book. That is okay. I talked about style. Subject matter maybe does not affect the reader's view of the world as much as style does. If the reader is racist, thinks in preconceptions, and is unable to think concretely, they will interpret all situations with that worldview. They will read a book about strippers and say something cliched and meaningless. They will read a book about trees and say something cliched and meaningless. They will write a book about Buddhism or strippers or Iraq and they'll all have that same deluded, preconceptive point of view. The underlying thing is the worldview. How you interpret things. And this is conveyed through style. You can tell what kind of a person a person is by looking at their style, not their subject matter. And if you convey your worldview through your style you might be able to change a person's way of seeing the world. Maybe. I don't know. If you write factually, directly, and honestly on any subject matter, the consequences of that subject matter will become clear and the reader will be able to act accordingly.

The person who writes without excluding information will, through his style, come to include all subject matter in his books or at least all subject matter that the characters in his books would encounter. Style dictates subject matter to some degree. Because I think style, or worldview, is the underlying thing and so it influences everything. Style is to personality as subject matter is to situation, is what I'm saying.

In conclusion, Noah's book is a good book if you define bad as “Pain and suffering. Noah is a stylist like Hemingway is a stylist. But Noah and
Hemingway's style is dictated by rules that actually reduce pain and suffering in the world, by way of being direct, honest, concrete, concise, and factual.

[Blog person note: me, I'm kinda a socialist anarchist. I'm an agnostic ('cause I'm chicken enough to hedge my bets). At times even a Liberal. I believe content is as important as style. Maybe more important. Actually, it is more important! But I also believe there is room for everything. Especially on an underground review blog. If not here, where? I hope this review stirs debate, or the bait, or baits you, or at least a phone call from Norman Bates.]

1 comment:

Jonny Ross said...

Good review. I wish all reviews were as clear as this one. More focus on the subject of the book would be nice, but at least now I feel like I have an understanding of the writer's intention and approach before picking up the book -- which will only enhance my reading experience, I think. Nice.

The World Is Ours--and Yours!

eXTReMe Tracker