Summer Reads: Scott Esposito on João Gilberto Noll and Henry Green

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We’re having a July Summer Sale, with up to 50% off all Two Lines Press titles and back issues of our journal for as low as $2.

Here, Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito discusses one of his favorite TLP titles, plus one of his best summer reads.

I’ve gotten fond of telling people that I read João Gilberto Noll’s Quiet Creature on the Corner at least three times before I felt I was beginning to get a handle on what was going on in the book. Which is a strange thing, because the book is barely 100 pages, and sentence-by-sentence the syntax isn’t too exotic, so I didn’t expect it to have quite such an easy time dislocating me.

I finally figured out that there are a few things going on here: first of all, although each individual sentence in Quiet Creature isn’t terribly challenging, the leaps that Noll makes from sentence to sentence can be huge. This is a book with a completely bizarre plot, strange time dilation effects, key moments hidden in innocuous clauses, and generally a lot of drama subsumed beneath placid surfaces. I had to read it once really fast just to get a sense of the shape of it, then a couple more times to add detail onto that framework.

By the time I’d gotten through it that third time, I knew this was a really remarkable little book. As I read it I kept thinking of César Aira, who has praised Noll as one of his favorite Brazilian authors. It definitely partakes in the exuberance and caprice and poeticism of Aira, but it’s also very distinct in its own way: particularly, Noll hits emotional notes you tend not to see in Aira (I frequently call him a “darker Aira”), and it’s clear that he’s after different results than the Argentine. Just what results Noll wants is something I’m not quite clear on yet. But right now I’m working through drafts of our upcoming Noll (Spring 2017), Atlantic Hotel, which is perhaps even stranger than Quiet Creature, and I’m trying to figure this out.

In addition to enjoying Noll, this summer I’ve been immersing myself in the glorious writing of Henry Green, which the good people at NYRB Classics will begin re-issuing this fall. Although Green’s name had long been familiar to me in the vague sort of way reserved for authors-I-mean-to-get-to like Patrick White or Muriel Spark, nothing ever made him seem like a must-read until I came across Tim Parks’s praise of him in his recent book, Where I’m Writing From. Parks has impeccable taste, and what he said about the strangeness of Green’s language completely sold me. Having now experienced Green for myself, I can say this he is truly a great and necessary writer. Start with Caught—about a British, World War II fire-fighter—I doubt it will be your last.

You can get Quiet Creature on the Corner, plus 9 other Two Lines Press titles, for up to 50% off in our July Summer Sale. See all the details here.

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