Friday, September 17, 2010

Double or Nothing - A Novel of Failed Expectations

At first, I actually enjoyed Double or Nothing, because enjoyed the extreme stream-of-consciousness narration, because I liked the extra step of having the style and layout of the words on the page match the way in which thoughts seem to "pop up" in one's mind. (Traditional stream-of-consciousness writing tends to be in the form of run-on sentences in long paragraphs, but in examining my own thoughts, I would say that there's more fragmentation/empty space between them than what those solid blocks of text portray.)

As I got further into the book, though, the novelty started to wear off, and I was frustrated that, apart from this interesting style, there seemed to be no substance to the text. Our discussion about the idea of “surfiction” was useful in trying to grapple with what Federman was actually attempting to present – yet, in the end, I don’t think this book achieves the lofty goals he’s laid out. On page 14 of his “Surfiction” critical article, Federman says that, in the future, “the reader will be the one who extracts, invents, creates a meaning and an order for the people in the fiction. And it is this total participation in the creation which will give the reader a sense of having created a meaning and not having simply received, passively, a neatly prearranged meaning.”

I like the sound of this goal. It is true that there is a beauty to everyday life, and that its examination can yield valuable ideas, so Federman individualizing interpretation by shifting the brunt of the interpretive work to the reader (as opposed to the author) seems to me to be, in general, valid (yet not in every work – I think there’s still a lot of value in entering into and learning from a world that an author chooses to portray). But Double or Nothing is ridiculously unrealistic. For the vast majority of the book, I was totally unable to relate to the narrator(s), and so, upon finishing it, I have no idea where to even begin to “extract” or “invent” or “create a meaning.” Overall, I do see a value in what Federman is proposing fiction could be – yet I don’t think his actual attempt at fiction lived up to his standard.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. my joke in the post was submitted as html. I'll use brackets this time.

    What needed to be done for you to relate to any of the narrators?

    I can see some relation in the procrastination of the narrator(s). Here are characters who struggle on trivial matters which then prevent them from continuing and finishing their initial task.
    i.e. writing a novel

    [opens itunes. checks cell phone. scrolls through artist list. plays album. goes to kitchen for a glass of v8 fusion-the pomegranate/blueberry is amazing. checks cell phone. changes playlist]

    where was I? yes, distractions and procrastination. I find this to be fair relation.

    I also enjoyed the idea behind how our non and fictional life stories are told. Even if unintentional we are always changing our stories. parts are omitted. parts are exaggerated. and sometimes parts are linked to other stories which have no relation to the initial story.

    Then of course is the ending which never ends. This could be an infinite loop novel or at least a novel that will continue another 6 times(until this narrator runs out of money)... no matter how many times this story will run, it is either funny or frustrating to know that this novel in the novel will never be written.

    does this change your look on the book or still a thumbs down?