Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why is this a book?

I'm mildly obsessed with Consumed, a new novel by David Cronenberg. I haven't actually read it yet — I'm still hoping someone will think to buy it for me for my birthday next month — but I'm reading every review I can find.

I'm not even that big of a Cronenberg fan (excepting Naked Lunch, which is one of my favourite films ever). I just feel compelled to watch his films, and now read his novel, even though I fully expect it to be an unpleasant experience.

According to Jason Sheehan on NPR (In Cronenberg's 'Consumed,' An Appetite For Sex, Death And The Latest Gear):
Here's everything you need to know about Consumed in one sentence: This is a book that is unmistakably written by David Cronenberg.

Not so much the newer, grayer Cronenberg either. Not Eastern Promises Cronenberg or A History Of Violence Cronenberg. No, this is something that feels more like the young, perverse, freakishly laser-beam-obsessive and deeply, deeply strange Cronenberg.
But what I desperately want to know, and which no reviews that I've found address, is, why is this book? Did this need to be a book? Is it better as a book than it would be as a movie? What is it about the narrative that makes it better suited to this medium?

David Cronenberg’s consuming obsession, by Geoff Pevere in Quill & Quire:
"I really wanted to become an obscure novelist."

And I come to understand that Cronenberg's influences are more literary than filmic, which may explain my interest in him.

What Cronenberg says
Virtual Reality, Corporeality Collide In Cronenberg's First Novel, NPR:
"I always thought I'd be a novelist. I never thought I'd be a filmmaker."

Flavorwire Interview: David Cronenberg on Body Horror, Dick Pics, and His First Novel, Consumed:
"Movies, in some way, are very restrictive — compared to what you can do in a novel."

It came from within, The National Post:
"Seduction of the reader is definitely where it’s at. In a novel it’s much more intimate, because you can be in the interior of these characters."

About the book
David Cronenberg’s debut novel, Consumed, is one of the strangest books you’ll encounter all year, by Pasha Malla in the Globe and Mail:
It’s really, really weird.

All Atwitter, by Jonathan Lethem in The New York Times:
The book presents a locked-room mystery of sorts: Can it be possible that a woman said to be dying of cancer, and whose philosopher-cannibal-husband left a record of her ­dismemberment, is still alive? Or was she a consensual accomplice to her own murder? This core plot is elaborated in a highly traditional (and satisfying) way: twin investigations, apparently unrelated, which gradually entwine. Amateur detectives who become complicit — and, of course, involved sexually — with their suspects.
These passages are typical of the book's descriptive exactitude and flatness, its use of banal signifiers like "GarageBand," and the constant germane ­citations of psychoanalytic or philosophical brands. The book seems to desublimate itself for you: No sooner does the reader think, "This is like the case of Louis Althusser's murder of his wife," than some character makes the comparison for you. The result is provocatively comic, and surreal in the manner of a Max Ernst collage.

The Strange and the Familiar: David Cronenberg's Consumed, by Karin L Kross at
So much of it exactly what you would expect from him — especially if your ideas of his films are shaped largely by his earlier work; pre-M. Butterfly, to put an arbitrary stake in the ground — that you occasionally wonder if he's not deliberately sending himself up.

[...] In its energy and content, Consumed feels like a younger man's work — specifically, a younger David Cronenberg's, though with the confidence of someone who has been telling stories for decades.

Body horror and techno lust in director's debut novel, by Steven Poole in The Guardian:
The 21st century's version of the hall of mirrors is the infinite regress of embedded recording devices. Naomi and Nathan are always stealthily recording their conversations with other characters by means of some hidden app on a MacBook Air or iPhone, when they are not overtly putting obscenely expensive Swiss voice recorders on glass coffee tables. Cronenberg's fiction is one of omnipresent multimedia surveillance and retention, though we never witness the heroes performing the subsquent grunt work of transcription and editing. Perhaps deliberately, because a major plot question becomes what one can trust of electronic recording, and what was only cleverly fabricated using Photoshop or its video equivalents.


David Cronenberg becomes novelist; other directors decide to pull a Cronenberg, by Mark Krotov at MobyLives:
A connoisseur of violence, brutality, and grotesquerie — all of which are banned in Canada, where he was born — David Cronenberg has been making dark and weird masterpieces since the late 1960s. And while he has directed films based on novels — including such conventional, mainstream, user-friendly books as William Burroughs's Naked Lunch, J.G. Ballard's Crash, and Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis — he had never actually written one himself until Consumed.

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