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French author Gailly's fourth novel, Dring is, after his second novel K.622, his best. Like Austrian author Thomas Bernhard and American author Gordon Lish, Gailly is interested in using repetition of syntax and vocabulary to transform literature into a menacing music of sorts, permutating language into something more than a mere conveyor of meaning. The result is mesmerizing, hypnotic, and often startling.

Paul Asker, the main character, lives a life of stasis, listening to classical music, moving from one armchair to the other through the course of the day, watching through a gap in his garden hedge the legs of his neighbor Mrs. Dumb come and go to and from the mailbox. When a package Mrs. Dumb is expecting is delivered to Asker, it leads to the puncturing of the solitary environment he has built around himself, to an encounter with Mrs. Dumb with promises of a somewhat awkward and disheartening seduction. They arrange to take the garbage out to the curb at the same time and thus to meet again, but are surprised by Mr. Dumb. The next day Mrs. Dumb is discovered dead, naked, her legs sticking out of the garbage can. Asker begins to realize that the simple act of answering the doorbell and accepting the package (the title imitates the sound a French doorbell makes) has disrupted his world and is inexorably leading to his own destruction.

Gailly provides a balance between slapstick humor and cruelty. His characters are inflamed by their desires but at the same time disgusted by themselves and those they desire. They act at times more like animals than like humans, minimizing the gap between violence and desire. But other times their actions and reactions are so extreme as to make them as comic as Keystone Kops. The dialogue is simple and clipped, humorous in its revelation of how people avoid communicating. Gailly's world is one in which people cannot meet as equals, where every relationship is a matter of seizing power and using the other person. A cruel world indeed, but one softened by a faint smile behind the action, which makes us, though horrified, chuckle.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Author:Evenson, Brian
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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