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Revelation Countdown.

Among the short fiction pieces of Cris Mazza's Revelation Countdown, my favorite is the very first story, "Guys with Trucks in Texas and California," despite the fact that its (mock) macho style and its subject matter appealed neither to the feminist nor to the small-car driver that this reviewer is. But Mazza knows how to end a story, and the closure of "Guys with Trucks" would make guys with trucks cry-and women with small cars laugh. Dry and dehumanized, the author's style in this collection demands the reader's willingness to be stung by coldness, by indifference. A teller of malaise, of fin-de-siecle, Mazza takes us places where regular human interaction is suspended, and identity deleted. On the road, between signs, in motels, in the midst of brief sexual encounters and alienating intimacies, she drives one absolutely nowhere. Whoever travels the highways of the U.S. is aware of the feeling of erasure one feels at the sight of road signs, redundancies of chain restaurants and filling stations that will be found again some miles later.

Soon, one realizes that the road, the cars, the trucks, the anonymous motel rooms, the aggressive repetition of signs, constitute for Mazza a metaphor for atrocious dismissals. Dismissed, individuality. Dismissed, emotions. Dismissed, femininity. Dismissed, sensuality. Dismissed, humanity. In the reflection that she forces upon the reader, in her Hopper-like bareness and loneliness, in her revolt against nothingness, Mazza gives a handshake to modernism. The technique of her last story, "Between Signs," brings to mind Dos Passos's newsreels. Her anger against the abortion of dreams, the canceling of wondrous landscapes, and the murder of childhood and love, manifest themselves through an ecriture that erases itself. And while the collection - which does not, like Camus's Stranger, ask for screams of hatred (anything but indifference) - shows quality rather than greatness, it is nevertheless radically original and an important piece for the literary road it decides to rediscover. The stream of the source is heard, not found, leaving one thirsty, and like Mazza, wanting and greedy and never satisfied.

But what leaves one even more wanting is Mark Amerika's novel, The Kafka Chronicles. (With all the insistence the book has in changing cs into ks, why not call the book The Kafka Kronikles?) Part narrative, part journal entry, part poetry, part pornographic amusement (an insidious message to the NEA, I'd say), part political statement, part improv (incidentally, is the improvisation of the whole book more collective than individual?), the volume seems written by (a) highly intelligent person(s) in search of a new aesthetic, a new identity, with a modem insistence on reassembling the dismembered parts of postmodernism. But more than postmodern, the book is a truly Dada piece, a piece which, through its twisting and torture of language, through its musical dissonance and brassbound belief that meaning has definitely gone from words, wonders where it should go from there. While the Dada wonderment and playfulness can be legitimate, Mark Amerika's (I wish I had a photo of this Mr. Amerika) collage looks more like the works of critics having fun and trying to justify their raison d'etre through the now-comfortable, with slippers and pipe (and a fair lady having left to do some writing of her own), manipulation of deconstructionism. (Derrida, by the way, when read in the text, is no babbler, as English translations seem to suggest.)

Recent European revolutions, tragedies in Yugoslavia and in Somalia, the Gulf war, Native Americans, Latinos, the rebirth of black persecution, the environment, the rising voice of women, AIDS, have filled language to the rim and beyond with meaning. It is time to reclaim it, not on the rocks, not as a cocktail, but straight. It is time to let words breathe beyond artificiality and recover their sensuality, to let them, if they want, carry the baggage of postmodern experimentation, but only to unify it with the language of our artistic ancestors. It is time to treat them with respect.

In many ways, postmodernism, despite its frequent political correctness, was an elitist, masturbatory movement aimed at intellectuals only. Because it was dismissive of the public, it led to claustrophobia. Pablo Neruda, who combined experimentation with lyricism, said, "Definitions, labels, have never interested me. Aesthetic discussions bore me to death. I do not dismiss the ones that sustain them but . . . literature paraphernalia, with all of its merits, must not substitute for naked creation" (in Confieso que he vivido - Memorias [translation mine]). The poet was read and heard and loved by millions, among them factory workers. He chose sincerity over intellectual pose; his intellect was the servant of his truth. Writers who try a path that the Chilean Nobel Prize walked with splendor will find pain on the way, but only from pain can greatness arise. Pain is the source, the synonym of writing. Cris Mazza is searching for it; so should Amerika. There is talent to recycle there.
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Author:Fortis, Marie-Jose
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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Next Article:The Kafka Chronicles.

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