Travel Notes (from here—to there) by Stanley Crawford

Calamari Press has recently reissued the long-out-of-print Travel Notes (from here—to there) by Stanley Crawford (whom you might recognize as the author of the Log of the S.S. the Mrs Unguentine).

The LARB has a nice review of this book that doubles as an overview on Crawford:

STANLEY CRAWFORD’S CAREER has been as strange and surreal as many of his novels. As a young writer in the 1960s, published by such powerhouses as Simon & Schuster and Knopf, Crawford found that the all-powerful New York Times book section of the day met his books with both acclaim and perplexity. The paper of record described his first novel, Gascoyne (1966; reissued by Overlook Press in 2005) as a “a satiric phantasmagoria” and pronounced it “wonderful.” Richard Lester planned to film this absurdist story of a man controlling a Los Angeles-like city from the confines of his car. Two years later Crawford published Some Instructions to My Wife, in which another insanely controlling narrator laid out detailed instructions for how his house was to be run and his children raised.

Writing in The New York Times, the novelist Stanley Elkin was not amused by Travel Notes, finding its absurdist humor and non-sequiturs to be “arbitrary” instead of inventive. Crawford eventually moved to New Mexico to run a garlic farm (about which he wrote two memoirs), while continuing to publish and to see some of his earlier work re-published, all the while quietly building a kind-of cult following in the next generation.

In 2008, for instance, Dalkey Archive Press reissued Crawford’s Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine with an introduction by Ben Marcus. Marcus asserts that in 1972, the year of the book’s publication . . .

And a piece on the book in Full-Stop:

These strategies, of course, are designed to capture the disorientation of all foreign travel, the destabilizing, often hilarious, experience of being in a place where language, simple customs, politics, even love, operate according to laws you’re not privy to. For Crawford’s narrator, travel’s one consistent law is that the tourist must constantly play catch up. Foreign objects stay so alien to him they’re literally protean, capable even of shapeshifting mid-sentence:

Then I discovered a telephone behind the desk (cemetery, rather) and was going to call for — help, I suppose, in spite of the language difficulty — when the telephone receiver began to melt in my hand, melt, I repeat — for it was made out of a very flavorful chocolate.

Many of these images, such as one scene where the narrator finds himself in a totally silent city waiting in a line that leads to the front of a firing squad, resonate with a signature haunting energy. But if the fluctuating landscapes and hallucinatory palpitations were meant solely to show us that traveling is weird, Travel Notes would be a fairly simple book. And it’s not. In Crawford’s seemingly haywire progression, we stumble across hints of tiny patterns, recurrent images — doubles, objects taken apart and reassembled, bureaucrats seated at isolated desks, The Païnted Wōman. Just enough to tempt us to connect them, though it’s impossible to know how. We also catch glimpses of possible historical references — an uprising in the first section plays out like an absurdist account (complete with a cherry pie assassination) of the 1967 military coup in Greece, which occurred while Crawford was living on Crete.

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Stanley Fish Calls It Quits In my wholly subjective and ill-informed opinion, it strikes me that this demonstrates why someone like Stanley Fish was not a great critic, whereas someone...
  2. Strange Travel Books An interesting post over at The Millions on travel books to fake places. More of a fake atlas than a fake travel book, The Dictionary...
  3. Kim Stanley Robinson An author who is new to me. Kim Stanley Robinson is best known as a novelist of scale, a creator of complex futures and universes...
  4. George Anderson Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time Heady praise at HTMLGIANT for George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time and Peter Dimock in general. But leaving aside the novel’s...
  5. Newest Review At TQC: Notes On Susan Sontag By Phillip Lopate Monica McFawn reviews an interesting addition to the collection of Sontag scholarship: Lopate is a writer of personal essays, and Notes on Sontag is, among...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Shop though these links = Support this site

Copyright © 2015. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.