Welcome to Obstructive Fictions, a newsletter about reading. It will be published haphazardly, as time and enthusiasm allow.
Why obstructive? I’m interested in fiction that frustrates interpretive certainty.
The Australian novelist Gerald Murnane differentiates between “film-script fiction,” which relates what happened, and “meditative fiction,” which relates what it is to know what happened. Obstructive fiction — Markus Werner’s “Zündel’s Exit,” Hilda Hilst’s “The Obscene Madame D,” Witold Gombrowicz’s “Cosmos” — relates what it is to not know what happened, the “what happened” having been challenged, or made irrelevant, by the fiction itself.
Obstructive fiction is ambiguous and frequently digressive. It resists summary. It forestalls the bingeing urge. It exults in the freedom afforded by fiction generally, and the novel more specifically.
I’ll use this newsletter to write about my favorite obstructive fictions, alongside reading lists, interviews, thoughts on forthcoming books, and more. If this sounds like your idea of a good time, I hope you’ll consider subscribing.
Outside of Obstructive Fictions, I write for The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, and many other publications.