diegeses: noun, pl. di·e·ge·ses [dahy-uh-jee-seez]
1. the telling of a story by a narrator who summarizes events in the plot and comments on the conversations, thoughts, etc., of the characters.
2. the sphere or world in which these narrated events and other elements occur.
“What the…?” is probably the first thing most people will say to themselves while reading Diegeses by D. Harlan Wilson. It’s the first book published by Anti-Oedipus Press and is currently only available as an e-book, with a paperback version scheduled to come out sometime in the summer of 2013. This is also my first introduction to Wilson’s work, so I had no previous experience on which to found expectations. What I got was a violent, surreal bizarro novella that’s probably going to stick with me for a while.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part, “The Bureau of Me,” follows Mr. Curd…er, sorry, that’s just Curd, as he is invited to a mysterious group called the Bureau of Me. What is the titular bureau? Well, even if I didn’t want to spoil it, I’m not entirely sure that I could tell you. Curd himself seems to be a drunk violence magnet. Weird happenings and violent attacks are drawn to him. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if everything is just going on inside his head, although my opinion is that it’s not. I’ll go into that a little more later.
The second part, “The Idaho Reality,” still involves Curd, but he’s not necessarily the center of the story anymore. Or is he? Okay, not really. It follows the production of a hyper-violent and pornographic futuristic soap opera, of which Curd is a part. Is he a character or one of the actors? Again, it’s hard to say as the line between what’s real and what’s just production gets a bit fuzzy here. This one shifts the point of view a lot more through a series of interrelated flash fiction pieces.
It’s an odd little book that covers character and storytelling, is about both, but not in the way you might think. It’s something that’s very difficult to explain without spoiling anything, or writing an analysis that could dwarf the book itself. The whole book is written as a stream of consciousness, involving a lot of weird, violent imagery. It doesn’t take much effort to conjure the images in your own head. That being said, despite that and the fact that it’s a fairly short book, I wouldn’t recommend blowing through the whole thing very quickly. It’s not the easiest of reads, and you may need a little more time chew on that last bite before you swallow it and take the next bite. In fact, this is one of those books that I’m probably going to have to go back and reread later to see if I can get anymore out of it or view it from a different perspective. Rarely has a book compelled me to do so.
Despite some of the issues I have with it, such as that the violent imagery may be a little too over-the-top without really adding to the story, the weird looping story arc, or the fact that none of the character are really likeable, I still liked this book in a weird sense. The way Wilson can conjure images into the readers’ head without much effort takes talent and is worth the experience. He gives the reader credit for being intelligent without needing to be spoon-fed every last bit. Again, it’s not going to be for everyone, what with the violent imagery, or just the stream-of-consciousness style of writing which can be jarring to some readers, and some might even hate this style. But if you give the book a chance, you’ll find that it’s more thought-provoking than you might have expected.
Diegeses by D. Harlan Wilson earns 4 broken beer bottles out of 5.