MOBILE by Michel Butor


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Michel Butor is one of France's better anti-novelists. He recently lectured at Bryn Mawr and travelled cross country; thus the biographical backdrop for his ammoth Mobile. As the title would suggest, these prose libre impressions of America are full of mercurial movements: there are endless variations of endless catalogues, of birds, farms, towns, cities, Freedomland, Disneyland, Monticello- you name it. This is known as the totality of reality. Quilt-fashion the pages knit in and out of Brochure poetry (""the Pacific trillium, white petals and green leaves in threes""), ragmatic tidbits (""where you can order apricot ice cream in the Howard Johnson Restaurant""), Chamber of Commerce history or geography (""LEBANON, county seat of Russell County""), local color (""get gas at the next Caltex""), national culture (""the illuminated face of Jayne Mansfield""). These too are done over and over again- only the monickers for real estate change. This is known as parallelism. The narrator, for want of a better term, has his thoughts italicized: I Was dreaming of San Francisco. I reached San Francisco. I am dreaming of San Francisco. There are also descriptive states of consciousness (Butor has studied phenomenology) and banal monologues- this is known as rendering the commonplace, what Heidegger called ""babble"". In between you'll find Dramatic Negro/White fragments like Faulkner; ironic juxtapositions like Dos Passos; imagism like Carlos Williams; and the slapdash activism of Jackson Pollock to whom the record is dedicated. An amazing work, an epic work, like a literary A & P. It is also un grand bore. But perhaps that's the point. Maybe mechanized; materialistic America is a bore. However, another Frenchman thought differently and he gave us the isest assessment we've had. But then he knew nothing of the avant garde. His name? De Tocqueville.

Pub Date: July 8th, 1963
Publisher: Simon & Schuster