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THE JUKEBOX AND OTHER WRITINGS by Peter Handke

THE JUKEBOX AND OTHER WRITINGS

By Peter Handke

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1994
ISBN: 0-374-18054-7
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

 This is the third volume of ``nonfiction'' from the prolific Austrian playwright, novelist, and poet (Absence, 1990), who often takes the writing life as subject. Handke delights in stretching his work across genres. Novels begin as screenplays, journal entries frequently record things as he'd have liked them to happen. Narration and description become interchangeable, as do representation and realization. Again, in these three essays, he toys with readers. ``Tiredness'' opens with the simplistic image of the little boy in church forcing his parents to take him home because he's tired, thus ruining the rest of their day. By the essay's end, some 40 pages later, that banal tiredness has taken on familial, erotic, political, and cultural dimensions. He describes a world slowed down, paid attention to, much as it might appear in a drug-induced state. Paragraphs stretch five pages or longer, contributing to the tedium. The final essay, ``The Successful Day,'' is also based on the mundane. Throwing an experience common to his audience back in their faces, he forces chuckles and all-out laughter as digressions become avoidances. Both these essays take the form of mock interviews, permitting him to play devil's advocate with himself. The longer title essay is harder to follow. His physical landscape is unfamiliar, and in constant flux. His subject is boredom itself: Staying in an insipid small town, the writer puts off sitting down at his desk by aimlessly searching for a jukebox like the one that filled his childhood. The joke here, of course, is that Handke is writing all this, accomplishing something the reader is not. This volume is a philosophical exercise by a mind taking multiple detours. Readers who lack the author's deadpan humor will stare blank-eyed at the page. They can't win. Handke has them precisely where he wants them.