Only Revolutions

Only Revolutions

3.3 17
by Mark Z. Danielewski
     
 

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Sam:
They were with us before Romeo & Juliet. And long after too. Because they’re forever around. Or so both claim, carolling gleefully:

We’re allways sixteen.

Sam & Hailey, powered by an ever-rotating fleet of cars, from Model T to Lincoln Continental, career from the Civil War to the Cold War, barrelling down through the Appalachians,

Overview

Sam:
They were with us before Romeo & Juliet. And long after too. Because they’re forever around. Or so both claim, carolling gleefully:

We’re allways sixteen.

Sam & Hailey, powered by an ever-rotating fleet of cars, from Model T to Lincoln Continental, career from the Civil War to the Cold War, barrelling down through the Appalachians, up the Mississippi River, across the Badlands, finally cutting a nation in half as they try to outrace History itself.

By turns beguiling and gripping, finally worldwrecking, Only Revolutions is unlike anything ever published before, a remarkable feat of heart and intellect, moving us with the journey of two kids, perpetually of summer, perpetually sixteen, who give up everything except each other.

Hailey:
They were with us before Tristan & Isolde. And long after too. Because they’re forever around. Or so both claim, gleefully carolling:

We’re allways sixteen.

Hailey & Sam, powered by an ever-rotating fleet of cars, from Shelby Mustang to Sumover Linx, careen from the Civil Rights Movement to the Iraq War, tearing down to New Orleans, up the Mississippi River, across Montana, finally cutting a nation in half as they try to outrace History itself.

By turns enticing and exhilarating, finally breathtaking, Only Revolutions is unlike anything ever conceived before, a remarkable feat of heart and intellect, moving us with the journey of two kids, perpetually of summer, perpetually sixteen, who give up everything except each other.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
KIRKUS REVIEWS
7/15/06
starred review

The daunting maze explored in Danielewski’s Borgesian first novel, House of Leaves (2000), only hinted at the depths to be plumbed in its intimidatingly innovative successor.
It’s a love story, road novel and paean to untrammeled freedom, presented in dual free-verse narratives spoken by Sam and Hailey, two 16-year-old vagabonds who embark on a mythic and allegorical journey across America, in a succession of variously acquired automobiles, during an expanding time period that stretches from the American Civil War to the immediate present. Rebels and malcontents, they repeatedly indulge in Whitmanesque, Rabelaisian arias (“I’m The World which / The Mountain descends from and / I laugh because it tickles”), while proclaiming their allegiance to nothing but each other (“Liberty and Love are one”), and eluding or battling characters emblematic of entrenched interests, convention and complacency (e.g., “Mad Robber Barons,” “Hoovercrats”). The publisher helpfully suggests reading eight pages of Sam’s story, then flipping the volume upside-down and reversing it, for eight pages in Hailey’s voice, until the two narratives meet in the middle of the book. Further complications arise from chronological enumerations of historical events on each page’s margins and versified comments on every page presented, upside-down, at the bottom of said page. Self-indulgence? Surely. But there’s a real story here, and a persuasive sense that the couple’s wild ride is a kind of creation myth that mirrors, as it presumes to explain, America’s unruly energies —- as Sam and Hailey experience Hailey’s brief dalliance with a macho avatar of military, militant power (“The Creep”), an Ongoing Party in New Orleans, a farcical hospital stay following an apparent overdose and an escape to the heartland and a climactic encounter with “the peril pursuing US.” They’re Bonnie and Clyde, Tristan and Isolde, an X-rated Archie and Veronica and perhaps All in the Family’s embattled liberal couple Mike and Gloria.
You have to work at it, but it’s a trip well worth taking.

“In his new novel, the author of House of Leaves is up to his old tricks–multicolored and upside-down text–and some flabbergasting new ones, including a double-ended structure that obliges the reader to flip the book every eight pages.”–The New Yorker

“Ambitious, meticulous, and original, Danielewski continues to survey the frontiers of the novel . . . The book hurtles you straight onto the road and into the split-screen vortex of the folie à deux of its couple.”–Los Angeles City Beat

“A lot is expected of Danielewski as a novelist who forgoes conventions, and he certainly delivers in his latest effort.” –San Fransico Chronicle

"A brisk page-turner . . . the heart of the book is its language, a patois somewhere between Kerouac's swagger and Joyce's chin-stroking wordplay. . . . Only Revolutions reveals an even stranger side of Danielewski.” –Los Angeles Times

Steven Moore
To appreciate a novel as meticulously crafted as this, it needs to be studied, its patterns and symbolism deciphered, its historical cross-references pondered. It's certainly one of the great road novels, joining that dusty convoy stretching from Petronius's Satyricon through Cervantes's Don Quixote to the late Gilbert Sorrentino's The Sky Changes. It's an exhilarating trip, a literary experience unlike anything else piled up in book stores. Only revolutions against the conventional novel like this one keep the genre truly novel.
— The Washington Post
Troy Patterson
The book — its plot is both a perpetual-motion machine and nonexistent — is baffling, quite possibly an elaborate folly that finds the author subordinating meaning to schema and human emotion to the presumed power of myth. But it’s clear that Danielewski has an entrancing way with overrich wordplay: “Sam admiring / how I tear through the current. / I am the current. And currently bare. / The currency of every dare.” And anyone can see that the “dream” at stake is America, a country that wouldn’t make complete sense if you thought on it till the end of time.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
A pastiche of Joyce and Beckett, with heapings of Derrida's Glas and Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 thrown in for good measure, Danielewski's follow-up to House of Leaves is a similarly dizzying tour of the modernist and postmodernist heights and a similarly impressive tour de force. It comprises two monologues, one by Sam and one by Hailey, both "Allmighty sixteen and freeeeee," each narrating the same road trip, or set of neo-globo-revolutionary events or a revolution's end: "Everyone loves the Dream but I kill it." Figuring out what's happening is a big part of reading the book. The verse-riffs narrations, endlessly alliterative and punning (like Joyce) and playfully, bleakly existential (like Beckett), begin at opposite ends of the book, upside down from one another, with each page divided and shared. Each gets 180 words per page, but in type that gets smaller as they get closer to their ends (Glas was more haphazard), so they each gets exactly half a page only at the midway point of the book: page 180 or half of a revolution of 360 degrees. A time line of world events, from November 22, 1863 ("the abolition of slavery"), to January 19, 2063 (blank, like everything from January 18, 2006, on), runs down the side of every page. The page numbers, when riffled flip-book style, revolve. The book's design is a marvel, and as a feat of Pynchonesque puzzlebookdom, it's magnificent. The book's difficulty, though, carries a self-consciousness that Joyce & Co. decidedly lack, and the jury will be out on whether the tricks are of the for-art's-sake variety or more like a terrific video game. (Sept. 5) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Sam and Hailey are perpetual 16 year olds, madly in love and on the lam from 1863 to 2063 in a constantly changing array of conveyances, from a mule to Sumover Linx. Sam tells the first 100 years, while Hailey simultaneously relates the second in alternating chapters with exactly 180 words of story and a parallel 180 words of news and sports headlines per page. This is ironic, as the young couple seems entirely aware of each other and of little else in their almost endless pursuit of love and liberty. Doubly ironic, the author seems to have little to say about love and liberty, arguably two of the most important themes in American literature. Danielewski's House of Leaves was a diamond of a book with a great story and dozens of brilliantly burnished facets. Only Revolutions is every bit as polished, but the relative lack of depth makes it more like cubic zirconium-more style than substance. (This review is exactly 180 words, too. So what?) Still, a fascinating read; recommended for medium to large academic and public libraries.-Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The daunting maze explored in Danielewski's Borgesian first novel, House of Leaves (2000), only hinted at the depths to be plumbed in its intimidatingly innovative successor. It's a love story, road novel and paean to untrammeled freedom, presented in dual free-verse narratives spoken by Sam and Hailey, two 16-year-old vagabonds who embark on a mythic and allegorical journey across America, in a succession of variously acquired automobiles, during an expanding time period that stretches from the American Civil War to the immediate present. Rebels and malcontents, they repeatedly indulge in Whitmanesque, Rabelaisian arias ("I'm The World which / The Mountain descends from and / I laugh because it tickles"), while proclaiming their allegiance to nothing but each other ("Liberty and Love are one"), and eluding or battling characters emblematic of entrenched interests, convention and complacency (e.g., "Mad Robber Barons," "Hoovercrats"). The publisher helpfully suggests reading eight pages of Sam's story, then flipping the volume upside-down and reversing it, for eight pages in Hailey's voice, until the two narratives meet in the middle of the book. Further complications arise from chronological enumerations of historical events on each page's margins and versified comments on every page presented, upside-down, at the bottom of said page. Self-indulgence? Surely. But there's a real story here, and a persuasive sense that the couple's wild ride is a kind of creation myth that mirrors, as it presumes to explain, America's unruly energies-as Sam and Hailey experience Hailey's brief dalliance with a macho avatar of military, militant power ("The Creep"), an Ongoing Party in New Orleans, afarcical hospital stay following an apparent overdose and an escape to the heartland and a climactic encounter with "the peril pursuing US." They're Bonnie and Clyde, Tristan and Isolde, an X-rated Archie and Veronica and perhaps All in the Family's embattled liberal couple Mike and Gloria. You have to work at it, but it's a trip well worth taking. First printing of 100,000

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375713903
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/10/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
142,196
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.82(h) x 1.07(d)

Meet the Author

Mark Z. Danielewski was born in New York City and now lives in Los Angeles. He is the author of House of Leaves.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:
March 5, 1966
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Education:
B.A., Yale University, 1988; M.F.A., University of Southern California, 1993
Website:
http://www.onlyrevolutions.com

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Only Revolutions 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
FocoProject More than 1 year ago
The book is comprised of two stories, narrated by Sam and Hailey respectively in tandem but opposite of each other, so that starting the book from one end will reveal one of the character¿s story, and turning the book upsidedown and reading from the other end, reveals the other characters side of the same story. It is a He-says, She-says type narration, where you see from their own perspective how they see the story unfold. Each one of them is given exactly 180 words per page (half a revolution) and it takes the two of them together to complete 360 that fill one page in its entirety. Though they are only divided evenly at the halfway point (page 180), before that the text starts larger and gradually decreases as the books reach their end. The placing of its content is also meticulously planned, so that as the story unfolds, characters appear at the begining of the book, when they appeared at the beginning (you can see this when The Creep character returns towards the end of the book, and reading it upside down it matches to when he was first introduced in the book.

Playing over a span of about 200 years, in which the reader is given a list of events through history from 1863 through 2063 (from 2006 onward the history columns are blank), the story of Sam and Haley carries out like a road trip of sorts, starting from the moment they meet as strangers and following through their evolving relationship, from which they go from casual interst to deep love.

It is a VERY difficult read, not only in the way it is arranged but also in the fact that it resembles poetry, with a number of obscure words, which make having a thesaurus handy an advantage. In other cases, the thesaurus is entirely useless, because some of the words are actually made up. Simple mispellings underscore the meaning of common words, such as ¿already¿ or ¿altogether¿ which are often misspelled as ¿allready¿ and ¿alltogether¿ respectively. Furthermore, often times Danielewski creates words that need no meaning, because they seem to make perfect sense in their usage.

Coming across as very illustrative poetry, reading this book can be a challenge through out and it takes about 64 pages to truly get into his method of writing, and often times the events are so obscured in the way they are described by Sam and Hailey, that some sections require a second glance over. For this very reason, it is good to take the suggestion of the publisher and read the books eight pages at a time, alternating between Sam¿s story and Hailey¿s story. Even though the points of view over the same accounts may be different, it does help clarify the events themselves, given that each of them uses slightly different slang.

However, this same complexity that makes it such an astonishing piece of work, can also be detrimental so less patient readers. Until one gets used to the writing, trying to figure out what is happening can be frustrating, and even then a lot of things you have to re-read very carefully to understand, often left out for reader interpretation. For this reason alone, I will say I like House of Leaves better, which is a horror, story that complex as it may be, still makes sense. Here, it often turns into metaphors of sorts that make ense. Here, it often turns into metaphors of sorts that make for amazing visuals, but often make it difficult to translate. However, if you wish to exercise your brain, I highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this was a very good book. What attracted it to me was the crazy format. It was a challenge to read, but once you get the hang of it, it's really quite enjoyable. (If you don't mind people staring at you when you flip over the book every few minutes.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
If Danielewski actually had a story worth reading (or telling), he wouldn't completely bury it under page format tricks and nonsense under the guise of 'free verse'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A compelling love story, written in quite a unique format. Danielewski's poetic writing, unconventional style, and beautifully unreliable narrators combine to create quite the work of art.
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Alexa_ More than 1 year ago
I wanted to love this book. The style and the format is beautiful. I was excited to read a different kind of book that would make me work at figuring it out. However, I found that the author got too caught up in trying to make this a "different" book. The poetry just seems like words on a page to me, that only make sense to the author himself. I tried taking things slow to really think about what each sentence meant, but it just turned into me not being excited to read anymore. Even when there were parts that were understandable the plot just was not there and I didn't find the characters as complex as I would have hoped. Only Revolutions is a great piece of art though. Just not literary art.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
indienymph More than 1 year ago
This book although a complicated read (the author suggests reading eight pages from one side of the book, then eight from the other, and so on)the writing style is poetic and original. At times it isn't easy understanding exactly what is happening due to obscure nouns, but this makes the story open to individual interpretation which is interesting. Near the binding of the book on each page is a year with interesting and catastrophic events that occurred within it, as well as famous quotes. I am not sure if they really tie into the story, or what the author intended with them, but they add to the complexity of this novel in a purely original way. This book is a must for fan of original writing style! I also recommend it to poetry fans because the book is surprisingly lyrical. Also a must for fans of the author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
love_d More than 1 year ago
I couldn't get into this book (books) much as I wanted to. Even with reading just 7 pages from each book at a time and then reading 7 pgs from the other, I couldn't follow the authors point or plot or year. Some of the writing is poetic, but it didn't mesh for me. It is offbeat and unique.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I haven't read this book yet, but the first review is completely unfair. Danielewski's other book, 'House of Leaves' was a magnificent work of literary horror. I've had the book for over 2-3 years now, and it's still one of my favorites which I always come back to for a good read. I think 'Only Revolutions' has potential.