Thursday, March 10, 2005

In defense of my review of Jack Masters' House of Stairs

To my imaginary enemies:

Upon reflection, and despite what you say, I've come to consider the brief review of Jack Masters' House of Stairs (posted at this very journal several days prior) as perhaps the most near perfect summation of said work as is possible. Succinct for its lack of specifics and reflective even of the work itself. The sparse language approaches poetry, or perhaps even an artform unto itself. At first glance it may appear lacking in style and structure but a closer inspection reveals untold depths, matching and perhaps exceeding even that of its subject. Doubtlessly study of the work will continue well into the coming centuries as each successive generation pulls new and greater knowledge from these few humble lines. A golden example for the ages.

But lets us start at the beginning.

The review of course opens with a lie.

"I just read through all of Jack Master's House of Stairs for the first time."

At the outset we know that the very suggestion that one could read through all of a work such as the House of Stairs is immediately laughable. The sophisticated webcomics reader will know, as no one has repeatedly pointed out to me, that the very architecture of the House is in constant flux. Like the Escher print that coincidentally bears the same name, the House offers no fixed point of reference. With out the proper vantage, a map (if you will) of the whole work is doomed to failure. Indeed any map of the work must itself be subject to the constant shifts in both topology and perspective the House has to offer. And a view of the entirety of the work is not possible when the entirety remains hidden from view.

And yet we see that the author (myself) must have known all this. That the lie is obvious and therefore transparent. There must be more here than what is immediately obvious. A closer reading of this first sentence reveals clues to the truths hidden behind the lie.

Leading in the first person, singular "I," the reviewer establishes the personal impact of the piece. Reinforcing the conversational bond between reviewer and audience the words "just and "for the first time" emphasize the apparent spontaneity of the reviews lines. Interesting to note also is the carefully misplaced use of the apostrophe in "Master's". A brilliant touch which highlights the seemingly natural flow of creation. This spontaneity itself is suspect, however, and is revealed as a clever ruse with which to draw the reader in. The author intentionally tips his hand in the fourth word.

Perhaps our most important clue, "through" signifies many things. Foremost among them is the suggestion of a sort of journey. The savvy reader will instantly recognize the implications in that particular turn of phrase. The idea of a journey through the House of Stairs presupposes an entrance, which as we all know is castlezzt.net. But, when taken with the word "all," it also implies an exit. This is not possible, no one has said to me. After all even Drew Weing could not find his way out of the House of Stairs.

Any journey worth taking leaves us changed. Even with a false journey, such as the one represented in the opening line of the review, we cannot help but be shaped and molded. Formed into something new by what we have learned. As established, a journey through the House of Stairs is not feasible. A house of only stairs can have no floors. But as for the review itself...

Encapsulated in a few short lines, the review sets us on a completely new journey. The importance of which is not lost but enhanced in the brevity of the work. And this journey comes to its ultimate fruition in the second and last line of the piece.

"It reminds me (somewhat) of a book I once read. "

Such beauty in that line. The echos of House of Stairs are strongest here. Imperfect reflections, as all echos are, that only serve to enhance the effect of the narrative (for, indeed we have gone beyond mere review here). Allusions abound to other existing works. The direct reference to "a book I once read" leaves us with a sense of mystery and perhaps a hint at greater depths. The book the author refers to is never explicitly stated. Revealing the title of said book would only serve to insult the readers intelligence and thus it is wisely left out.

The tendrils of thought and theory expressed in the first half of the review, like those of the work itself, extend in every conceivable direction. As in comics, if you'll pardon the metaphor, spatial and temporal relationships become one and the same. Memory (brought to play here by the use of "reminds") is both our strongest and our weakest sense, simultaneously tied to both past experience and current perspective. And so the author reaches into our very hearts to guide us to the truth. Wrapping it all up, the parenthetical "somewhat" underscores the uncertainty of all life (we are talking about true Art here, and what is Art but a reflection and amplification of life). It is in the knowledge of that uncertainty that we find the true meaning in the House of Stairs. In two short sentences we have come full circle.

Two lines.

Scant lines seemingly jotted in haste. And yet in these two lines is the key not only to the work in question but to that which is life itself. It's foundations, like those of the House of Stairs, are built in the ether of other's dreams. It begins with a lie that leads to a truth, which in turn leads to a greater truth. Or perhaps more accurately (and as true of all great Art) it points us the way to the truth. A way tied deeply in history and tradition yet wholly and utterly unique. It is a piece that not only conveys the essence of the work it purports to review, but also the great mysteries and vagaries of the House of Stairs we call life.

So good day to you, dear enemies. I trust you are satisfied with my explanation, unnecessary as it may be to most. Perhaps now we can put the matter of the last few days to rest and move on to our mutual higher goals.

Tym Godek
Wooster, 2005

4 comments:

Neal said...

You've confirmed everything I hadn't said about your review.

It was that correct.

Tymmi said...

Does this mean I've finally flushed out my enemies?

Neal said...

You sir, now stand like an astronaut in a schoolhouse.

Tymmi said...

I'm almost man enough to admit that you lost me there.

Almost.

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