Phoebe Clarke is an art technician living and working in London. She is a regular attendee at Slack Pussy, a queer feminist reading group held monthly at the May Day Rooms.
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Little can prepare you for the experience of reading Renee Gladman’s Ravickian quartet and encountering the oddity, humour, and singular intelligence of her mind Gladman began writing the series in 2003, drawing on a private language she had invented with a friend The linguistic game developed and eventually gave birth to Ravicka — a fictional city-state with an absurd, charming, and troubled local population
I want to state from the outset that these novels remind me of little else I have encountered in contemporary literature Ravicka has textual predecessors — Gladman overtly nods to Samuel Beckett, Anne Carson, and Julio Cortázar — but immersion in Ravicka feels, somehow, more like watching contemporary dance or experimental film than reading a novel Absurdity abounds, non-sequitur is employed liberally, and syntax seems more significant than setting or plot Nonetheless — and herein lies Gladman’s achievement — these novels are provocative and profound
To date, four of Gladman’s ten published works are set in Ravicka The experimental collection of essays Calamities (2016) and a new monograph of Gladman’s drawings, Prose Architectures (2017), complement the Ravicka project, but her first novel, Event Factory (2010), remains the best port of entry into this extraordinary city ‘From the sky there was no sign of Ravicka Yet, I arrived; I met many people The city was large, yellow, and tender,’ writes the unnamed protagonist, a linguist who arrives in Ravicka when her plane fails to depart after a layover The only novel in the series told from the perspective of a visitor from outside, Event Factory offers an introduction to Ravicka’s foreign culture and strange landscape, where Earth’s physical laws are either suspended or queered
Mostly, the novels offer the mere suggestion of a plot The Ravickians, the second in the series, ostensibly tells the story of a famous novelist trying to cross the city to attend her friend’s poetry reading But it is more a meditation on the impossibility of translation — a fugue-like discourse on community, longing, poetics and friendship taking place on moving trains and in fields, and closing with twelve fractious chapters of polyvocal conversations, taking