GlassHouse is the pathology of a convergence of times and places. It’s a snapshot of an object in four dimensions (an event, its antecedents, and its descendants) which has been broken into shards of various perspectives, and then unrolled.
Jacques Derrida described the critique of literature as a type of counter-signature to documents, whose meaning narrates a distinct experience in reading.[i] David Vichnar subsequently explained reading as a cognitive “re-writing” process, while describing notions of written history, and identity.[ii]
It is in this context that one may characterize first encounters with GlassHouse as acts of witnessing — witnessing the convergence through narrative channels, of event facets into a particular object architecture. It is this process which, for readers, “re-writes” the skeleton of its structure. Multiple perspectives of past and future converge toward a particular instance from backward and forward (or perhaps up and down) directions, as branch and root systems converge toward the trunk of a particular great and “mythic” baobab planted within the text, a mere paving stone’s throw from the glass greenhouse at the center of the action…
Armand’s eight (or perhaps nine) perspectives (facets, or routes) toward the GlassHouse center are narrated through individuals who, by accounts written in their own characteristic language, piece together a mosaic in an out-of-sequence chronology reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s story method for his 1956 noir, The Killing.[iii] The mysteries of the center, glanced through such cadence, suggests even a deeper noir.
Orson Welles might have prefaced a film version in the style of his introduction to Mr. Arkadin,[iv] narrated in GlassHouse voice… perhaps by Schönbrunn, the angry detective tasked with investigating its initial crime; or else Françoise X, the crime’s primary victim.
On a winter morning, shortly after 8:00am, a 28-year-old schoolteacher disappeared from the courtyard near the Overseas Department of the Jardin des Plantes, at the French National Botanical Institute in Paris. She reappeared no more than 15 minutes later, dead, beneath an oleander bush. Reaction to this crime spread within the broadest public circles, resulting in the destruction of the Glass House, the impalement of its Garden Director, the immolation of his secretary, and the appearance of two men, hanging dead from a nearby baobab. This document is a fictionalized reconstruction of the affairs leading up to the murder, and to the occurrence of subsequent events, later that morning.
Noir presentation and sci-fi details coax immersion within foreign characters, foreign times, foreign lands, and foreign dimensions…
Language and action flirt cautiously within the text-space, dancing with each other in mutual orbit, until aligning dangerously in the one orientation which triggers their sudden inward plunge, fusing all in a cataclysmic Crunch, like a great explosion in reverse.
The text of the book itself is evidence of its crime — evidence which must be explored.
Nodes of convergence emerge with advancing time, like the glances shared by Gachette, the Institute’s Sorbonne intern who, while indulging fascinations with plant-like morphologies in people (and electronic morphologies in plants), spots a stunted being across her courtyard, “gesticulating in an extremely agitated way while appearing to shout at the fenced-in animals.”[v]
…and at exactly that moment the gesticulating man turned his face in the direction of her window — almost as if he’d sensed her watching him. But she couldn’t see his eyes, which were dark, shadowed by his hair, though she had the strangest feeling he could see hers.[vi]
It is sixteen pages later when this being “simultaneously” notices Gachette,
a dark-haired woman…seated behind a first floor window, dirty white shutters framing it, watching him. The way people always watched him when he wasn’t looking… Their eyes meeting startled her, the burden of suspicion versus the burden of guilt. Seeing what? The self-flagellated dwarf that hid inside his head, in a different spacetime continuum from all this?[vii]
Witnesses to GlassHouse become investigators during return visits to examine the forensics of unspooled events, and to study form architecture and arrangement. Text may be re-read in either original page order, inverse chapter order, or in order of character threads (either forward or reverse sequenced). Re-reads, cross-reads (and “re-writes”, in the Derridian/Vichnarian sense) are not only warranted, but essential for fusing the flesh of all GlassHouse dimensions…
The book does not end on its final page.
© Hilbert David, 2021
[i] Jacques Derrida, “This Strange Institution Called Literature,” Acts of Literature, ed. David Attridge, trans. Geoffrey Bennington & Rachel Bowlby (London: Routledge, 1992) 52.
[ii] David Vichnar, “Forging ‘Hesitency’: The Writing of History & Identity in Finnegans Wake,” Subtexts (Prague: Litteraria Pragensia Books, 2015) 13.
[iii] The Killing. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Los Angeles: United Artists, 1956.
[iv] Orson Welles, Mr. Arkadin. Directed by Orson Welles. Los Angeles: Warner Bros., 1955.
[v] Louis Armand, GlassHouse (London: Equus Press, 2018), 49.
[vi] Armand, GlassHouse, 50.
[vii] Armand, GlassHouse, 66.