by Louis Armand
ISBN 978-0-9931955-7-0. 128 pages. 1st edition. Paperback. Publication date: October 2018. Equus Press: London.
Order from Bookshop.org, from Barnes and Noble, or via Print-on-Demand (paperback only); or try the Kindle edition.
*Read an excerpt at Minor Literature[s]: “La Grande serre” & 3:AM magazine: “Fishboy”
“À ces mots, il s’est tu. Assez de mots! Il c’est tué.”
Set in and around Jardin des Plantes, Paris, Europe, the World, the Universe, Armand’s GlassHouse is a science-fictional detective novel with multiple twists. The setting of the tale against a backdrop of fossils and marvels of taxidermy gives Armand’s story a macroscopic dimension. As if the evolution of an entire species could be compressed into several hours of a Sunday morning. As if a tale of a murdered schoolteacher and a vengeful mob could tell of speciation and extinction throughout the evolutionary history of life on Earth. And it can. Armand’s deftly written fragmentary narrative is a point-counter-point of silent unheard voices, whose apocalyptic finale eschews euphony in favour of a cacophonous refusal of resolution. “NO END” – loose ends being preferable to final solutions…
“GlassHouse is a neo-noir phantasmorgia, Faulknerian and Lynchian by turns, written by a scholar of James Joyce and the avant-garde. […] Like the works of Gilbert Sorrentino or Anthony Burgess, this metafictional odyssey is actually quite fun to read. It is a mystery story, but it is also a frenzied ode to the majesty and convolutions of language.”—Karl Wolff, Driftless Area Review
“In this brutal little novel, there is only entropic pleasure and entropic pain. […] For readers who have yet to stumble onto the bad side of literature’s tracks, the book will provide a perfect short sharp shock of transgressive awareness. For those who already enjoy the dark side of writing, there is more than enough innovation here to keep you hooked. A murderous little book, and a fun one at that!”—Joe Darlington, Manchester Review of Books
“GlassHouse presents an incredibly interesting view of the archaic city locked in slow decay. […] the Paris of Armand’s novel is complex and populated. Alive, but in decline. The city slowly caves in on itself, with the Botanical Institute at its center. GlassHouse is a city symphony of sorts, similar to titles like Berlin Alexanderplatz and Speedboat, or films like New York Portrait and News From Home. It is a short, but dense novel—one capable of excavating an entire city from the very ground it stands on.”—Mike Corrao, 3:AM Magazine
“While orbiting almost entirely within the same institution that provides Poe the crowning proof of Dupin’s brilliance, GlassHouse hollows out the solidity of the Jardin des Plantes, undermining the foundations of the mystery genre. This destabilization is literal insofar as a section of the Jardin in the book is being excavated by a construction company. The dug-up Jardin (which itself receives a point of view chapter at one point) is as yawning as the many narrative holes that deliver, in the end, “no end.” Just like the plot that is “Lost. All Lost,” these holes indicate an underlying absence–an insistence that the puzzle pieces of the crime are not just scrambled but actually missing. Only a reader’s imagination can fill these holes, leaving the characters themselves to stumble in circles over unstable ground. […] Because if GlassHouse ultimately withholds answers to this as well as so many other questions, it nevertheless revels in stray clues and connections that seem to hold out hope for an encompassing coherence. […] We’re left with a refraction of possibilities — a house of glass — that would no doubt baffle even Dupin.”—Benjamin Murphy, Full-Stop
“Louis Armand is among the best literary authors working today. In GlassHouse, he ushers us into a world of intrigue, surreality and dark romanticism, exposing the intricacies of (un)consciousness with the combined flair of Joyce, Kafka and Burroughs. This is first-rate writing—Armand’s exquisite prose is a delicacy to be savored.”—D. Harlan Wilson, author of J.G. Ballard
“Armand writes to the self-reflexive atmospherics of a wild hallucinatory noir. His narrative folds itself again and again, so that each new chapter deepens a sense of cramped desolation and despair. The constant mood of this inescapable dread comes from the tangible stink of evil evoked by his image-lathered prose. He writes in vivid spit gobs of language that detonate carnal images into a wrecked spiritual landscape. Who are his characters? They’re fragments, angles and suffocating close-ups thrown back at us out of receding nightmares. And Armand really does get close up enough to show that not every argument from evil fails. If he’s asking what it would take to redeem these characters and their worlds he’s doing it knowing that if you have to ask then you aren’t reading him right. Armand’s is a bleak and fierce imagination, filtering life’s rancid nightmare through detective tropes that often feel like they’ve drowned. By the time we get to the end we realise the detectives and the dead are all skewered by the incoherence of any final resolution. That, and by Armand’s smart black humour. A great read.”—Richard Marshall, 3AM Magazine
“GlassHouse by Louis Armand should first be read as the novel that refuses at once any overload of words and the silence, as its epigraph in French suggests, because both overload and silence are fatal. It should also be read, as its title indicates, as the presentation and the defense of transparency. The latter is paradoxical since it is attached to the power of observation that the novel exemplifies and to the menagerie and exhibitions of the Musée d’histoire naturelle of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, that it is to say, to the transparency of the glass that protects what is enclosed or fixed. This protection is synonymous with the spectacle and designation of the whole history of evolution with its continuities and holes. This double reading defines the poetics of GlassHouse — a detective story that should turn silence and clues into words and finally meets the enigma of the mob — and its universe, at once cosmic — the evolution commands a cosmic view — and strictly local — the Jardin des Plantes, its neighbourhood and its residents. Or in other words, a whole world and the cosmos are included in a glass house, the Musée d’histoire naturelle and the novel. Because the latter cannot be an overload of words, it offers only a series of portraits and scenes, from the offices of the Musée to the murder of a young female teacher, with many holes that are figurations of the hole of the universe. The portraits — a detective and his associate, a secretary at the Musée, the head of a department, his successor, a female student, some others, and a ‘fishboy’ — are kinds of images that confirm this novel is a play upon totalization and detotalization, lucidity and obscurity. It consequently offers an ironic or contradictory view upon our present, the alliance of realism and fantasy, causticity and playfulness.” —Jean Bessière, Sorbonne-Paris III
“A corpse slathered in ectoplasm has film noir detective Schönbrunn pursuing the killer rapist through a familiarly unrecognizable Paris – Louis Armand’s sectioned novella finds narrative creeping forth from an excavated Jardin des Plantes; seams of poetry spiel throughout a masterly array of vertiginous prose mechanisms – pitch visceral, snot-gilded sequences that leach forth plot at oblique slant. ‘The vast constellated grid was like a metaphor for all he believed in, all he’d sought to achieve or know, all he doubted.’ – Before we engage with their thoughts and actions, our protagonists’ names themselves spin about arresting conceptual orbits: a Lacanian conceit of Oneness; the baroque architecture of imperial Habsburg; racial politics; keyboard Kabbalah of Mitteleuropa; the prophet Mohammad; an evolutionary algorithm that creates computer programs who adapt like a living organism (GEP); a dildo in the shape of a penis with a scrotum; the trigger of a gun; an extinct genus of lobe-finned fish ‘who lived a long time ago in a rock’, and of course is a stoner. Ruinously crystalline, GlassHouse confines a rewarding pell-mell of literary tip-offs and esoteric taxonomies, fracking each other up before the fatality’s dissolve to lucid absolute – all this, plus an inexplicable fear of ants, Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder, oasis pelicans and a wallaby enclosure: ‘How, despite everything, Paris always gave him, Qwertz, the impression of God staring down into his own navel. . . .’ – maelstromphalos, ripper.” —Richard Makin (author of Work)
“Set around the same Parisian Jardin des Plantes which inspired Goethe and Rilke’s romantic outpourings, GlassHouse offers a counter-narrative to this tradition by leading natural history to the point of its autocritique, where words and things have a hard time matching. By cycling through a host of vividly realised characters and stylistic modes, between searing black humour and soaring unfettered poetry, it decomposes rigid arborescent taxonomies into prismatic subdivisions of the event. Poised in this uncanny border zone of the incompleteness of formal systems, this is writing which pushes language to a state of disequilibrium.”—Thomas Murphy
“You always know when you’re reading an Armand, and this sparklingly dark and acerbic pumpernickel will not disappoint fans of the Prague-based experimental pugilist. With its fragmentary bursts of stories and styles, portraits of creatures existing in bubbles, a murdered school teacher and mob violence, GLASSHOUSE can be regarded as a stark, complex metaphor for the way we live now. Armand’s withering firepower is perhaps more measured in GLASSHOUSE than in previous outings, but the puncturing is still severe. One sets this book upon the nightstand, concussed, resigned and melancholy. Human evolution v. devolution can be a raucous debate with the right participants, but only wry are the rays of light that pierce this gloom. That there’s no exit is to be assumed, but Armand also insists on No End, even to this whodunit. As in his other works, Armand is hunting the biggest game. Plot lines, he emphasizes, are of no help in addressing the human disease, which continues to defy all attempts at practical diagnosis. As the helpless, incompetent, cynical cop observes despairingly at the close, it ‘ain’t never over… till it starts again.’”—Thor Garcia (author of The News Clown)
“To experience GlassHouse is to experience an investigatory, possibly archaeological reconstruction of a sequence, or possible non-sequence of unknown, and perhaps unknowable, either temporal or atemporal events — from the perspective of an incarnate detective, conjured to mind from the brittle pages of vintage hard-boiled fiction…nearly a century old. Events within the titular structure — a Parisian glasshouse — are assembled from narrative shards: Part I involves chapters, presenting like trial exhibits, and described as statements from idiosyncratic perspectives. Witnesses are characters, who write in distinct styles and forms. Part II invokes the testimony of inanimate objects, while Part III is a detective’s summary, by the book’s true hard-boiled presence. All human, and in-human behavior illuminates story shards, while they systematically assemble and fuse…”—David Hilbert
Comments are closed.