LitReactor Top Ten List
Indie Groundbreaking Book
Indie Groundbreaking Book: What Precision, Such Restraint
New short story collection emphasizes experimental writing
“A young man seeking to hack into his own unconscious mind. An academic conference on the metaphysics of flies. An apocalyptic world where punctuation has been outlawed. An eating disorder that produces collectible antiques. A mix of allegory, satire, randomly generated numbers, spam messages rearranged into haiku form, plagiarism, and bad writing presented in the more sophisticated if still unpalatable guise of literary experimentation...”
The above text, an excerpt from a recent press release for Phil Jourdon’s forthcoming short-story collection—titled What Precision, Such Restraint—essentially captures the essence of the book in a nutshell. That is, after all, what press releases are supposed to do, right? To tell writers like me what books are about so I know whether or not I want to put pen to paper advocating for them? But Jourdon goes one step further, incorporating a similar rundown into his author’s note, letting readers know from the get-go which sources he has “plagiarized,” and giving his audience a roadmap to the next 120 pages of his work. And I wondered, as I read that introduction, why an author would want to spoil the entire contents of their text before they even reached the first page.
But as I dove headfirst into the first story from the collection—titled “A Splinter in Your Soul”—I began to understand Mr. Jourdon’s intentions. These yarns are challenging, disorienting, and experimental, and Jourdon’s writing is at once full of contradictions. One moment, he’s writing with snappy minimalism, slinging short sentences within disjointed paragraphs; the next, he’s weaving words with meandering, grammatically questionable Faulknerian excess. The same story will hit upon schoolboy bullying in one line, and then rapidly shift to a pseudo-philosophical conversation about steaks cooked rare and gold-flaked beer. And then, as each story concludes, the rules Jourdon has established therein change, whether readers have learned them yet or not. The walls rotate and shift, and in the next section, Jourdon builds another new world; he is a writer governed by his own instincts and nothing else.
To be sure, What Precision, Such Restraint is a thoroughly frustrating text, one that won’t appeal to most readers, let alone all of them. Jourdon is an avant gardist through and through, far more a disciple of Joyce and Faulkner than of more straightforward, classicist literary figures. Sentences are left unfinished, conventions of dialogue challenged, and punctuation rules often dispensed with entirely. Entire narrative rhythms are dismantled and reconstructed at will, all the subject of Jourdon’s thematic flights of fancy and his chameleonic authorial voice. Stories oscillate between vivid, relatable scenes—bits and pieces of Jourdon’s memories, most likely, or fragments of half-remembered dreams—and concepts completely alien to us as readers. Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep up.
Not everyone will be able or willing to go along with Jourdon on his winding path of textual composition. As a musician, translator, writer, and founder of an online creative writing workshop and literary journal—called LitReactor—Jourdon is a naturally scatterbrained creative force, and many modern readers, myself included, are far more partial to straightforward narrative adventures. But Jourdon’s work is still fascinating and hypnotic, and the way he incorporates early-20th century experimentalism into a modern day setting makes What Precision, Such Restraint a perfect fit for this month’s groundbreaking book entry.
Interested in learning more about What Precision, Such Restraint, or in grabbing yourself a copy? The title will be published through Perfect Edge Books on March 16, 2013, and will be available for purchase both from Amazon.com and through the publisher itself.
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Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In edition to writing for Independent Publisher, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.