MEMBER – Michael Cisco


MEMBER a novel by Michael Cisco
Chômu Press 2013
Purchased via Amazon UK.

My previous Chômu Press reviews: HERE.

**My gestalt real-time review of this work will take place in the comment stream below as and when I read each section that I read.**

There is no guarantee how quickly this review will be carried out, especially, now, at this point of not yet having started it, I am SCARED of this novel, not scared at being horrified, disturbed, transported etc. but at not being able to understand it…

9 thoughts on “MEMBER – Michael Cisco

  1. Pages 1 – 28
    “Simply calling whatever is around me a dream won’t accomplish anything; you have to live the dream as a dream.”
    (Like the groping, grasping for identity protagonist narrator, I will make do with a direction rather than a goal as a direction will be enough so far to keep me going reading this book – and indeed I have not yet been SCARED by it being above my head, as it has gently taken me in, entranced me, transported me even at this early stage within a single-ended parenthesisising – given me a sort of instinct that this is a game, making me feel at home, knowing which bag belongs to which character (or player), me or another, how cars are parked like on some game board, or is it more than that? I feel at home, too, as it seems to have a nemonymous-night like grasping, groping for identity, not only as a novel’s protagonist grasping and groping for a name or a personality or role but the novel itself groping and grasping to become what it has not yet become. Either itself a serious work of literature or a game?

  2. Page 28 – 51
    “I want to explore the world (why? what for?) and the horizonfringe leans up before me.”
    (Funny how question marks create a mutant sort of closing parenthesis. I am still comforted by the fact that the protagonist narrator is more scared than I am of this novel being above his head. The prose is addictive, though, for both of us, I guess, Cisco in hyperdrive without abandoning a definite thrust of an audit trail as the (Kafkaesque? ‘game’ takes form as a sort of combination of marksmanship and RPG and paintballing and chance guesswork like ‘Deal or No Deal’ – again without abandoning a reality stream of self in a real city, yet the bag he carries (I carry) is a place of refuge, too, to escape into from the book around it. Yet, as a reader, rather than a character in the story, I find the book itself paradoxically comforting as a similar refuge as the bag as I retreat in and out of it to write this review. Meanwhile, I don’t know if this is a spoiler, but I have now discovered a game glossary at the BACK of the book, as if it didn’t want to comfort me, but has been forced to do so by a force greater than the book, but how many readers will fail to notice the glossary till it’s too late?
    “…a kind of dry harbour, with old brick buildings and no signs of life.”

  3. imagePage 51 – 89
    “This is a test.”
    A test for the narrator in what he narrates and for the reader reading it. Tested, inter alia, with cans and candies. If Cisco was in prose hyperdrive earlier, he’s now in a synchromesh which I find it hard to believe any human writer can accomplish, which begs a question… with the cumulative nature of the visions and encounters that stagger us as we progress in some game against or alongside or on behalf of the High Rationals. There is a much more to report about these passages but you need to seek out this unique literary construction site for yourself. Unwrapping the page-bandages to enter the book’s core…
    “…the idea is to take the world itself for your refuge.”

      • A new day. How have I missed it so far? A further serendipity of another of my reviews carried out very recently, where the scenario of VALIANT RAZALIA [The Mercury Annual/Pilgrims at the White Horizon by Michael Wyndham Thomas] (reviewed here) can be shown as in at least vague kinship with what I see so far as the planetary and human game of ‘Chorncendantra’ in MEMBER. Whatever the case, those readers who enjoy MEMBER will enjoy VALIANT RAZALIA, I suggest. And vice versa. The books are each unique in their own ways.

        I hope to be reading more from MEMBER this evening.

  4. Pages 89 – 113
    “The stink of fried blood is everywhere,…”
    This book is indeed a test, perhaps literature’s ultimate test. It remains to be seen whether it is its optimum test. One needs faith in the author (the book’s High Rational) as he or she suspends you over the abyss of disbelief; almost like a religion. And however much the visionary prose is geared to a superhuman synchromesh of a hyperdrive (as it seems to be here with Cisco), one needs to know in one’s core that that very prose actually means something in real or metaphorical terms, to make it worth your while to read it. The protagonist himself in this book is in one such existentialist dilemma as he faces what and whom he faces in a game of teleological or ontological self-questioning… And the reader, too, me and you, enjoys (or suffers) an existentialist angst about whether such reading time is being used wisely or unwisely by putting faith in this book’s potential game or confidence trick or construction site of future literary worth. As for myself, I keep my powder dry but, meanwhile, I wonder whether Cisco has fooled me before and so can fool me again. Has charmed me before with his books, so can charm me again. Even toilet flushing systems are existential, I guess. Or wandering inside heavy metal album covers…
    “My heart isn’t responding to my fear or to me – my heart is obeying someone else.”
    “I have the proto-crazy sensation I know more about this than I’m letting on to myself,…”
    “This planet has a white blister that looks like a cue ball as big as the moon sticking to its surface.”

  5. Pages 115 – 142
    The artifact.
    “It could be that it really is too complex for one person to understand, but complexities are only bits of information that dwindle to insignificance when you take a long enough view of something to get its general outline, and I can’t even manage that. Or maybe I can. Look at the artifact. A big wall. And Chorncendantra. A big game, like children playing at being spies. The problem is that there’s no way to relate the big picture and the little one: the medium-sized picture, where the connections all are, is invisible.”
    That seems to be very significant to someone like me who has been experimenting with on-line gestalt real-time reviews of books for exactly five years. For example, I wrote this in the early days of such activity:
    “Writing a real-time review is a special reading-journey, one that takes place within a single reading mind, beset by all the foibles of the moment. The question is: does this affect the journey itself, i.e. knowing one is publicly describing that journey as it happens? Also I sense many of you asking why you actually want to read about my eccentric journey with a book. Eccentric, perhaps. But if we all write in real-time about our journeys with a particular book, we can all then simultaneously ’triangulate’ that book via its communally synchronised shards of random truth and fiction, and discover its ineffable noumenon by co-ordination from every compass point of our respective ways and reading-passages, by audit-logic or emotional response or something even more intangible.”

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