A sprawling experimental novel . . . a torrent of dazzling imagery . . . a blend of romanticism and high-modernist technique . . . patient readers will . . . be rewarded with startling poetic epiphanies and psychological insights. --Kirkus Reviews
Magnificent . . . a daring enterprise ... I think it the best American novel I have read since those of Thomas Pynchon and William Gass-- Juan Goytisolo, author of Count Julian and The Blind Rider<br /><br />... oneiric ... cinematic ... --George Steiner<br /><br />I admire the appetites [expressed in A Spy in the Ruins]. -- Ben Marcus, author of The Age of Wire and String<br /><br />Since James Joyce s Ulysses simultaneously destroyed, liberated and complicated the form of the novel, writers have been in a stew to know how to proceed. Christopher Bernard's ambitious, complex 'anti-novel' is an invasion of Joycean territory with banners waving and sentences aflame.... A Spy in the Ruins is a book for those who cherish consciousness and who wonder whatever happened to it. It is not for the faint of criticism ... but for those who can breathe its air, it offers a bird's eye view of our vexed, complicated, technomiserable civilization.Jack Foley, author of The Dancer and the Dance
--Goytisolo, Steiner, Marcus
Novelistic ambitions being what they are these days, it is no wonder that long works of fiction from America's best and brightest tend to slide toward marketable flights of genre fantasy (Caleb Carr, Elizabeth Kostova) or barbed middle-class dissection (Jonathan Franzen) as opposed to the sprawling, mind-clenching post-modernism of Pynchon, or the cross-cultural post-realism of Rushdie, or (still) Garcia Marquez. In America, the pressure for the movie-saleable commodity, however well-wrought (think Philip Roth, even) seems to pervade our multimedia perspectives.
Which makes Christopher Bernard s A Spy in the Ruins ... a rarity, perhaps, but also a return to form to the notion of the novel as that wide-open, thorny canvas of consciousness that Joyce and Woolf envisioned and enacted: not a novel of ideas so much as the novel as pure ideation breathing, spawning, crystal-lizing, and coalescing, ultimately, into something akin to Eliot s conceit about squeezing the universe into a ball. A novel, in other words, that is ambitious enough to defy adaptation.
Bernard s magnum opus, at more than 500 pages, is certainly shadowed by modernism s Big Books and Big Ideas, and its brash, page-one homage to the world-wrecking jolt that opens Finnegans Wake announces that it too will wrestle with the apocalyptic gesture that, when you think about it, only the novel can aspire to, free of the fixation on visual expression that continues to circumscribe all efforts at ultimatism in a hyper-visual society.
In its way, Bernard s ambitiousness is Homeric Iliadic and Odyssyean in suggesting that only prose-poetry can fuse immediacy of mind to the structures of narrative, and so Bernard goes all out, with liberated prose that slithers and shape-shifts on the page like the staff of Moses set down to snake before Pharoah. Sentences writhe, unrestricted, yet the organic center holds, and the result is frequently radiant, resolving in metaphor and tragic epiphany that dare the reader not to share the rue.... --Matt Damsker
About the Author
Christopher Bernard is a poet and playwright, author of "The Dilettante of Cruelty: Deserts" (poetry), "Gilded Abattoir: Wreckage from a Journey" (poetry and prose), and such plays as "Fellow Traveler," ""Our Lady of Cries, and "A Sonata for the Dead." He has published in Another Chicago Magazine, Permafrost, Ekphrasis and the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Chicago Tribune, and other periodicals and literary magazines. His plays have been produced and radio broadcast in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a cofounder of the literary and arts magazine Caveat Lector and lives in San Francisco.