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Chaos & Night: A Comedy,
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This review is from: Verbatim: A Novel (Hardcover)
As exhaustive an inventory of political pettifoggery as anybody in his or her right mind could hope for, Jeff Bursey’s Verbatim perches on my shelf between ingenious literary feat & obsessive-compulsive art object. The book is lovingly produced by Enfield & Wizenty, a scrupulously faked record of legislative proceedings in an unnamed Atlantic province. With nothing but transcripts & email exchanges, Bursey builds his book from the sentence up, applying the Gaddis ear for speech-as-broken to a project whose modesty seems inextricable from the insane rigors of its ambitions—closer in spirit to the work of, say, Raymond Materson than to a GANist. There is no plot to speak of, no messages. No heroism, certainly. The inaptitudes & excoriations of the hard-to-distinguish Social Progressive (government) and Alliance (opposition) parties are conveyed with a meticulous slyness befitting a fakebook whose humor has to appear inadvertent (boobishness predominates) when not the product of labored aggression & lol insult. Bursey’s got a light touch. Dada-worthy malaprops benefit from being so conservatively sprinkled throughout:
“However, while the impossible may happen, the improbable can’t occur.”
Verbatim’s very funny even if, after a time, the sense of vacuum presses in—the only “documented” force in the universe outside these unleavened parliamentary chambers being the emendations and oversights of the equally bickersome Hansard transcription service—& starts to unsettle. In the rarefied catalog of fictionalized documentaries/transcriptions, it stands apart for its stubborn provincialism, and the strangeness of its achievement, which, like its tongue-tied representatives, lies in the refusal to mean anything more than what is being so expertly, relentlessly faked.
It also reminds me somehow of “The Battle of the Books.”