Two links, César Aira

by craigepplin

I read two short essay-stories by César Aira this morning. The first, which was featured in Electric Literature, is called “Athena Magazine,” and it’s about the absurd deliberations that issue from the founding of a small literary magazine. The other is called “The Ovenbird,” a beautiful, longish parable about the automaticity of human action (or the richness and variation of nonhuman action, depending on your perspective). Reading him enough, one starts to see techniques repeated, as is the case with all authors, and one in particular always catches my attention: the fanciful resolution of something that’s been taken deadly seriously, whether the decision to divide up a magazine volume into 2 or 10 or 10,000 issues (the size of each issue minutely calculated, in case a 36-page object should be divided up that small), or the possibility that animals like the ovenbird might think in non-Disney sorts of ways. In both cases, the bulk of the essay or ficción (because I think they share a lot with Borges’s made-up genre) is dedicated to unspooling a thread that won’t be cut or tied up, and much less respooled, in the end; rather, the whole mess will be gathered up and shoved in a drawer. In terms of housekeeping, an Aira story isn’t cleanliness and elegance–it’s a cluttered apartment.