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Germán Sierra on Gary Lutz

To mark the publication of The Complete Gary Lutz, a monumental collection of stories by a renowned minimalist, Germán Sierra takes the pulse of Lutz’s aesthetic project in a new review at Full Stop:

Lutz’s style aims to describe fragmented quotidian realities in non-standard ways. In doing so, it adds a strong poetic component to the literary anamnesis of everyday life. Focusing only on the sentence level would be as unfair as considering that the only remarkable feature in a Van Gogh’s painting is the rhythm of the brushstrokes.

According to [Brian Evanson’s introduction to The Complete Gary Lutz], what sets Lutz’s stories apart from those by other contemporary American writers is that they’re “so much about about the specific tonal, sonic, and rhythmic relationships with English, and so much about torquing a given historical moment of that language by injecting it with archaisms and oddity,” that to reproduce them in another language just wouldn’t work. As much as I rejoice in his “delicate manipulation of syntax,” what I find unique in Lutz’s stories is how wisely that syntax manipulation integrates and tunes itself with the exquisitely minimal plots — often reminiscent of those by Kafka and Beckett — creating a formal space of indetermination which expands far beyond any single story like a subliminal flavor that persists across the whole book — a space in which eerie entanglements between apparently unrelated elements are essential to the narrative architectonics: “a house in which one room led directly into another and then another without the relief, the solace, of halls, hallways.” Awkwardly manifesting themselves as language ghost-viruses malwared into a fragmented caricature of American contemporary life, “characters from one story seem to be echoes or doubles of characters from another story” — like, in the data-driven, corporate-financed behavioral sociology that has become the mainstream definition of humanity, everybody seems to be an echo or a decoy of someone or something else.