Review of John Woods, The Complete Collection of People, Places and Things

by on Nov.10, 2010

John’s books is reviewed over at Tarpaulin Sky:

“Anderson’s quote surfaces in the first chapter of Winesburg, in a section entitled “The Book of the Grotesques”. In it, an elderly writer composes the book in response to “a dream that was not a dream” in which “all of the men and women the writer had ever known had become grotesques”(Anderson, 24). The “it” of Woods’s epigraph refers to the narrator’s summary of this writer’s book which he recalls as such:

In the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful. (Anderson, 25)

There is no better introduction to Woods’s The Complete Collection of people, places and things, which can be read as a modern day reimagining of “The Book of Grotesques”. Woods’s novel is a practice in the art of defamiliarization, outlining a world that is only vaguely recognizable, in which the existence of water has not yet been proven and sleep is induced through force; “a place where people ended up remembering, when all they wanted to do was regret” (pg.100). The book functions as both ethnography of our-world-estranged as well as instructions for navigating it, centered on characters named Glo-worm, Voltron, Punky Brewster, Danger Mouse, Rainbow Brite, and Optimus Prime who are embarrassed to admit in public they haven’t used game cartridges and protect their party favors and switchboards with as much fervor as their pride.

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