This Dalkey Archive discovery is deceptive in its approach but memorable in the extreme.
The prose is packed with slapstick, imagery and song, an equal ratio of panic and satire, passion and heartache, while it bubbles over with bombast, belligerence and, after acclimatization, brilliance. Truth be told, it took about a hundred pages to convince me, but after that I became a REYoung reader for the foreseeable future. Now out to purchase the other books, before they disappear…
What is an Unbabbling? After finishing the novel, I can only guess: an unrivaled unraveling, a midsummer night’s Babel. Like one of the narrators, I drank long and deep, but from the book’s intoxicating style. The plot is marked by simplicity, but it is also rich with experience. The value lies in the language, the luscious, exuberant, frolicsome wordplay, and the lucid undercurrent of anger, terror and hedonism.
The first part’s forward-slashing prose deluges verge on delusional, while REYoung introduces the reader to a hoarse, slavering, wage-slave schmooze, a deadbeat, a deadened, heartless Bukowskian complainer, whose days and nights blur like a grainy tape on fast forward, until the sick joy of haggard reminiscence instills a palpable dread. The pages drip with ecstatic sweaty spasms of laboring paragraphs, wherein images swarm like the cross-section of a beehive.
The impact of real life can often be moving, and the horrid prospect of merely living is disturbing when described in the gritty, greasy manner here employed. Our main character reaches for the bottle, murders a part of himself every night when he comes home, gets back up in the morning, and that weight gets heavier and heavier all the time. A Sisyphean accumulation. I, for one, sympathized with the amassing burden experience imparts.
The unhinged descriptions continue in part 2, as the context shifts. The unremitting anger is reminiscent of Ellison’s underground man – a scenario which occurs in Part 3 to full Dostoyevskian effect. Here, cynicism, is a form of wisdom. Interior monologues merge with dialogues – yet which pieces are pretend, which manifestations are real versus imagined? The monster of self-loathing morphs into a universal loathing, but it is somehow crystalline, even amid the frazzled, frenetic, hectic burping prose avalanches, which gurgle forth in volcanic bursts. It is perhaps because of the marvels of compression the author pulls off, that his hypnotic storytelling takes on such depths.
In Unbabbling, REYoung tunnels straight through the heart of America, down into its rotting belly, excavating the fear and disgust which has piled up for centuries like the bedrock holding up the guv’na’s house.