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Page 10 American Book Review the Postmodern trickster Mark Wallace aBeCedarium Davis Schneiderman and Carlos Hernandez Chiasmus Press 92 pages; paper, $14.95 The co-authored novel is a rare type of literature , one whose aesthetics have not been often discussed. In what ways can, or should, the authors leave their individual marks on the text? Is the goal to efface the differences between authors, so that the text becomes indistinguishable from the work of a single person? Is it to retain two individual voices, alternating chapters or something similar, so that the text marks what remains unique about each author ? What possibilities are there between effacing authorial uniqueness or insisting on the primacy of authorial voice? Abecedarium is a novel that takes itself apart in the process of putting itself together. Abecedarium gives readers one possible answer to these questions, and a rollicking thrill ride of an answer at that. By trading off paragraphs, Davis Schneiderman and Carlos Hernandez create an innovative give-and-take in which the narrative is not so much continued by each new paragraph as challenged, and sometimes even undermined and contradicted. The result is a novel that takes itself apart in the process of putting itself together, making deconstruction an essential element of construction. The paragraphs respond to each other by questioning, cajoling, redirecting, and sometimes even sparring. The refusal to let the narrative grow in any conventionally linear manner results in a symbiosis between authors that neither erases the differences between them or reduces those differences simply to narrative voice. Instead, the novel creates a third way, in which ruptures and discontinuities shape a shared tension. At every stage, both authors become part of a process that neither thoroughly controls. To the extent that it has any narrative center, Abecedarium focuses on a main character, Fex, who is first introduced as a ninety-year-old man leading a team of people stuffed inside a dragon suit at a carnival. But Fex is hardly a conventional character. His identity gets re-written repeatedly as he appears in different guises in different scenes and sometimes within scenes, emerging and re-emerging as an adventurer, an entrepreneur, a doctor, a Grand Marshall at a county fair, and many others. He is equally capable of murder and resurrection, magic and high-tech surgery. Essentially, Fex might be described as a postmodern trickster figure. But while the traditional trickster usually acts as a subversive counterpoint to authority, Fex appears more often, though not exclusively, as a global capitalist con man. His momentary costume becomes in multiple scenes a controlling, egotistical force; one that takes advantage of social chaos to feed an obsessive selfinterest . In that, Fex seems a symbol of contemporary globalist economic and political power, in which the forces that control people’s lives are shadowy, shapeshifting , and always on the move. The scenes featuring Fex range between fascinating and murky. Fex’s story is disruptive and multi-directional, but is not the most striking feature of Abecedarium. Instead, the primary pleasure of the text is the play of language both on the level of the sentence and the paragraph. The novel has a dense, lively style that’s somehow remarkably consistent. Schneiderman and Hernandez both participated in rewriting each other’s original sentences, and the tension between the authors on the level of the story is more resolved in the style, one which is nonetheless essential to the book’s chaotic veering. Almost every paragraph features swirling rhythms packed with detail and postmodern or globalist ironies: It was weird being so silent and at peace here, the conundrums of the Andromeda galaxy, of inspirational speakers on tour with the Library of Congress merging into a cosmic forecemeat, positively surrounded by people doing nothing less than acting out what it would be like to utterly dismantle the copper-coated melting pot that government documents called “society .” And some of the revelers weren’t even acting. The writer whose style this most recalls is Thomas Pynchon.As in Pynchon’s work, the sentences often overwhelm the narrative, impeding its development and asking readers to focus on a chaotic present only tenuously related to whatever...