In a city in the north west portion of another country that is not Australia where people also speak, read and write English, there is an apartment in a building of two or perhaps three stories. There are blinds on the windows of the apartment and a discerning reader sits, her back to the blinds, the sunlight filtering through those afore-mentioned blinds illuminates the pages of a narrative which might be or might not be One Million Windows written, if any fiction can be said to be written, by a personage named Gerald Murnane an older man, of whom no one can say he is hardly more than a boy.
The discerning reader will wonder if she is supposed to laugh this much while reading a narrative that is supposed to be fiction and whether it is “true fiction” or “metafiction” and what is or is not a “trustworthy narrator” while reading this text. That’s not all the discerning reader will wonder about, to be frank.
I wondered whether I was missing the point entirely because I enjoyed the book far too much. I shared a few pages with some friends who were horrified by the text and said in no way would they ever read such a book. On the other hand, I shared those same pages with my best friend and she cracked up as much as I did, which is probably why we are best friends. The biggest difficulty in reading One Million Windows is being able to keep reading while laughing. This is why:
One of us, so I happened to learn recently while we two alone were drinking late — one of us had, nearly thirty years ago, the experience of falling in love with an entity, so to call her, who was both an actual female person, one of the sumless inhabitants of the spaces between fictional texts, and also a seeming likeness, if not the embodiment, of a personage who had first appeared to him nearly ten years before while he was reading a work of nonfiction first published nearly ten years before his birth, which person was also a fictional personage in a work of fiction that he was writing at the time when he fell in love, so to speak, with the entity, so to call her.
I offer no apology to any sort of reader for any difficulties that she or he may have had with the previous sentence. Some of us in this topmost story have been, or are still, entangled in such matters as cannot be reported in simple sentences.
The entire book is written in this long monologue that twists and turns in on itself again and again, repeating phrases like “a young woman, hardly more than a girl”, “some or another”, “so to speak” and “two or three stories” and on and on and on to the point of absurdity. And absurdity is the point, isn’t it? To prove that in deft hands a writer can write a novel about not very much at all.
“I react in the presence of a narrator who I suspect of being unreliable or when confronted by one of those curious texts sometimes published as fiction but having the appearance of diary entries…I have no answer for the discerning reader, but I can state for his or her benefit that I decline to read any piece of fiction if I suspect the author of believing that fiction is mere artifice and that the reader of fiction has no more urgent need than to be diverted or teased. (Even the discerning reader should have learned from the previous sentence that the narrator of this present work of fiction is to be trusted.)”
If Murnane’s narrator is to be believed, the fictional is more real, more meaningful and more true that our physical being. For any of us readers who have found truth in fiction, we recognize the truth of that paradox.
I seldom give 5 stars. The work has to be original, something new and unusual. It does not have to be easy to read, and there is nothing easy about One Million Windows. You have to give up your sense of what fiction should be and your need for the conventional elements of plot, dialogue and so on and just let Murnane hypnotize you with his prose which is wickedly satirical and let him whisk you away on this surreal acid trip of a book.
I received a copy of One Million Windows in a drawing from GoodReads giveaways.
To get a sense of Gerald Murnane, you could read his Wikipedia entry which shows definite signs of being edited by Gerald Murnane.