Two Novels by Mike Corrao is split into two parts: “Howl Revisited” and “Green Detectives”. The first part explores the philosophy of poetry and of base narrative while the second part expresses the first part’s thesis. At times obscure, visual, and carefully orchestrated, Corrao succeeds by unmasking the protons and neutrons of language only to eviscerate them through ludicrously enchanting mental activity.
So Many Resurrections
It begins with Ginsberg and “Howl” and a pseudo-revisitation of that poem’s conjuring. At times it seems that Corrao is a writer-octopus, various arms wringing out literary connections and counterfactuals through the early narrative. His control named, his precariousness admitted in having the novel’s protagonist note, “one can only ask for so many resurrections before things turn grim.” Later, the protagonist declares, through some godlike fiat, “i am the poet. and new sounds have come out of me… i am the source.”
The first section can feel trippy, schizophrenic, until you latch on to where Corrao is going, what he is trying to create. He transcends experimentalism when he admits the game he plays: “in all the chaos, i’ve lost track of the plot. but then again, what good was it to me anyways?” These bursts of lucidity not only save a dense project, they form a Rosetta Stone from which the rest might be deciphered.
The closing section of the first novel is a conversation between unnamed characters that summarize the ethos of Corrao’s narrative to this point, playing up the surrealism as they discuss a head made of many mouths, cable news, and a story about Dionysus’ sexual proclivities wherein he accumulates things his lovers leave behind, only serving to make the useless heap bigger in his attempts to describe it. The conversation’s early portion sees one speaker ask, “what’s the plot then?” To which goes the answer, “there is none. nothing matters more than / anything else, and it’s all endlessly complicated.” The story about Dionysus goes some way to unravel Corrao’s theory of language before the theory is tested in the second novel, “Green Detectives”.
The Bottom of Language
The second novel, told in straightforward narrative poems, is about two biologists who are said to “examine / the bones of titans / and try to put them back together.” After dismantling poetry in “Howl Revisited” it is fitting that Corrao uses these biologists to explore creation, even if it only occurs through unearthing. They look for an author, an epicenter for language, acknowledging in “The Evidence Suggests” that “No demands have satiated their hunches, / the subject is not textual.” The poem yet admits “they could not look for a / Carrao or Belano or Parro.” The bottom of language is not a text nor is it a person.
The wild investigation winds toward the arrival of a missive that both destroys and releases the poet trapped in this strange, luminous book. Corrao thus demonstrates the power in twisting language and narrative, threading it through experimental needle to sew fabric of heretofore unseen design.
You will not come to Two Novels having encountered anything similar. And while originality and invention do not always secure quality, Corrao sets no foot wrong, turning in a brilliant performance to make Two Novels a glorious exploration of who or what lies at the bottom of a story.
Two Novels is published by Orson’s Publishing.