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Okay so then this is the novel I want to press into your hands But first make sure you exclude yourself OUT if necessary Many of you probably If you have even the slightest allergy to the Loose Baggy Monster, kindly If you ve ever once complained about logorhea , please If you ve even once in your life even hinted at possibly considering saying no clothes , if you would If you ve than once said something to the effect of this novel needs an editor , please kindly And if you know already you prefer a 120 page shortstory novella to an 888 page gorilla, be so nice as to consider Or if you scoff at words like maximalism and mega novel or encyclopedic, do us the favor of If you once found that that one Franzen essay had some merits, please find the door If you ve once described something you didn t understand as unreadable , no butt prints please Or if you can t tell the difference between the modern and the postmodern and the premodern, do us all the favor If you think the self indulgence of the artist is a fault, you know where Or the overwrought isn t metal wrought too much, you ll know This novel isn t for you Go away.Now, there s what maybe two or three of you left Well, you re already convinced What need I say then I mean, I had a bloody fantastic time reading this thing It was also kind of a new thing for me, reading one of these monsters near totally blind Usually you know I m convinced by something before hand, my pre judging, my spidey snese this one had to do its own convincing And it took a while why not.Big thanks, btw, to Friend Chris Via for bringing this beast randomly to my attention It was a quick sell 888 pages following in the tradition of Sterne, Rabelais, Cervantes, Joyce, Perec how the fuck knot Seriously, had you guys ever even once heard of it The Millions didn t mention it I m sure It didn t make the booker longlist but it did apparently make the Not THE Booker Shortlist which is even better because you know booker would ve included itsdamnself OUT long ago eta okay so but this is a little factoid And I swear this almost never happens With this kind of novel BUT Every single star d gr Review with one exception is either a four or a five star Review Make of that what you may But this kind of novel usually almost always begins its gr Career with like I dunno a two star take down Like the profi review we ll be reading down below But no A bunch of gr Reviewers with whom I ve no truck and don t know from Adam have already determined before me and you that this is somehow four five starrable I mean, that s just data Just facts From ordinary folks Warms the heart a little it does gr score 58 Ratings 21 Reviews as of this date of the 13th of Jan in 18 If you re 666 then I m 888 this mofo to that one Moore list of the Gro stadtromane, featuring Prague.https www.goodreads.com review show Market Report Back in Stock on January 23, 18 For a simple US 22 Not bad Otherwise, going for about seventy bucks I ll sell mine for US 888.88 But you want this one new or in EXCellent condition because it s one of those fat paperbacks that get destroyed as soon it even glances at a backpack or other type of traveling carrying transporting device I ve still not confirmed my opinion about the most excellent enjoyment factor of this novel by confirming with Sir Moore and some of you are going to pick up this novel and determine that I am full of shit and you ll never again believe a word I say Who is Louis Armand tf if I know Born an aussie been in Prague since 94 Isn t that interesting Google him or whatever Shifting gears a bit, other focusGotta get this off my chest The novel got reviewed in The Guardian Which I guess is better than nothing But jesus christ don t these reviewers have any honor, any sense of nobility any I mean, if I think general literary culture in the US sucks I can t even imagine what it must be like in jolly old Old Country and stuff Okay so let s just have this little discussion Probably just a few points here and there The Combinations by Louis Armand review convoluted convolutions This sprawling, self consciously avant garde novel is the product of serious thought, but it s also terribly overwritten and much traditional than it thinks by Sam Jordisonhttps www.theguardian.com books 201Okay so we re signal d that we re dealing with a hipster too cool for skuul kind of reviewer That but gives you the false impression that you ll be dealing with a fair and balanced and even handed assessment But we ve been here so many times before that we know what we re in for A reviewer that should ve included himself OUT Nemec never feels like a fleshed out character, and we never get a glimpse of the inner workings of his mind To be at such a remove is alienating, but it also fits the uncertainty of this story, where everything is as intangible as mist, obscuring and forever swirling out of reach. I don t know that it s even relevant to make this observation There s a fleshy norm here that maybe should not even be on the table Inner workings of his mind I know I know it s a thing a novel can do and has done but by no means whatsoever never needs to do 2D characters on a 2d chessboard is a perfectly legit thing to do but it also fits the uncertainty of this story okay so maybe, I dunno what s the reviewer s attitude toward this kind of fiction Let s read further All of this confusion is well reflected in the fractured, sprawling narrative. Yes Fractured and sprawling are positive terms, yes the plot winds around itself as much as it moves forward. Fantastic But why does it need to move forward Armand s book is freighted with heavily adjectival, overloaded sentences, as well as bursting with lists, ideas half formed, allusions uncertain and unsettling illusions. That s all good stuff, yes I mean, overloaded sentences That s got to be a compliment, right Bursting with lists That doesn t entirely invalidate my objections, however. sigh But the sad truth is that he hasn t really travelled far at all Like many who court the avant garde, Armand ends up disappointingly conservative. Jesus guys This is the dumbest thing and I hear it so often It wants to be claims to be etc avant garde experimental innovative but it s not really because, well, because other books have already been written I mean, what Just because every novel doesn t go and do what ULULU does and I know none of you know what I m talking about because I ve got gr data doesn t mean that, well, it doesn t fucking mean that a novel can t just go ahead and do what it does with all the loose and baggy freedom and individuality it wants to Unique little novel this is here and yes, it s not as out there as The Wake and it s not really Tristram and it s not Danielewski and Sorrentino did it better and Pynchon can t be touched and and and But look here, this is a great baggy bulky great great whatever call it avant garde we tired hipster too cool for skuul reviewers just aren t that easily impressed jesus guys I mean, the avant garde is a tradition and traditions are always conservative so there s your dialectical movement folks There s little that feels new, even in spite of the relentless tide of name checking and references. name checking and references Okay so this is about the reviewer now and not the novel Of course and do we trust the judgement of this reviewer or of N.R and who the hell is he anyway Sam Jordison looks after the Guardian s Reading group and the weekly Tips, Links and Suggestions page He is a co director of Galley Beggar Press and the co editor of the Crap Towns series of books You can follow him on Twitter eta little that feels new that s the thing that reallyreallyreally new thing never before encountered is damn difficult to even recognize it s so new you don t see it don t know what it is don t know the criteria for judgment cf ULULU again if you need a fer instance of something reallyreally out there It s all rats, alcohol, asylums, Mitteleurope, masons, Faust, alchemy, dingy laboratories, Enoch, Babbage, Hermes Trismegistus, John Dee, Rorschach blots, the sphinx, mysterious bookstores It s sometimes obscure Fucking Fantastic Yes More please but mainly predictable. What Good god Hipster The style too, feels too much like reheated but still undercooked William BurroughsI m at a loss undercooked reheated His metaphors are especially strained Like a zen cop on a permanent stakeoutOne two three four five six seven eight Eight words in an 888 page novel Surely a worse metafour could be found What s a zen copIf you have to ask see first para supraThe watery folds of the Prof s eyes contracted as he forged ahead with his proofs and speculations like a Buster Keaton character who conceals his disappointment at finding only an inattentive audience with increasingly strange antics Is it the folds of the eyes that are performing those antics Or the Prof And when exactly does that Buster Keaton character encounter such disappointmentInattentive much Dear reviewer, you re reading the wrong book But reading closely Let s find out It s that you ve got to know enough about Kepler for it to make sense Such references aren t only frustrating oh holy fuck You Are Kidding Me I sometimes wondered if Armand really knew all the root meanings of all his allusions, if he cared, or if it mattered. I wonder what kind of fiction actually moves this reviewer.I apologize for being so nasty here today with this reviewer guy from The Guardian But dammit he really does this novel poorly and himself poorly and the whole rep of like professional reviewers Dude got paid btw and that s enough to hold him to some kind of serious standard serious than the bs ing I do down here I mean, I m sure this reviewer guy is a nice guy and likes the kinds of novels he likes but he maybe shouldn t ve been taking on the assignment of this one I mean he could ve recorded his objections here on gr where they would do little harm I dunno But let s wrap this up.This will blow your socks off This uncertainty was increased by occasional lapses To give a quick and minor example, he translates a bit of Latin for Pythagoras numero est ipsum movens as the soul is the number that moves itself Alas, the Latin Armand provides doesn t actually have a word for soul in it, leading to the suspicion that he s quoting without properly understanding And since there is so much quotation everywhere, a lapse like this seriously undermines faith in the book. Okay I had the exact same question when I encountered this passage I was all like, What is he doing And then but I actually went ahead and read the rest of the novel Wherein It becomes clarus et distintus ie, clear as dialectical dishwater that this is one thing that this novel is doing, Fucking With Translations None of the translations are accurate or maybe some They are all or most pulling your leg Why does it do this Who knows But it s fun To see the disjunction between the quote and its translation this is a pleasure of reading when one has access to than one language It s the kind of practice that makes reading this kind of novel pleasurable.So the credibility of the reviewer is clearly much suspicious than that of the author That s just like facts dude And you just can t lose trust in a novel where so much depends on believing that the author is in control. It s important for a reviewer to be trustworthy There is no need whatsoever for an author to be in control Author can do what author will To go back to those metaphors, Armand possibly has a get out clause He could argue that those similes are deliberately half cocked and discombobulating Does Not Need A get out clause He ain t in your Franzen world in the first place It s a loose baggy monster in need of an editor which is kind of genre I suppose Or it just needs just clothes Maybe what this novel needs is some nice proper clothes Maybe some Quaker dress The biggest loss of belief came for me when immediately after page 202, I found myself reading page 427 There was then a straight sequence of pages until page 650 after which page 427 arrived again and the whole chunk was reprinted. Yes Printers errors suck I had the same experience with my 1st 1st inscribed Argall Pissed me off Because but I found a solution I read it in a paperback, those missing pages The unsettling thing was the fact that I couldn t tell whether or not Armand had intended the pages to run in this curious manner. Again with the Kidding Me And when it s got to the stage that you can t tell the difference between an author s intentions and a printing error, you know there s troubleRecuse Recuse yourself You can turn down a reviewing assignment when it s not working out for you But sure Blame the novel Blame the author Whatever Finnegans Wake is just a huge 17 year joke Seriously What Ever But even that doesn t entirely invalidate this book. My God invalidate What is this, a course in Logic What in the world could invalidate a book possibly mean Yes, it s often boring a few extravagantly soporific passages even rendered me unconscious. Like pianissimo passages in a symphony It s called dynamics Dynamics don t mean that it s full tilt enthralling every moment it means there s an ebb and flow of pacing of tone of whatever makes the thing the thing it is If you want constantly exciting, go see one of those superhero movies with all the cgi and all the explosions and fistfits and things of this nature I keep hearing about Nothing boring there But art isn t just there to distract and amuse us and to seek easy pleasure in this work is to miss the point. Maybe the grammar of this sentence could be cleaned up a bit But I think I get what he s saying if I pay a bit attention to it Even if you hate every page, this 888 page monster still has its uses Should someone attack you, you can use it to fend him off Or, if you really want to mess up your assailant, you can open it up and start reading it to himThat s kind of the very definition of the hipster too kool for skool kind of reader reviewer At any rate Apologies again for being so crewl to this reviewer guy from The Guardian But I just don t trust him I think he is wrong Wrong about the facts wrong on choosing his criteria for adjudicating this novel I really enjoyed it You might too But do take the time to exclude yourself OUT, if necessary. This an historical record 14Jan18 Ye ole snap shot dear gr deleter please don t delete this is an original work of homage to our gr reading community disclosure I have never once in my life had contact with a single one of the following gr reviewers To the best of my knowledge they have never once in their life had even the slightest contact with my ugly self So what the hell What s with all the 4 5 stars Let s find out.CNP that is knot Canadian Northern Pacific Railroad and it is huge and fascinating and when I finish it I am going to have to start all over again because there is so much in this book that truly is unlike anything I have read before the whole book is like some game of four dimensional chess, there are actual chess puzzles in here, including The Sphinx from Chandler ha , and also an actual labyrinth to solve, as well as a crossword puzzle, a comic strip, a film treatment with diagrams, a couple of stage plays, an interview, and bizarre footnote commentary by a character identified only by a black hand who reminds me a bit of Frank Zappa s scrutinizer and a lot of references to a fake medieval manuscript which the Web assures me actually exists is FZ s Central Scrutinizer on a psychic continuum between the arcana of the Codex Seraphinianus and an Alan Moore comicboth books transmuting the singular and local through a cosmic lens and on an almost cosmic scaleLike David Foster Wallace s INFINITE JESTneither JERUSALEM nor THE COMBINATIONS displays any resemblance to the so called Great American Novelwould be Iain Sinclair s DOWNRIVER, or the least American of contemporary American writers Pynchon s AGAINST THE DAYIf Moore s writing is comparatively Miltonic, in the Blakean vein, Armand s is Blakean, in the Joycean vein is not me making the DFW Pynchon Joyce thingie Thing is, maybe these maximalist novels constitute a major vein, not of The Great American Novel because maybe Gatsby is one but rather the carotid artery of Weltliterature I hated Rubik s cubes, but I loved this bookIf Dr Who landed in Prague for the next 64 episodesIf you like big books about puzzles and codes and ciphers that are also puzzles and codes and ciphers in and of themselves, then The Combinations Foucault s Pendulum The Tunnel Italo CalvinoMoby Dick m going to totally second that Foucault s Pendulum nomination Except that Armand can actually write I mean, Eco s fine, but he s got no flair whatsoever But, yeah, definitely an echo of that little thriller in this big monster myself in the INTERMISSION unreasonably persuaded THIS could very well be one of the last hopes for a bearable future mind life on this planet I m convinced that The Guardian reviewer did not read the INTERMISSION because that would ve totally cleared up to his satisfaction what kind of novel this novel wants to be It s all there almost pedantically spelled out as if Our Author thought a few things needed to be spelled out for the easily dup d but yet still you have to actually read it which I m increasingly convinced Our Guardian Reviewer did not Heavy accusation but still damn his review sucked I can say with confidence that I have never read a book like The Combinations, which is difficult at times, incredibly complex, occasionally infuriating or its part, The Combinations doesn t easily permit comparison and in many ways is as genuinely unique and complex as Prague itself easy comparison Well, I dunno I mean, it s that kind of book that fits in with several other books that don t really have their equal Naja Like Pynchon and Wallace, Armand can write with tireless virtuosity about almost anything alongside Joshua Cohen s similarly sizeable debut, Witz, and Bolano s 2666 Prague, as Kafka long ago demonstrated making realism out of fiction because it upends our sentimentality for the postcard scenery of our historical failures good god The name dropping Won t somebody think of the name dropping Won t someone please get a Proust in there somewhere let s wait and see Like Borges s metafictions, reading The Combinations is a labyrinthine experience Not for everyone, but then nothing is was not indeed for The Guardian reviewer who should ve kindly stepped aside But what the hell It s the kind of characters we have to deal with on a regular basis.may just as well turn out to form a blackwhite army of pawns in some larger game pawns have to be annotated one day Holy f This book is a way out That is the whole of that review But this one only got one Like Were he a famous author this Review would ve garnered about 1587 Likes and perhaps 17 ADDS to the tbr and maybe one person would read it What is the point of a game of chess Is it enjoyment Here we have the literary equivalent I have no doubt that this book will be considered a must read by those who enjoy challenging, clever writing your move, reader recommend this here Review as a pretty fair portrait of the novel But the gr user has their profile set to private and I m again it so I didn t Like it I understand, but really how social can I be with you when you re all locked up like that No worries.The sole Star Review Lets look only skim reading incredibly clever I wasn t engaged I admire was just a slog is totally fine I found The Lover a real slog myself A unique reading experience, definitely experimental literature its aversion to cliche none of the story unfolded predictablyUmberto Eco s Prague Cemetery without becoming a self parodyin the vein of Candide Candide One of those rare difficult and long novels that produces rewards for the reader determined enough to penetrate the impenetrable Overlong Possibly Grandiose Maybe Brilliant Most definitely Hilarious, too Mark Z Danielewski s House of Leaves.which is exactly the reason I totally dig both of them times gr Reviewers just brighten your day despite the fact that it took a long time to read and was quite physically difficult at times It will not only challenge your idea of what a novel is but of how a novel should be presented stranger reading experiences I ve had, and I ve read many a strange book, but this one is up there with some of the strangest Everyone ought to read it m already chuckling about those touchy folks that recoil every time they see one of those oughts They re so funny when they do that Thing is of course, everyone knows what Everyone ought to read it actually means, I mean, knows what it means in actuality that there is my hobbyhorse about your hobbyhorse Accessible and well written, a sort of urban poetic mural of artistic perception and spiritual survival I felt changed after reading this the Invasion of the Body Snatchers like Donald Sutherland at the end of the film Most books don t do this with a warning printed on the cover deeply disturbing suppose it could be read like that I mean, isn t the whole point of a novel to take over your experience I mean provide you experience and immerse you and no but really art is supposed to put you into that whole Stockholm Syndrome I mean, if we understand the claim non cynically It s the too cool for skoool hipsters that won t allow themselves into the world of a novel they ve got to maintain their totally chill ironic distance and if art actually enrapts you to the point of some kind of esoteric rapture then you are to be chastized for not thinking for yourself or some other liberal claptrap No, art is supposed to do that whole body snatching thing isn t it Otherwise its just livingroom wallhangings No Starrage I haven t even read a single page, and yet, just from hefting it, flicking through it, poking my nose in here and there, I am on a natural romantic crush equivalent high like you wouldn t believe so here is an instance of a reader the precise inverse of the above mentioned TooCOOOLforSkool Hipster who won t allow himself to fall immediately in love but has be totally chill and take an objective view of the situation and treat the unread novel with as much possible suspicion as possibly he can muster possibly and somehow find merits upon which to issue his even handed sober judgement Sorry, no Fall in love be vulnerable open to the possibility of getting your feelings hurt and your readerly heart disappointed A Dantesque epic of existential satire that speaks very much to the times where s the link, dude Dante, but I ve still not gotten my Proust Lives up to the hype review in entirety What hype Closing in on two years post publication with a score of 58 Ratings 21 Reviews if there was hype it was futile and forlorn But it s never too late HYPE No Starrage Won as a first reads giveaway, can t wait to read it was written quite some time ago Ladies and Gentlemen, I implore you If you ve got books to promote, don t waste your time and money on the gr Giveaways Guaranteed your book will end up in the hands of a reader who doesn t give a flying flip about what your book is on about Unless of courseAt any rate, I m going to give The Combinations A Little Green Rosetta Ladies and Gentlemen Now that we ve had FZ appear freely and spontaneously within the context of this Gro stadtroman of Prague, know this Frank s last performance was in Prague 1991 Here it is From the courtyard, a whoosh of something in mid collapse sheets of snow coming down from the rooftop then the sound of the giant funnel, like an articulated windpipe, belching debris, grey dust drifting in from the stairs a conjurer s ghost changing shape in the spectral half light, suffusing the air.FIRST some grating tossing, hardly friendly to the touch.It would be wrong to say I didn t feel invigorated by elements of this I prefer wrong to incorrect there There s a moral quest to the struggle of a 900 page novel which wallows in ideograms, chess problems and tight circles of narrative linked by billowing description There s a time honored composting underway, a molecular breakdown under the forces of history and folly Armand s painting of such isn t truly evocative He yearns instead for conspiracy The author longs for readers who ve developed strong backs and calloused hands from generational reading into the late nights of their lives He desires those who snap at the references to Hrabal, at Goebbels, at the Simplicissimus Oh and lathered in Mahler A younger Jon would have taken the bait with glee This Jon trudged as across muddy fields of Moravia nursing a fever and a blinding hangover I noted the robots and respect the reference Oh look there s a Western Civ lesson through a chronicle of the rat population didn t Lawrence Norfolk do that Yes, yes he did There s a strong Czech lineage in my wife s maternial family tree That made it cozy but first we needed drunken philosophy, as if Bitov s Pushkin House wasn t sufficient Maybe a montage on airbrushing and historical revisionism This was bricolage but of the most expansive and disordered manner What a toolbox, displaying references to 100 years of Central Europe Shouldn t we conclude the review with a list Armand wants them everywhere, a nod to cher Umberto and his notions of Infinity Finally To The PLOT There s a young writer in the mid 1990s when everyone in the West was rich He s possibly an orphan and definitely a mental patient but oh so sage as our protagonists must reveal and revel within He s hounded by ghosts of a mentor with ties to ancient texts, the occult and chess If you were going to guess the Nazis, then you would be correct as well If you re thinking of reading this, ask yourself whether you have already read P ter N das, if you haven t then go there, consider it a gift There s remorse and regime change Historical expulsion wrestled with defenestration as the chic transgression Only Hegel knows and he s in shadow Maybe today Gregor will accept the dialectical inevitable Perhaps the screenplay needs an edit Louis Armand s THE COMBINATIONS is on a psychic continuum between the arcana of the Codex Seraphinianus and an Alan Moore comic less a novel than a concept album riffing on Universal History at The End of Time, through the refracting prism of Golem City Prague circa 1999, just as Moore s JERUSALEM I ve been lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC represents a fractalized psychogeography of Northampton both books transmuting the singular and local through a cosmic lens and on an almost cosmic scale Moore s magnum opus runs to 1280pp, Armand s to roughly 900 counting the epilogue Like David Foster Wallace s INFINITE JEST, these are the kind of books that come along once in a generational cycle Unlike Wallace and his forebears, neither JERUSALEM nor THE COMBINATIONS displays any resemblance to the so called Great American Novel because obviously they re not, but also because they speak primarily to a specificity of dwelling, of language, of the mythic currents that fuse into an existential rather than literary condition The nearest comparison in recent UK publishing would be Iain Sinclair s DOWNRIVER, or the least American of contemporary American writers Pynchon s AGAINST THE DAY both are massive works of peregrination, of the temporal and spatial enfolding of the individuated collective consciousness, the heavenly host nailed to a pinhead If Moore s writing is comparatively Miltonic, in the Blakean vein, Armand s is Blakean, in the Joycean vein between them they channel the major dualisms of our time. [ Free Pdf ] ♪ The Combinations ♞ In Octaves, Chapters And On Xxxvii Pages, Louis Armand S The Combinations Is A Work Of Attempted Fiction That Combines The Beauty Intellectual Exertion That Is Chess With The Panorama Of Futility Chaos That Is Prague Aka Golem City , Across The Th Century And Before After Golem City, The Ship Of Fools Boarded By The Famed D S Eg John And K S Eg Edward Of The Th Th Centuries Who Attempted And Failed To Turn Lead Into Gold , And The Infamous H S Eg Adolf, Eg Reinhard Of The Th Who Attempted And Succeeded In Turning Flesh Into Soap Armand S Prose Weaves Together The City S Thousand And One Fascinating Tales With A Deeply Personal Account Of One Lost Soul Set Adrift Amid The Early S Awakening From The Nightmare That Was The Previous Half Century Of Communist Mitteleuropa The Combinations Is A Text Whose Erudition Dazzles, Structure Humbles, Monotony Never Bores, Humour Disarms, Relentlessness Overwhelms, Storytelling Captivates, Poignancy Remains Poignant, And Style Simply Never Exhausts Itself Your Move, Reader Kafka S The Trial Meets Robert Musil S The Man Without Qualities I hated Rubik s cubes, but I loved this book This book is smaller on the outside than it is on the inside, which is saying a lot If Dr Who landed in Prague for the next 64 episodes, it might be a bit like this I m not sure I d be able to condense all of the impressions of the book I have, except that it is like a circumnavigational maze whose dominant theme is unanswered questions, with swathes of brilliance, scenes that truly unnerve, outrage, illuminate The whole thing takes place somewhere called Golem City, which like so many things in this book is the mirror of the already sufficiently irreal Prague of the 1990s or the 1620s or 1942, and is about an alchemical manuscript written in a secret language and a hapless Charlie Chaplin character who gets involved in a religious political conspiracy surrounding it a satirical Illuminati The confusion and disorientation experienced by the reader and paralleled by the characters seems essential to its purpose, which I am assuming to be the general dubunking of the illusions of truth in all its shapes and forms If you like big books about puzzles and codes and ciphers that are also puzzles and codes and ciphers in and of themselves, then The Combinations is definitely for you It made me think of Foucault s Pendulum by Umberto Eco and The Tunnel by William Gass with bits and pieces of Italo Calvino, and while I m at it Moby Dick Reading it was incredibly challenging, but also rewarding, as would be expected. The Combinations truly is a contemporary book that falls into the category of Maximalist Literature a new addition to the list for people into that since this is a book of the good kind of excesses and, runs in the line of fun having absurdity, anxiety conspiracy centred novels that Pynchon s name is attached to As a first comparison of structure and story, The Combinations is less Gravity s Rainbow other than its European setting and The Crying of Lot 49, extended, experimented, mutated shuffled into 900 pages, in which Armand shows what he s got through very accessible chapter blocks incorporating a multitude of switches in form from novel to screenplay to history book , and a wide array of great influences that shape his writing into something genuinely enjoyable to read Within the core text there s the sense of adventure and the page turning qualities of classic mystery writing, which smoothly allows 900 pages to slip by you The mystery at the heart of it, however, has an almost Sine like wave pulsing through the structure with each peak clicking the pieces into place, having the reader think they re getting closer to the centre of the conspiracy and each trough throwing it back in your face, pushing you into another section of story that seems to dig a little deeper into the hole it s written itself into The overall tone of the book for me was crafted in a way that did not do injustice to the core story being told, by being too focused on absurdity comedy, and thus coming off as ingenuine or merely an attempt at overly paying homage to Armand s influences Instead The Combinations balances the sincere and yet bizarre narration of our protagonist s journey through late 90 s Prague with footnotes that become a playground leading to nonsensical digressions and signposts to other chapters, and interjections from an outside voice almost pushing the idea of an omniscient writer or author figure I ll use Arno Schmidt as an example , where the interjections are not all necessary but add to the overall atmosphere and wholeness of the book to new redundant yet simultaneously essential heights constantly pinpointing the real absurdity of the events and decisions made by characters.I d recommend this FFO Pynchon of course , Ulysses like City Walking stories, Vollmann s first novel I ve read a couple, now I m allowed to compare books to his work and big books that don t sacrifice their fun element.It s worth the read Forgive my constant pushing of his work, but I like it and he did something you don t see from many Authors. Like Pynchon and Wallace, Armand can write with tireless virtuosity about almost anything The Combinations is a frequently hilarious, high satire of our post political existential malaise A stranger, layered critique than, say, Franzen or Lethem s recent offerings, and damning and demanding than Dave Eggers I would put The Combinations alongside Joshua Cohen s similarly sizeable debut, Witz, and Bolano s 2666 a grotesque, pathetic, comic vision of Everyman as the missing last man alive in a landscape reduced to being a parody of its own advertised significance In many ways this book is a diagnostic of the end of history prophesied after the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the termination of the Cold War Set in their immediate aftermath, The Combinations inhabits that gray zone between East and West which is euphemistically referred to as Central Europe, a non place that exists as a dilapidated simulacrum of the forces at play Prague, as Kafka long ago demonstrated, is really a metaphor to say that the novel is set there would be to miss that point that this most photogenic of pre modern cities is constantly undergoing wish fulfilling metamorphoses What impressed me about this novel is the way its author unashamedly goes about putting this fact to work, making realism out of fiction, where the most unlikely events actually happened, and the most likely have been made up It makes for a disorienting read, not because it confuses, but because it upends our sentimentality for the postcard scenery of our historical failures If this sounds grandiose, the writing itself, and the novel s main character, consistently sabotage high mindedness The ending, in particular, is a stunning example of pathos infused with depreciation, authoritarian mockery, and a corresponding refusal to conform to the script. I can say with confidence that I have never read a book like The Combinations, which is difficult at times, incredibly complex, occasionally infuriating What you get out of it depends largely on how much work you re willing to do The admiration and complete frustration I felt while reading this book was almost too much but I still wanted to read it again I am also hopelessly, romantically nostalgic about Prague The way The Combinations depicts the city is so true to life, a mixture of dysfunctional Socialist realism and the ineffable, mysterious, frequently gorgeous dream like quality of its storied past It was a refreshing contrast to Arthur Phillips Prague and The Russian Debutante s Handbook by Gary Shteyngart, which promised much than they actually delivered and were compared to the work of such writers as Kundera and Hemingway unfortunately that was not the case For its part, The Combinations doesn t easily permit comparison and in many ways is as genuinely unique and complex as Prague itself If you love the city the way I do, you should read this book OK, I m still only halfway thru, but finding myself in the INTERMISSION unreasonably persuaded THIS could very well be one of the last hopes for a bearable future mind life on this planet and not being Clockwork Orange eye socket tortured into watching the radiation slowly eat the loved ones brains.