Author Topic: The Ace of Lightning - a modern enigma  (Read 1785 times)

Pingers

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The Ace of Lightning - a modern enigma
« on: November 26, 2020, 09:04:15 PM »
I am currently reading this. I haven't 'finished' yet, but I suspect that is irrelevant. Very keen to read it again straight afterwards, which is rare.

I have three questions:

1. (the big one) What is going on? A lot, is the short answer I think. But what are the long answers?
2. Why can I find so little written about it?
3. Why is it so expensive?

Re: The Ace of Lightning - a modern enigma
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2020, 12:24:51 PM »
I loved this book, and like you I pretty much turned around and read it again. The tone of it is remarkable, deadpan and absurd. Stephen-Paul Martin's other books look interesting too, though I have only read the stories in Changing The Subject.

1. I mean, wildly open to interpretation of course, but we're looking at accidents and coincidences rippling through history, and sandwiches reappearing a lot.
2. It was published by the University of Alabama Press, and wasn't reviewed by many people. I only heard of it mentioned in an interview with the author Curtis White.
3. Same as above - think it's a US import, not published elsewhere.

Re: The Ace of Lightning - a modern enigma
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2020, 08:23:24 PM »
Here's the Curtis White piece where I first heard about this: https://www.semcoop.com/blog/post/curtis-whites-critical-reads

And you've probably already seen this, but the guy also includes a little spreadsheet image he's made of stuff that reappears from story to story: https://thefreeformreview.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/the-brain-melting-microcosm-of-stephen-paul-martins-the-ace-of-lightning/


Pingers

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Re: The Ace of Lightning - a modern enigma
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2020, 09:11:38 PM »
I'm glad someone else has read it.

Thanks for the answers. I was able to get it as an ebook, so hopefully that will help it spread a bit further.

For those that haven't read it, the first part is a telling of the few hours before Gavrilo Princip shoots the Archduke Ferdinand and indirectly kicks of the first world war. What follows are several short tales in more modern times, where Princip or the ghost of Princip or the idea of Princip turns up in some way. Lots of themes or ideas or motifs are repeated across these stories - if feels to me a bit like trying to find a way through a maze, and occasionally coming across a point that seems familiar, before heading on into somewhere new.

Martin seems very interested in the bits between recorded history, and in the idea that history as we read or hear about it is centred around the acts that people perform, but we don't get to know about the pauses between the acts - the seemingly-inconsequential conversations with others, the doubts and private thoughts of the protaganists. He also focuses on the idea that the language used to tell history obscures it - there are repeated instances of people deciding to act, instead of thinking or talking about acting, and this is present in the first part where Princip refuses to be talked out of the assassination; he just wants the purity of action. I think Martin is out to portray this separation between the solidity of the act and the ambiguity of describing the actions of others.

His language is purposefully blank and utilitarian, often in the form of He says: / She says:, a contrast to the obscuring function of writing about history. There is a lot about personal perspective; for example a mysterious wall appears overnight in Central Park, people who try to photograph it end up with a photo of themselves taking the photo. To try to get around this, one narrator paints the wall, then photographs the painting, but finds he has a photo of himself painting the wall. I think that is the central preoccupation of the book - all perspective is subjective, history tries to describe actions but language obscures those actions. However, I think there is more than that going on, but I'm going to need to read it again to get some of that I reckon.  It's very good.

Re: The Ace of Lightning - a modern enigma
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2020, 01:39:21 PM »
I've got it in ebook format too.

Your thoughts on it are pretty insightful, I think, and supported by some of what Martin says in this interview https://thereveriereview.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/interview-with-stephen-paul-martin/:

Quote
I want to see what the past looks like when it’s re-narrated through verbal maneuvers unlike those used in conventional history textbooks. I want to defamiliarize not just the events I’m writing about, but the narrative methods commonly used to present those events. I like tampering with discourses of authority, destabilizing their pretense of representing the truth. In my work, historical events are presented as a series of funhouse mirrors.

Out of interest, where did you first come across the book? What prompted you to pick it up in the first place?

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Re: The Ace of Lightning - a modern enigma
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2020, 01:09:44 PM »
I've got it in ebook format too.

Your thoughts on it are pretty insightful, I think, and supported by some of what Martin says in this interview https://thereveriereview.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/interview-with-stephen-paul-martin/:

Out of interest, where did you first come across the book? What prompted you to pick it up in the first place?

I think someone on here mentioned it, although I forget which excellent CaBber it was who recommended it. I put it on my 'to read' list and finally got around to it. Funnily enough, not long after my last post I picked the book up again and a couple of pages in read this section:

Quote
The writing seems to be covering something up, like a painting painted only to conceal another painting. When the text is focused on martyrdom, it might be describing an afternoon made of aluminum. When the text is focused on war as a way of reviving failed economies, it might be describing robots whispering prayers to a robot Christ, failing to find the missing parts that might bring him back to life. When the text is focused on labor camps for people with subprime credit scores, it might be describing an ashtray in Bohemia, made from a massacred elephant's foot, a conversation piece. When the text is focued on sbudivisions turning into ghost towns, it might be describing music made of stars, a compostion that's also a new constellation. I'ts like you're trying to read a double exposure, and you can't help having doubts about the translation, or wondering if there was something wrong with the author's original prose, or if the past was simply too confusing to put into words.

That seems about a clear an exposition of what he is driving at as we'll get.

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Re: The Ace of Lightning - a modern enigma
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2020, 04:27:12 PM »
Much preferred the Saracen of Cobra.

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