Joseph McElroy's 'Ancient History' (1971)

A little while back I picked up a first edition of Joseph McElroy‘s 1971 novel, Ancient History: A Paraphase, his third book.  For whatever reason I had it my mind that the title was really Ancient History: A Paraphrase, but a few days back I was looking at the cover and finally saw the true title.  But funny enough, I found that others have made the same mistake.  The bio below is from a paperback reprint of his first novel, Smuggler’s Bible.

Ancient History is a strange book, to be sure.  Told by a man who sneaks into the apartment of a man who has apparently committed suicide earlier that evening, the narrator has some interesting mathematical theories about parabolas, and seems to be relating stories of his past to in some way ‘graph’ them.  I’m sure there are other tricks going on in terms of the names of the characters – the main ones all start with the letters A, B, C or D (kind of like labels on points on a geometric diagram).  McElroy makes you work for it, in a way like Gaddis; this book has essentially just one ‘chapter break’ over its 307 pages.

When I’m sufficiently rested from this one, I’ll try his second novel, Hind’s Kidnap.

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