November 3, 2011
“May be nsonesne but it feles etlacxy rihgt” – Fiction Advocate on “How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive”
by Melville House
Here’s Fiction Advocate on Christopher Boucher‘s “deceptively avant-garde” novel How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: “Like an engine overhaul, it re-configures our understanding of how a story can be told.” The review argues that Boucher’s wild metaphorical style “may be nonsense, but it feels exactly right, like the way you can read a word even if all the interior letters are scrambled.”
The review is referring to the 2003 email meme that claimed:
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.
It seems an apt analogy for Boucher’s fictional style, which plays constantly with meaning and form, but still manages to tell a heartfelt story about fatherhood, death, creativity, and car repair.
For example, the chapter “Resurrecting Your Volkswagen Beetle”
A lot of masks will tell you that the secret to the Volkswagen Resurrection has to do with the engine—with draining the sufferoil, finding the heart and reigniting it. That autologic is backwards, in my opinion; stories don’t run on the heart, but vice versa. My theory on resurrections, therefore, is simple: You have to write your car back to life.
Fiction Advocate concludes: “[T]he emotional intensity of the writing is real, even if its elements are ludicrous. Boucher’s deliberate confusion of words and concepts can serve to deflect sentimentality in what is, at base, a highly sentimental story. And it can surprise the reader with emotional resonance, even during the sections on car maintenance.”