Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes

Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes

B Minus Seven


[spoiler]When it comes to difficult puzzles, I’m ashamed to admit that I’m a bit of a quitter; it takes all my willpower to resist the lure of the walkthrough or the seductive whisper of the hint. When it comes to difficult text, on the other hand, I’m usually quite happy to persevere, and – eventually – some sort of light usually dawns, so that I end up making (or at least thinking that I have made) some sort of sense of it.

But sometimes I have to admit defeat, even in the face of greatness. Finnegan’s Wake has defeated me, more than once. And Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes did too. It’s not that it is slapdash, or raving. Each individual piece of it is obviously carefully put together or, rather, carefully taken to pieces – ideas played with and pushed until they fracture. Language, too, sometimes wrenched to incoherence:

That almost might be from Finnegan’s Wake.

Piece by piece, there was a lot here that I liked, precisely for the playfulness. Occasionally, it seemed as if some sort of theme might be emerging. It looks in part as if this is a game which plays rather consciously on the idea of the game as something artificial. Why do we move from one “room” to another, with no apparent connection? Because we can! There is a moment when you are “stopped”:

This seems like a conceit within a conceit. You are self-consciously reminded that the experience you are about to have is not real, and yet that reminder is itself fictionalised: you are to pretend that what is happening is some sort of physical work in a “room”, when of course it is actually just words on a screen. The room is indeed being prepared, but not in the way that the text suggests. The same is true of the moments when the text apparently breaks down and exposes code statements which (double bluff!) are of course not code statements but text but which (triple bluff!) then function as if they are code statements, creating an object which can be taken.

But beyond this general theme, I couldn’t make everything fit together. The message, if there is one, was too trampled upon to read. Perhaps there is none to be found, a conclusion which would itself be in the general tradition I’m inclined to place this in, as the reader who gets to the end of Tristram Shandy learns:

Well. I cannot say that Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes is one of the best of its kind, but it is a short experiment in the deliberately incomprehensible, and not necessarily to be despised for that.[/spoiler]

Re: Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes


It’s part of a progressive degeneration of the first paragraph of Gertrude Stein’s “The Making of Americans.” So not so far off, maybe![/spoiler]

Ah! Interesting. There are plenty of literary references here, beyond the title, I suspect. I haven’t checked, for instance, but I think the lion knocker may be Christmas Carol …