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Escher's Loops
Zoran Živković
PS Publishing, 330 pages

Zoran Živković
Zoran Živković was born in Belgrade in 1948. He has worked as an editor, translator, and publisher before beginning his own productive, successful, and ongoing writing career. In 1973, he graduated in literary theory from the Department of General Literature, Faculty of Philology of the University of Belgrade; he received his master's degree in 1979 and his doctorate in 1982 from the same university. His dissertation, The Appearance of Science Fiction as a Genre of Artistic Prose, appeared in his Contemporaries of the Future anthology, along with several of the stories discussed. Also in 1982, he founded the Polaris imprint, Yugoslavia's first privately-owned SF publishing house, through which he released over a hundred books. He also wrote and hosted a television series about science fiction cinema, titled "The Starry Screen" ("Zvezdani ekran," 1984). The show later inspired a book of critical essays under the same title.

Winner of the 2003 World Fantasy Award for his mosaic novella The Library, he is the author of many titles of fiction that, in the tradition of Borges and others, blur the line between the fantastic and the real.

In 2007, Živković was made a professor in the Faculty of Philology at his alma mater, the University of Belgrade, where he now teaches Creative Writing.

Zoran Živković Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Hidden Camera
SF Site Review: The Fourth Circle
SF Site Review: Seven Touches of Music
SF Site Review: Time Gifts
Excerpt from Hidden Camera
Interviews: 1, 2, 3
Reviews:

  • "Compartments" 1, 2
  • Hidden Camera 1, 2, in Serbian, 3
  • The Fourth Circle 1
  • Four Stories Till the End 1
  • Multiple titles: 1
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Kit O'Connell

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Escher's Loops It was with excitement that I took up the opportunity to review Escher's Loops by Zoran Živković. I had previously enjoyed his whimsical, brain-bending meta-fiction in two of his shorter novels: The Book and Impossible Encounters. I bragged to my friends about the opportunity to read the newest edition of one of his more recent creations, and made some of them salivate at the prospect of reading the book after me.

Even as I began Escher's Loops I continued to sing its praises. My friend, author Rick Klaw, likes to talk about his "50 page rule" -- life is too short to read bad books, he believes, and so he quits anything after 50 pages if he's not enjoying himself. But at 50 pages into the PDF format reviewer's edition I was reading, which is roughly the end of the first of the book's three sections, I was enthralled.

Escher's Loops is divided into three chapters of increasing size, each labeled a loop. Each loop is a series of interlocking narratives, in which something bizarre and inexplicable happens to the narrator -- in the first loop, we follow strange memories held by distracted people, beginning and ending with a surgeon who halts suddenly on the way into the operating room. In the second section, a series of suicides is interrupted by a woman dressed in green who prevents the death by telling the intended victim about another attempted suicide which was in turn interrupted by the same green woman. Many of these stories relate back to the first loop: for example, in the first loop a man remembers being trapped in a Halloween funhouse ride with another man for hours; in the second loop, one portion concerns the otherworldly experience of a third man also trapped on the ride unbeknownst to the first two. Finally, in the third loop we revisit many of the characters of the first two in a series of dream sequences where they are cast into improbable roles such as flight attendants or line cooks in a kitchen that serves dishes like roast coral.

This book rather effectively simulates some drug trips I have been on, where sensations, experiences and thoughts seem to endlessly loop back around again and again. Unfortunately, just like those drug trips, the experience begins colorfully enough but the experience does not stop when the novelty and entertainment value wear off. As I continued the book, my progress slowed down and my enjoyment with it. My other reading suffered as I was determined to finish the book despite my growing lack of pleasure in it. It wasn't until I made it into the third loop that I realized I just didn't care anymore and that other books looked so much more enticing. Finding out that a suicidal animal tracker from part two was now part of an airplane crew in part three was not compelling when weighed against the inherently repetitive nature of the book. Like all of Živković's work, there are dozens of weird and funny details in each loop, but they just weren't enough to keep me reading.

This is a hard review to write, both because I respect the author and did not enjoy his book, but also because I can't help but wonder if my discomfort was the intention of the author and I'm not getting the joke. Many have said that art is most effective when it invokes feelings other than pleasure; pleasure is easy compared to horror, or discomfort. If Živković intended to make me dislike Escher's Loops, all the while having difficulty putting it down, then I'd have to say he succeeded. But it wasn't an enjoyable experience for me, and I do read for pleasure (even if it's sometimes a masochistic sort of pleasure). Unlike the endless looping drug trip the book seems to simulate, I can stop any time -- albeit with the application of some considerable effort -- and I did. In the end, Escher's Loops was too much meta, and not enough fiction for this meta-fiction reader.

Copyright © 2010 Kit O'Connell

Kit O'Connell is a writer, geek and Voluptuary living in Houston, Texas. Kit's poetry has appeared in Aberrant Dreams and Oysters and Chocolate. He can be found online at approximately 8,000 words, his homepage.


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