Additional Book Information
Publication Date: November 1, 2017
Houses of Ravicka
In Houses of Ravicka, the city's comptroller, author of Regulating the Book of Regulations, seems to have lost a house. It is not where it's supposed to be, though an invisible house on the far side of town, which corresponds to the missing house, remains appropriately invisible. Inside the invisible house, a nameless Ravickian considers how she came to the life she is living, and investigates the deep history of Ravicka—that mysterious city-country born of Renee Gladman's philosophical, funny, audacious, extraordinary imagination.
The Ravickian novels exalt the primacy of language to further imaginative possibility, which dominant and oppressive regimes would shut down. Gladman's writing cleaves to the luminous. It slips through the gaps in our thinking to pluralise, queer, subvert, and mobilise. These books are strange but, through a bright and deft poetic obliquity, they shine an incomparable light onto our contemporary moment.
—The White Review
Gladman’s artful consideration of linguistic limitation is quietly smart, thrillingly unique, and, perhaps most impressively, translates into a thoroughly absorbing narrative.
—The Paris Review Daily
Gladman is more fantasist than estranging analyst. The quality of her dreaming, its interior abstraction, is exquisite. Its wonder lies in how closed its shutters are to any mundane world, how far back the lanes and alleyways of its imagining recede from the proper nouns and pedestrianisms of our lives.
Fourth in Renee Gladman’s ongoing series about a mysterious city, Houses of Ravicka is the best one yet, the story of Ravicka’s Comptroller as he searches for a house that has become untethered in space. Gladman’s novel winds up being a sublime, deeply poetic mood piece about what it feels like to be out of place even at home, or in one’s native country.
Houses of Ravicka is certainly the most plot-heavy of the Ravicka series, with a central problem that never truly gets resolved, but its joy, as with the previous novels, lives in Gladman's whimsical approach to crafting sentences and situations that are at once absurd and illuminating.
—The Village Voice
Gladman inverts 1984 in her inventive fourth novel.
Jakobi is sometimes a man and sometimes a woman; an old acquaintance seizes control of the narration and then gets folded up and put away in a pocket; an unnamed person who lives in the invisible No. 32 claims the entire second part of the novel to reflect on the history of Ravicka's invisible architecture. These fantastical details add up in a way that might have more in common with performance or installation art than with the expectations brought on by the assumption of a story.
The Ravicka books—flagships of the elegant small press Dorothy—are what usually get classified as 'poet's novels,' like Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red or My Life by Lyn Hejinian, but in this case, that's a cop-out. Gladman writes and publishes poetry, nonfiction, and novels with the same frequency. I doubt she makes much distinction between disciplines (and in fact she resembles a visual artist in her staunch pursuit of a theme through varied layers of form and abstraction).
Renee Gladman has always struck me as being a dreamer—she writes that way and the dreaming seems to construct the architecture of the world unfolding before our reading eyes.
[The Ravicka] books are absurd and surreal, and are stabilized by an eerie interior logic: Think The Phantom Tollbooth for adults.
Aesthetically precise and formally daring, Renee Gladman sets us adrift in the country of her imagination, challenging us to puzzle out fluency, space, and meaning along the way.
—Windham-Campbell Prize Committee