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Jean Smith's The Ghost of Understanding says "a novel" on the cover, and if offered as a conceptual assertion, this is inherently valid, or perhaps more precisely, it is not subject to assessment of validity. Labeling can be self-contained creative expression.  

The Ghost of Understanding is not a novel in much of a descriptive sense, however. It appears to have been created by simply stringing together whatever random snippets of text Jean had lying around: fiction exercises, prose poems, song lyrics crudely reformatted into paragraphs, Mecca Normal band correspondence, stray interview transcripts, idle erotica. I find most of these interesting in themselves, but reading them in this serialized form is frustrating. If I get into the right fugue-state to absorb the poetry, then the ephemeral seems inane, and if I back out into the right idle curiosity to care about tour logistics, then the abstractions are insoluble. Kafka's octavo notebooks, by comparison (since I just read them), are varied in literary form but much more coherent in tone, and so far more rewarding to me to read.  

Possibly, of course, this constant state-shifting is the point, and labeling a deliberately anti-linear text "a novel" makes the actual fragments a means to a radical medium-is-the-message end. The format is a challenge for the audience to rise to or cower away from, and I never wanted to be on the dreary side of demanding the imposition of constricting convention onto vitally free expression.  

But then what do I do with the nagging conviction that this work, as presented, does not have a fundamental nature so much as it has a fatal refusal to accept the responsibility of self-awareness? That it is attempting to substitute an amorally passive absence of order for the sacredly powerful idea of active revolutionary disorder? That self-betrayal would be its most rudimentary first step towards making itself into something real? That these passages wouldn't be haunted by the ghost of understanding if they hadn't merely sat there watching it die?
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