cover image Museum Visits

Museum Visits

Éric Chevillard, trans. from the French by Daniel Levin Becker. Yale Univ, $16 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-0-300-25411-2

French novelist Chevillard (The Valiant Little Tailor) delivers a spellbinding essay collection that is as funny as it is unclassifiable. The brief pieces offer winking, curmudgeonly commentary on such mundane topics as the sky (“Nothing good comes from the sky; not hail, that little buckshot of iceberg... nor the lightning that roasts us where we stand”) and staircases (“What a dim opinion we must have of our own wits to cede to the staircase the responsibility of bringing us up!”). In the surreal “Moles,” Chevillard’s narrator recounts listening to a high school teacher brag about how as a child he used to throw moles into his neighbor Samuel Beckett’s garden. “Autofiction” uses masturbation as an extended metaphor for writing to reflect on the eponymous genre: “The main challenge is to forget the way we were taught to ejaculate and recapture the innocent joy of that first stroke.” Chevillard’s humor is a mix of Seinfeldian observation and Monty Python–esque zaniness (“A frying pan, imperturbably a frying pan, as though we were about to go on frying and indeed do nothing but fry, never stop frying again!”). These beguiling and genre-defying pieces elucidate the strangeness of the everyday. [em](Jan.) [/em]