Author(s): Isabel Waidner
"I'm besotted with this beguiling, hilarious, rollocking, language-metamorphosing novel. The future of the queer avant-garde is safe with Isabel Waidner."
Gaudy Bauble stages a glittering world populated by Gilbert & George-like lesbians, GoldSeXUal StatuEttes, anti-drag kings, maverick detectives, a transgender army equipped with question-mark-shaped helmets, and pets who have dyke written all over them. Everyone interferes with the plot. No one is in control of the plot. Surprises happen as a matter of course: A fauxresearch process produces actual results. A digital experiment goes viral. Hundreds of lipstick marks requicken a dying body. And the Deadwood-to-Dynamo Audience Prize goes to whoever turns deadestwood into dynamost. Gaudy Bauble stages what happens when the disenfranchised are calling the shots. Riff-raff are running the show and they are making a difference.
Isabel Waidner is a writer and cultural theorist. She is the author of three books of innovative fiction, most recently Gaudy Bauble (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2017), which is currently longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize for "hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose". Her articles and short fictions have appeared or are forthcoming in journals including 3:AM, Berfrois, Configurations, The Happy Hypocrite, The Quietus and Minor Literature[s]. She is also the editor of Liberating the Canon: An Anthology of Innovative Writing (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018) which explores the relationship between identity, intersectionality and innovation in literature. As part of the indie band Klang, Waidner released records on UK labels Rough Trade (2003) and Blast First (2004). She is a lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Roehampton University, London, UK.
Dimensions: 5 x 8 inch
Cat No: DW-216
It is overwhelmingly, facetiously tempting to call Gaudy Bauble a detective novel, principally because it is one (a fake detective novel is just as much a detective novel as a non-fake one, if there can be such a thing as a non-fake detective novel). In Gaudy Bauble the detectives, so to call them, never actually detect anything, they never leave their flats (except for dental repairs, &c), they are effectively ineffectual, placebos, and, when the lost budgerigar that triggered the investigation, so to call it, returns, it is not due to any detecting on their part. “Is not detective work labelling work?” states a voice, presumably that of P.I. Belahg, a writer mainly not writing the script for a television series seemingly entitled Querbird, being filmed by Blulip, Belahg’s lesbian Gilbert-and-George-like double, a film-maker whose ideas change faster than they can be realised. The investigation gains no traction not because there is a lack of evidence but because there is too much. Everything is evidence of something (or of everything). The investigation gains no traction because it is too thorough. The details are too much evidence to amount to anything in particular, only to everything. Every detail, every association, every etymological permutation, every taxonomy, every history, every identity is interrogated and dissolved, every distinction is ruptured, the narrative, so to call it, constantly derailed by detail and by the refusal of detail to retain a fixed identity. In total flux, attributions and prescribed identities function as little more than costumes (clothes have more stable identities than persons), everything mentioned becomes activated by that mentioning, becomes a protagonist, pulls the plot, so to call it, towards it, off course, if it could be said ever to have had a course, or to be a plot. The world, after all, consists not of plot, which is always a fictive result of arbitrary interpretation of an unjustifiably normative kind, but of details, details about which little of certainty can be said without making similarly normative transgressions against their true nature, which lies not in identity but in momentum. In flux, in the tohubohu which is the natural state of all entities and from which entities become exiled at the moment they become entities, the state to which all entities long to return, the only certainty that can be maintained is that of momentum, if a certainty can be maintained at all. Gaudy Bauble retains all the excitement and pace and rigour of a detective novel. More and more characters appear, change names, blur their distinctions, overwhelm the narrative from locations in its margins or beyond: “There can never be too many crackpot agents. There could never be too much hyperactive riffraff interfering with events.” The dichotomy between the performative and the authentic is constantly ruptured, as if this dichotomy were a wall set to measure and constrain us, against which it is our nature to rebel, to seek release into illimitable inclusivity. The conflation of the performative and the authentic manifests in a doubling of entities, not only of P.I. Belahg and Blulip, but of the actual and the representation: budgerigar and statuette, tooth and denture, the characters and their appearances on the TV show Querbird. All categories are in flux. There may be a lost budgerigar, a broken tooth, statuettes, and so forth, but these categories are not exclusive of other categories, and tend always, by ontological clinamen, towards these categories. This ontology, since something must be said, or since the author, in choosing to write the novel, has put it about that something must be said in order for the novel to be written, makes language the territory in which this clinamen, this queerness in the nature of the particles, will in this instance be traced. All presences, all absences, all substances, all entities, all dissolutions, all metamorphoses, all wounds and all healing of wounds, are exercises of language, are both problems of language and solutions to these problems of language. Waidner, with nothing more constrained than hyperactive brilliance, somehow combines the register of Janet & John or the Teletubbies with that of specialist academic obscurantism without being anywhere between these poles, for only the extremes are worth conflating. At times there are similarities of rhythm with texts written under lipogrammatic or other artificial constraints, or with the lyric style of Mark E. Smith, or with impromptu dramatic performances using only the text of foreign-language phrasebooks (recommended). “Might sea urchin odontogenesis, fully understood, provide the biochemical tools to transform mainstream prosthodontics?” But, really, the book is quite unlike anything else, and is an exemplar of the sort of enjoyable and uncompromising queering experiment at the edge of literature and with the substance of literature itself that literature so desperately needs if it is to open new potentials within itself. When the novel comes to a (sort-of) end, new, more fluid entities have been achieved in a game of ‘real-life’ Exquisite Corpse, the budgerigar has returned, the momentum of the investigation has been expended. “The truth is the only thing left now. The truth ate everyone else alive.”