By Ismo Santala
Jeff Noon (b. 1957)
Looked at in a different light, however, words become a liquid medium, a malleable substance capable of being transformed in surprising ways.
Jeff Noon, 2001
Jeff Noon was born in 1957 in Droylsden, a small town near Manchester, England. Prior to the publication of his debut novel in 1993, Noon had worked as a playwright, bookseller, and performer both as a musician in punk bands and staging his own one-man shows. His current output, which encompasses novels, novellas and collections of short fiction, is characterized by emotional intensity and linguistic innovation.
Noons versatile prose is marked by musicality. He has a fine ear for natural speech, and uses a lot of dialogue in all of his works. Music, on the other hand, is not only ever-present in the stories themselves, but also suggests new ways of storytelling. The rhythms created by sound and silence, be it in the space of a single paragraph or that of an entire work, punctuate the narrative.
Often, Noon centers his novels around a single object. This object, be it a feather or a grain of pollen, is subjected to incessant repetition and extrapolation, until it becomes linked with nearly everything within a given work. When one takes into account Noons rich use of allusion (both to his own works as well as those of Lewis Carroll and Jorge Luis Borges), it is not surprising to find that he has managed to create a network of powerful visual motifs. It might not be going too far to claim that something akin to a private vocabulary has begun to emerge; a chamber of echoes where everyday words embrace new layers of meaning and association.
Noons first novels (Vurt, Pollen and Nymphomation) form a story cycle about a Manchester populated by humans and strange hybrid creatures (such as Dogs, Robos and Shadows) whose lives are rooted around the enigmatic Vurt feathers. Automated Alice also has connections to this sequence, as do some of the stories found in Pixel Juice. While there is a timeline, and some shared minor characters, each book is very much self-contained. And although the novels are set in the same city, Noon leaves many details about his fictional reality deliberately blurry. There is no clear-cut distinction between the cycle and the other works, and Noon has continued to develop his core themes and narrative concerns in his post-Pixel Juice work; hes only shed off the restrains of the Vurt universe.
A number of labels have been applied to Noon's works, many of which he would dismiss as inadequate. In fact, he has come up with labels of his own, and so the various books fall neatly into the genres of avant pulp, metamorphiction, post futurism and surrealist noir. Of the above, it is avant pulp that best encapsulates his desire to merge narration with innovation. Noon writes unmistakably human-sized works: his focus is on the individual, his intent is to engage the contemporary imagination.
Noon has a keen interest in the possibilities of storytelling and the English language. Because of the continual process of experimentation and re-evaluation, each work carries a welcome roughness, a sense of urgency. What is more, he has been going from strength to strength: Cobralingus fluid literary fireworks were followed by the noticeably indurated prose of Falling Out of Cars. Noons fiction offers a singular fusion of pulp and poetry, the authentic and the artificial, the tangible and the ethereal.
More on Jeff Noon
Works A detailed bibliography of Noons published works, with summaries and commentary.
Interview Ismo Santala interviews Jeff Noon.
Blurbs The UK publishers blurbs for Noons major works.
The Garden of Forking Paths The works of Jorge Luis Borges form a constant inspiration for Noon's own fictions.
Apmonia Falling Out of Cars, with its lost characters and delicate storytelling patterns, suggests a loving kinship with Samuel Beckett's works.
J.G. Ballard Scriptorium Page Noon discovered Ballard in his early twenties, and Falling Out of Cars, an exploration of the non-space, is alive with Ballard's recurring ideas.
Philip K. Dick Scriptorium Page While Noon is actually closer to Emily Dickinson than Dick, their works are superficially quite similar. Things get a little more complicated once the reader looks beneath the surface, beyond the weirdness...
Jeanette Winterson Scriptorium Page Though different in style and focus, both Winterson and Noon share a passionate interest in the English language and the possibilities of narrative. They both write from the heart.
JeffNoon.Com Maintained by Spike Magazine and supported by Mr. Noon, this excellent site offers a plethora of Noon-related articles, reviews and interviews. The essential starting point.
Mappalujo A writing game between Jeff Noon and Steve Beard (author of Digital Leatherette, among others), Mappalujo is a twisted narrative haunted by mimetic ghosts. Highly recommended!
Official Cobralingus site Information about the book, including Noon's introduction and notes on the origins of Cobralingus. The site even has a superb Flash-animated version of one of the texts!
Google News Search This will search news groups related to Noon.
Yahoo News Search Searched Yahoo for articles and news related to Noon.
8 October 2003
Ismo Santala was born whilst Jacques Tati celebrated his final birthday, and is currently studying English Philology at the University of Tampere, Finland.
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