And I always wake up screaming, don’t you? I will always remember the screaming. And, if this doesn’t bother you? I’m not imposing myself on you, am I? After all, you were there. You remember, don’t you?
– Harold Abramowitz, ‘Blind Spot’
Indie art usually—if not always—strikes an interesting balance between commercial success, critical appraisal, and creative liberty. By its nature, it’s unlikely to ever reach mainstream audiences and find widespread attention, yet what it lacks in popularity and marketability, it radiates in boundless experimentation, unhindered, often vital perspectives, and invaluable insider appreciation. This is true of music, film, television, video games, and, perhaps most overtly, of literature, where countless writers and presses are challenging conventions every day. One of the most notable examples is CCM (Civil Coping Mechanisms), a publisher whose staff and roster relish every opportunity to subvert expectations with affective and atypical works. Case in point: Blind Spot, the latest novel from Harold Abramowitz. Blurring the line between fiction, prose poetry, and something else entirely, its radical structure, coupled with its constant pangs of emotion and mystery, make it stand out instantly; however, like many incredibly abstract creations, it sometimes feels too aimless, monotonous, and opaque, as if it’s prioritizing a gimmicky style over discernable substance and a clear trajectory. It’s often said that the best art is highly polarizing, though, so it deserves acclaim simply for being so unique, stimulating, and fearless.
Blind Spot released a few months ago as part of editor Janice Lee’s (The Sky Isn’t Blue) #RECURRENT series, which “seeks to push the boundaries of narrative with books that seek to reconstruct, reimagine & expand on existing narrative spaces. Not bound to genre or category, #RECURRENT books are intuitive, instigative, innovative, sensitive, perceptive, heart-breaking, and honest.” Without a doubt, Blind Spot measures up to these expectations, as Abramowitz uses his idiosyncratic form to spark a profound sense of tragedy, loneliness, injustice, and ambiguity on every page. You may not ever fully grasp what’s going on—after all, that’s probably part of the point—but you’ll definitely identify with the nameless protagonist as he shuffles through his imaginative and poignant fever dreams.
The novel is broken into three parts: “Hotel,” “Funeral,” and “Night,” and they intersect with and enhance each other brilliantly, like three snapshots of a broken life filled with weighty mistakes and impossible redemption. Again, one of Blind Spot’s biggest strengths (or weaknesses, depending on your outlook) is the intangibility of the narrative. Like the films of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, Lars von Trier, Park Chan-wook, and Gaspar Noé, among many others, its wholly equivocal details and techniques both support and detract from its storytelling. Really, it’s nearly impossible to even give a plot synopsis or discuss key moments, as each portion relies more on habitual elements and actions than it does on an upfront arc.
For instance, “Hotel” (which evokes the settings of Twin Peaks and The Shining) revolves around puzzle pieces like the character’s room, a bar, a garden, a slip of paper, a crisis, a car accident, “the group in the lounge, the men, the other guests,” someone called The General, and the fact that “despite being on vacation, he is at work because he is, after all, on assignment. Indeed, he is in a place he was ordered, or rather, instructed, to come to, to arrive at, for a very specific reason.” Likewise, “Funeral” continuously references a café, “an open door, a green, or red, door,” an explosion, a woman who “has not shown up for their meeting,” and the central figure’s tendency to smile and wave “at his friends, associates, from the concrete pedestrian island in the middle of the street.” As for “Night,” it more or less acts as an epilogue that helps tie things together—kind of.
If there is one word to describe Blind Spot, it’s “repetitious.” For better or worse (again, depending on your outlook), Abramowitz’s technique mostly involves ceaseless modifications on the same observations, so he prioritizes innumerable slight changes on a few aspects over actually moving things along. Although this is intentional—indeed, it’s the benchmark of his style—it can also become insufferable because you’ll read dozens of pages without feeling any sense of narrative progression or character development. Take the following excerpt, for instance:
He was on a train. In the dream he’d had, he was on a train. And it was different then. Before the crisis. Before death. All the death. Before death, or crisis. In the dream he’d had he was at the mercy of strangers. Before death, or crisis. All the death. Or before fortune, if you will, good or bad fortune. Still, it, what was happening to him in his dream, what had already happened to him in his dream, was frightening. There was a wall on the train. The was a wall on the train, a divide, of sorts, very thin, that separated him from the outside. All that stood between him and the outside world, at that point, in his dream, was a, more or less, thin wall on the train. And he could hear things, things moving, on the other side of the wall, on the train. And at one time he’d lived in an apartment. And he was sure that his apartment had not been an impressive place. He was sure that there had, in fact, been something missing from his apartment. In the dream he’d had there had been something, something important, missing from his apartment.
In the end, reading Blind Spot is a polarizing experience. On the one hand, it’s wonderfully poetic, visual, and moving¸ and its structure forces readers to put themselves in Abramowitz’s aether to interpret their own meanings from his perpetual mysteries. That said, it’s precisely this elusiveness and lack of objective resolution and purpose that makes it so frustrating and tedious, if not wholly futile. It’s like a movie whose audience reacts one of two ways: “That was pointless and boring” or “That was brilliantly multilayered and anyone who disagrees is simply too stupid to get it.” As a result—and like those same films—Blind Spot is a bold and distinctive work of art that’s about everything and nothing at once, so it’ll either stay with you forever or be forgotten instantly.