Wordy Wednesday – Sleepers Awake by Kenneth Patchen
Knowing nothing about this book, I dove into it expecting nothing.
What I got out of it was confusing, but ultimately just a reflection of my own beliefs.
This isn’t a story. It isn’t a narrative, or at least not a cohesive one. Time doesn’t flow like we might think it should in Sleepers Awake. People and places change without notice.
More than once, the book refers to William Blake, and it seems to want to associate itself with his perspective. On the whole, I think it does a satisfactory job.
Published in 1946, the most obvious message of Sleepers Awake is an anti-war message. The book directly addresses me more than once, and while I usually don’t like this kind of ‘meta-literature’, it works just fine here. Patchen can’t make it any clearer – stop killing each other, you fucking idiots. Yeah, I can dig it.
I can’t tell you about the plot. There isn’t one. This book is about people and life, and how they should live it, and why they don’t. I can’t tell you about the characters, because they aren’t important.
This isn’t an easy read. I might return to it next year. It needs careful attention. However, in the end, I didn’t get the sense that this was comparable to anything Blake did. This novel tries a little bit too hard, and suffers for it.
Still, I didn’t feel like my time was wasted, but that may be because my core values really resonated with the messages in Sleepers Awake – time isn’t what we think it is, people are complex, good and evil are definitive and both are terrifying, and peace – and love – is what we need.
Still, I can’t recommend this to everyone. If you love Blake, or have been institutionalized, you might like this, but it’s still hard to read. Very confusing.