Review: Only Revolutions

Only Revolutions
Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve been thinking about this book for days. What would I rate it and why. I’m not even sure that it’s 3 worthy? Maybe 2 1/2? I know for a fact this might turn into less of a review and more of theories I have about this book.

The love story between two sixteen year olds, Sam & Hailey.

This book was sitting in the FREE section at a local used book store. And, hey, free is free. So I double checked that it wasn’t a mistake because the paperback was going for $12/used and this was hardback. Definitely Free. Then I googled if the version mattered like it does for House of Leaves. Nope. So free book to read it is.

The publisher says it’s a novel. What the publisher doesn’t say that they probably should have is that it’s an epic poem not a novel. Would have cleared up a lot. Better information to choose whether this book is right or wrong to read.

This book (according to the publisher) should be read in alternating views by flipping the book over every 8 pages. This is the approach I took to reading it, starting with Sam (though I’ve read Hailey is the recommended start. I chose Sam, because he has the earliest date on the history timeline (It’s a sidebar on the left side of the page giving a date in history and the events of what happened that day, 9/11 isn’t mentioned, but it does go up to 2005?). Now, I will say here that if you read all of Sam’s side, then went to Hailey’s, it would work as well. Each POV coordinates with the timeline in events and slang. It’s rotations are infinite…

THE LOVE STORY: Each Chapter begins with an enlarged and bolded letters that spell out this infinite “…Sam And Hailey And…” loop. They’re sixteen year olds in love. 16 year olds with different sets of circumstances (again, why the history stuff plays a role). Sam starts out (I believe) as a slave on the run. Hailey starts out being raped. They meet. They fall in love. They live this life of teen emotion and sex while on the run from their tormentors.

I believe that the love story is just a long circling tale of all those Sam and Haileys throughout the years, that it wasn’t just the one couple, but an amalgam of all those teen loves that grow to exist then disappear. At times, they are a pure yin and yang…which when you look at the way each page is numbered–an O with two numbers within a small circle denoting which POV (Sam/Green, Hailey/Yellow) you are on. If you add a small curvy line to each of them, it makes a yin and yang symbol.

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WHAT I THINK BEYOND THE LOVE STORY: I think Danielewski disguised a love poem for an ode to the United States. (I haven’t found this theory anywhere.)


There’s all these mispellings that contain ALL/ONE = unity, united. There’s always “US” to be the pronoun/noun used in all caps, all the time. There is this word: FEER. It’s written in place of fear most of the time, but google told me this word is a little known Scottish descendant meaning the fencing in of a large area. And having driven all over the western half of the country from Texas westward and northward, I have seen all the “feers” in action. Then there’s places and vehicles, plants and animals…all of it listed in lyric…Pride in the US, landmarks and manufacturing feats. But, this is where that history also comes into play…the horrible acts that have gone on in our country and because of us–slavery, bombings of other places, war/War/WAR…

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Personally, I don’t like epic poems, but this was an okay one if you can get past the way some of the things are said. For me, though, it felt like it wasn’t about just one thing, but so many things. And maybe that’s where I wandered away. I did finish the book, which I was close to DNF’ing about 70% through.

I’m just not sure I would recommend this to the average reader. Maybe to someone looking for a challenge.


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