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Rudolph Wurlitzer: Nog (UK: The Octopus)

According to the blurb in my copy of the book, written by Thomas Pynchon, this novel is hopefully another sign that the Novel of Bullshit is dead and some kind of re-enlightment is beginning to arrive. Sadly, Thomas, the Novel of Bullshit is alive and well and this novel and most of its successors are frequently out of print. The subtitle is headadventure (sic) and my copy has a psychedelic cover, presumably to capture the then alive and well but now pretty well dead hippy market. The book is highly experimental. There is only a minimal plot, involving the narrator, who may be Nog, though Nog may be someone else, and his octopus (hence the UK title), which he bought, along with a truck, from a man in Oregon. The narrator takes a journey but, while it does have a geographical locus it is more a journey of the mind, along the lines of William Burroughs, Samuel Beckett and many others of that period. In one respect it is a California beach novel. The narrator claims to have investigated beaches all over the world. But the rest of the time he drifts around, with his octopus, trying to recover memories. That he is lost is clear. That we care is far less clear. The book is quite an interesting experiment but very much of its time and reading it now, it does seem somewhat dated, and it is unlikely that many readers will find much reward in struggling through it, short though it is.

Publishing history

First published 1969 by Random House