June 20, 2007
I imagine that any self-respecting W.G. Sebald book collection will have to include a copy of the May 2007 issue of The Believer. Where else will you find flow charts depicting the “action” in The Rings of Saturn? Remember flow charts? Order a back issue today (it will help independent publisher McSweeney’s, which needs support) and when it arrives, enjoy the lead-off article by Rick Moody called A Short Walk Through The Rings of Saturn (pages 3-15), in which he confesses to a textual compulsion for Sebald and – fellow writer that he is – discusses his utter fascination for the structure of Sebald’s meandering texts. Accordingly, Moody provides flow charts for chapters one, two, four, five, and ten of The Rings of Saturn. And for comparison he flow charts a short story by Robert Coover called The Babysitter.Personally, I don’t think the flow charts demonstrate anything new. At most they serve to confirm the circularity that every Sebald reader encounters in his prose works. But somehow, the sheer futility of converting a book like The Rings of Saturn into flow charts strikes me as an appropriately Sebaldian homage.
True to his claim of textual compulsion, Moody proves himself well aware of the critical literature that’s building up around Sebald. The result is not another book review, but a glimpse of one writer exploring and dissecting a book by one of his favorite authors. Recommended, as they say.