Renee Gladman's 'Event Factory'
If epic is a story of the community for the community, then Event Factory asks the contemporary reader to consider: How does one tell the tale of the community now? In the place of a sure narrative about a place and its people, Renee Gladman’s text presents ambiguities — palpable, permeating, and resonant — that refuse to resolve or settle.
Event Factory’s unnamed narrator is a stranger, newly arrived in Ravicka, who will not become the story’s hero and save the city-state and its citizens. Nevertheless, she will cross the city over and again, alternately with and without a guide, in a quest to discover Ravicka’s crisis and “the truth about Ravicka.”
For it quickly becomes clear that all is not well. It seems Ravicka is ravaged by a crisis that has swept the city. Or it is in the midst of an emergency by turns partially visible and wholly disavowed by the Ravickians. Or Ravicka will be the site of an impending disaster whose signs are already evident in the mood and geography of the city. Whatever the situation, citizens are either silent or at odds or in the know and unwilling to voice the goings-on. During the narrator’s quest, she encounters agitators, agents, activists, and plotting revolutionaries. Throughout, she experiences a feeling seemingly shared by all that something is wrong, and that a covert struggle between adversarial forces is (or may be, or will be) taking place.
Addressing Ulchri, a Ravickian the narrator has met during her explorations, she asks her stranger’s question:
“Ulchi, where do people go here to find the truth?” I got the question out, but figured it would be difficult for him to answer. Ravickians prefer not to share this kind of information: it belongs to the community. If you do not know it, this is because you are not supposed to.
The answer never came …
In response, the narrator moves: she is on a bus, in an office building, in the arms of a salsa dancer, at a desk in an unfamiliar room. She claims, “Events had found me,” and in this manner event after event set her in motion — through the streets, to downtown, into the old city, across a bridge, on a lawn, and along storefronts. In the midst of dizzying conceptual and semantic disorientation, the narrator attempts to orient herself as she knows how: through an active, visceral engagement with the city. She searches the yellow skyline, presses her body into a bench, and imagines walking one hundred blocks, with burning eyes, fading memory and pulsing stomach. However much she merges with the city, she states, “this crisis ravaging Ravicka’s population still had not become my crisis; the Ravickians would not allow it. The architecture said no.”
The narrator’s access to meaning is always limited, and her quest to uncover conditions in Ravicka is one of impasses, confusions, and communication’s near but consequential misses. Mounting evidence only suspends proof into multiple, shifting hypotheses of maybe: fleeting truths always on the move into perhaps; perhaps resistance is possible or perhaps “momentum for the revolution was lost.” The book closes as the narrator boards a plane to leave Ravicka, which “stood without remission.”