A review by paulcowdell
The Golden Cut by Merl Fluin


The short story and novella are often the most comfortable length for Surrealist writing outside of essays and theoretical tracts, perhaps because they’re more easily accommodating (and representative) of the sustained frenzied quality of a dream. Novel-length Surrealist texts are less common (although there are some good ones), in part because they carry the pressure of being a literary genre: constructing ‘A Novel’ would be anathema to the exploratory and investigative drive of Surrealism, although arriving at a novel out of such an exploration would be legitimate.

And that latter category is where Merl Fluin’s The Golden Cut belongs. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but one Fluin achieves triumphantly. Even within the small contemporary Surrealist movement her work (whether poetry, prose, tract, disquisition) always commands serious attention. The Golden Cut marks a definite shift from Fluin’s previous writing: where her poetry and shorter prose texts (the excellent novella Origami, for instance) are characterised by an intense and often violent frenzy, her unfolding investigation of longer writing here requires a somewhat different approach.

It is this that, in other hands, could lead to texts ceasing to be Surrealist investigations and becoming instead just A Novel. Where Fluin succeeds brilliantly is in pursuing her exploration in such a way as still to maintain the transformation such a Surrealist experimentation requires. She has billed the novel as a Surrealist Western, but it is also an entirely alchemical occult text, with pulp Western fiction and circuses occupying the literary place of alchemical utensils. She hasn’t lost the frenzy or the violence of her other writing, but it has been distilled in different retorts. It’s playful, with all the seriousness demanded by proper play: yes, there are shoot-ups, yes there are talking horses, yes there are echoes of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but these also drive towards the elaboration of a magick that changes life as it goes.

I’m writing this as someone already familiar with Surrealism and Surrealist writings (and with the author), but I think (hope) it would be possible for a reader to come from outside that tradition and find The Golden Cut just as satisfying. It would seem to be more than possible to begin reading it as just A Novel only to find it had wormed its way into some inner recess and changed something without you realising it. That would seem to be a reasonable aspiration for any Surrealist writing.

Fluin’s got the magic bullets.