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The Adventures of Tinguely Querer by Susan Smith Nash

The Adventures of Tinguely Querer
by Susan Smith Nash

$14.95  paperback / $.99 Kindle / $1 ePub (Goodreads)
2011, 262 pages, 8.5 x 5.5,
with black and white interior illustrations

Vodnikova Zalozba (DSKG) & Texture Press

ISBN: 978-0979757396

Print copy available through Amazon.com
or directly from Texture Press.

Robert Murray Davis’s review in Southwestern American Literature:

This novel, both picaresque and peripatetic, follows the heroine (the first name suggests tangles rather than tingles, the last the Spanish “to want” or “to love”) across the oil patch from Tulsa to the Texas Panhandle, with side excursions to Florida and Barcelona and memories of trips to Baku and Kyoto. As the heroine says, “I’m always in different places,” often in her car, sometimes on her Blackberry at cross purposes with her father, an old-school wildcatter who believes that crystals can find new resources.
            Many of the descriptions, especially of the Panhandle, are memorable, but they are subordinated to Tinguely’s reflections on tennis, swimming, time, love, philosophy, literature, the revolt of machines (perhaps in homage to Jean Tinguely, creator of self-destructing sculptures), and loneliness. At times she thinks “It was all about love, after all,” and the man of her dreams, once figured as a complementary wing which would create a heart, appears sporadically. But though at one point she thinks that without love she will sink and be lost as “a vagabond of the spirit,” she finds it hard to feel attached to things as well as to people, at one time listing the things she has left behind.
            She is really interested in motion, pretty much as an end in itself, quoting Adler’s “Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.” The only conclusive event is the death of her Flaubert-quoting parrot, introduced on the first page and choked to death on a packing peanut twenty pages from the end.
            Many passages in the book deny or subvert the possibility of traditional narrative. In contrast to an exotic crop-dusting pilot, Tinguely thinks that “’straight-line travel’ was anathema. She preferred to circle around until she had surveyed all the terrain at least a dozen times—close-up, far away, and sideways.” All lines of transmission—pipelines, aortas, veins, and by implication narratives—are vulnerable to chance or malice. The problem, in personal terms, is “how I’m supposed to move forward in a world where everything is fluid, where everything reinvents itself, and not necessarily in a way that benefits me.” This comes more than sixty pages after a passage in which she decides that “it’s important to start reshaping your story so that it fits a different, competing narrative that fits your needs and purposes a bit more clearly/adeptly.” Given the difficulties, why attempt to communicate at all? One answer, put in terms of atavistic violence, is “to send a message….Otherwise, you’re no longer the hunter. You’re the hunted.”
            In “Narratives of Maturation: The Bildungsroman v. Thermal Maturation of Hydrocarbon”—Tinguely and her creator are petroleum geologists, among many other things—she speculates that “we like to assume maturation is a process because it gives us hope” and cling to cause-effect and growth in wisdom. But it’s possible that some people “become less mature over time” and, like Thomas Pynchon’s Benny Profane in V., don’t learn a damned thing, tracing “an anti-maturation narrative” that Tinguely hopes to embody.
            A key issue is whether time exists or is merely a construct. For a while, Tinguely operates on the second premise, but near the end of the novel she decides that “Time is linear. Memory is not.” At the end, she suddenly recovers her ability to count, and the last line is “I keep running,” that is, moving in time and space against the tug of memory, hoping to attain a state of grace in which “you realize you don’t have to think about the ‘big issues’—life, death, or whatever it is that troubles that pesky part of the cerebral cortex that reminds you of the irreducibility of consciousness.” As an insight, this is considerably less ambitious than Stephen Dedalus’s “O life” and so on at the end of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, though that is illusory, but at least Tinguely’s gives character and author somewhere to go.

More praise for The Adventures of Tinguely Querer

“Susan Smith Nash blurs the line between fantasy and reality in her dreamlike account of energy entrepreneurship on the Southwestern plains. With great attention to geological detail, she depicts a vast territory once used solely for drilling oil and now lined with wind turbines. Through Tinguely, the author transports herself at a pivotal younger age into the current year. She deftly profits from the collapse of the economy while hoping for absolution and unconditional acceptance. She’s a vagrant amused by her own cleverness and at the dullness of others, though she is frightened by the emptiness her acuity unveils. She would take delight in the inevitable failure of an absurd ideology despite the hardship it causes, but she gives handouts to destitute individuals. She is independent, driven, mobile, and desperately lonely. Her compassion and desire to love rise to the surface with the surprise and intensity of a gushing oil well.”
                                             —Seth Lynch

“Although Tinguely Querer might not be who you initially think she is and, moreover, while it’s ultimately possible that she’s (not) even real, you still realize she’s under a lot of pressure—economic, filial, romantic, literary, existential, professional—to decipher the layers of her life and times in order to find the extract of truth that finally gives ‘all of it’ meaning. As with the geology and the will-to-manage its architectonic pressure that animates her life, Tinguely’s adventures are full of stratifications and sediments appearing rich for the mining. Susan Nash’s provocative and playful lode of metafiction yet both excites and discourages the interpretive excavations Tinguely and the reader just can’t seem to avoid (that is, short of A state of grace...when you realize you don’t have to think about the ‘big issues’). Like the ground that yields up the crude fueling the booms and busts in Tinguely’s and our everyday lives, her adventures dispense many deeper would-be truths and/or simulacra it’s just not ever clear the reader can ever stably refine. In a book overflowing with significance and erudition—Heidegger, Pynchon, and Bolaño are just a few of this particular reader’s favorite names seeping up through its pages—Tinguely’s ‘concept sickness’ is the ever-looming fault line running through her multifaceted exploration for enduring love.”
                                             —Worth Hawes

“Susan Smith Nash incorporates elements of my other favorite authors (Kurt Vonnegut, Cormac McCarthy, and David Foster Wallace) while leaving her own indelible mark. I appreciate the honesty and wit of her prose and I enjoy the quirky imagination of her sketches. She is wonderfully humorous and insightful. Since she isn’t widely recognized, I feel completely priveleged to have read so many of her books. Perhaps her prodigious talent will be recognized in the near future, but her writing is timeless. The Adventures of Tinguely Querer invites readers to accompany the protagonist on an unforgettably surreal (and fun) trip through roads less-traveled. I really can’t wait to see what she does next.”
                                             —Rosemay Lewis (Amazon.com)

“Susan Smith Nash cleverly reflects on topics concerning pop culture and self discovery. If the reader misses a reference or cue in regard to popular culture, stay tuned; it is just a matter of time before Nash connects with an aspect of pop culture that resonates. She covers a lot of different topics and themes. Whether we are fans of Hendrix or even current day deliverers of techno and trance, Susan speaks to us all. Even if we all feel as if we live in our own country with a population of one (page 204), Susan has something to say and helps us articulate our life journey in a fun and quirky way.”
                                             —Nathan Byrd (Amazon.com)

The Adventures of Tinguely Querer is a fast-paced, funny, poetic, metaphysical, metafictional romp. It is right up this reader’s alley and I think it will be a treat for any lover of smart, playful, meaningful fiction. It is about myth, destiny and cows. And the author’s illustrations for her beguiling text are charming and add a certain dazzle to the narrative. They may remind the reader of Kurt Vonnegut’s playful illustrations for Breakfast of Champions, or the whimsical drawings of Thurber. Nashh may at times seem like a female Vonnegut (one chapter here is called ‘Vonnegut Radio,’) or perhaps Tom Robbins, but she is also unique and full of her own personal bravura and mojo. This modern, hip trip of a novel will delight you and stay with you long after you finish reading it. Tinguely herself may seem a real friend by book’s end and she may have you waiting impatiently for what Susan Smith Nash does next.”
                                             —Corey Mesler, author of Following Richard Brautigan

The Adventures of Tinguely Querer is a wonderful and inventive melange. Chock-full of illustrations and journal entries and philosophical ruminations and richly imagined episodes, Susan Smith Nash’s 30-something Bildungsroman is whip-smart, funny, and worldly. This is an ecclectic novel with its finger on the pulse of our 21st Century ethos. ‘We all need an oracle,’ Nash writes. The reader’s wish is granted with this wonderful book.”
                                             —Nathan Leslie

“I’m not usually the type to find humor in taxidermy, gold coins, economic collapse, bear markets, oil deals, escaped exotic pets, and cattle driven made by wind turbines.
This is different. I kept reading. I kept laughing...
... but not laughing, exactly. For all the surreal and frankly odd scenarios (having your identity stolen just after you had a taco salad while being buzzed by flies at a Texas Panhandle Dairy Queen), I started to feel as though I knew Tinguely Querer—and it made me want to get into a long debate with her to find out just why she does not like Electric Light Orchestra.
I really like this book. The sketches are great, too—one could even go as far as to say that they make the book. I am going to check out her other books.”
                                             —Woodruff Scallows (Amazon.com)


Tinguely Querer, geologist, properties assessor, and corporate merger specialist, records her thoughts and journeys, both mental and physical, while working for her father as she builds her own life and surfs life’s boom-bust cycles, always on the edge of profound revelation or extreme denial.

A Page from the Journal of Tinguely Querer

My dad’s last name is Querer.

What kind of last name is that? In Spanish, “querer” means to want or to love.

My dad says it’s a Scottish name, Kerr, but that one of his ancestors believed that there were too many Kerrs in the area, and he felt he was truly special—not at all like the bland, stolid Kerrs in his district.

His first choice was to change the spelling to Cur. But it had unfortunate additional meanings—one of which (a badly behaved dog of indifferent parentage) was already thought to reflect his character.

So, he went from Kerr to Querer, landing only briefly on Cur—but it was enough to soak up some of the attributes, namely that of being a compulsive barker.

Consequently, over the years, I’ve tried to muzzle myself.

I’ve largely failed.

Susan Smith Nash’s professional career as a petroleum geologist was launched at the height of one of the many oil “boomlets” in recent times, which meant her formative years were spent coming to terms with the subsequent oil “bust” (which lasted much longer than the boom itself). The boom-bust cycles she has lived through prepared her for the labyrinthine journeys the mind takes when confronted with unexpected shifts in fortune (and one’s idea of reality). It also motivated her to continue her studies in business, economics, and in English, where she earned a master’s degree (emphasis in writing) and a Ph.D. Her Ph.D. focused on the use of the apocalyptic narrative by mad messiahs and doomsday cult leaders. Since that time, she has stayed connected to geology, while also bringing together her diverse backgrounds by devoting a great deal of time and energy in elearning, mlearning, and other innovative knowledge and technology transfer approaches. The desire to find connections and see the unexpected parallels and coincidences in life informs her writing, which ranges from critical essays, articles on elearning, poetry, and fiction. Her previous book, Good Deeds Society, received recognition in Slovenia, and was used to encourage school children to find ways to do good deeds at home, at school, and in the environment.

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