Commentary on the novel ‘Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Diesel Locomotive’ by Zazzo Thiim

Many things strike one as peculiar in the novel Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Diesel Locomotive. At Just under nine words it is often seen more as a novella. Secondly, it’s sentence structure employs a certain Proustian deferment of the clause to its final undoing. (See Appendix Two). Thirdly, it is the only true book to have been written entirely in dialogue. Other factors, of course, are of detailed academic interest, and most of them have been probed by the eminent literary historian Augustus Slack who argues that ‘Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Diesel Locomotive, in its brevity, says more than most works ever could. Human affection balanced with environmental concerns. Destiny with the sensuous nature of the present. Allegory with undeniable truth . . .’, and so he goes on.
There are many purists who object to aspects of the novel. The comma between the fourth and fifth word is often seen as superfluous, an unnecessary caesura, while others attest that this is a tribute to Lucie Fisher herself – how often, they point out, did Thiim refer to her as ‘my little punctuation’ (Slack, p118). Interestingly, the same purists detest the extended version mainly because it is without a comma. The word ‘while’ has connotations of a different kind, that Thiim should ‘wile away the hours’. (Tiffin, p93). The bumps and crenulations of the word are seen as mountain peaks, the troughs and ridges of a machine measuring his own irregular heartbeat as Fisher walks away. Others see the omission of the comma as an admission that life goes on, concepts race one into the other without pausing for thought.
The ‘I’ and ‘you’ of the novel – its leading protagonists – are often translated as being Thiim and Fisher themselves. Certainly their characteristics would bear this out. Zazzo’s defiance of routine, Lucie’s quiet subservience, the constant hint of impending violence, the crumbling society of which they are both representatives. Other writers have written more fully on these subjects and this is not the place for a detailed observation – suffice to say that the significant theme of the novel is one of lost opportunity, love stifled by geographic variables, the brevity of all emotional embellishment. Forget the location, Thiim seems to be telling us : just grab it while you can.
Others, though, have a different interpretation. Leonard P. Sterne has argued that the usual order is inverted : Fisher, in her absence, travels the world, while Thiim castigates himself for forgetting. (Sterne, p6). Others wonder what it is that the ‘you’ is forgetting : the ‘I’, the world, the act of travelling – and under what context is the sentence uttered? Has ‘I’ met ‘you’ after his journeys, or is this part of a letter addressed backwards through time? (See Appendix Two). Did he even go away at all?
It is highly unlikely that Fisher would have read the finished novel. Indeed, she barely read at all, and had a very short attention span. It could be said that Thiim wrote the novel, therefore, safe in the knowledge that it would only ever be paraphrased to its sole recipient. And as such it remains as successful, a novel which, from its inception to its final realisation, has done everything that it set out to do.


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