[What follows is an adapted version of a real-time review I wrote in segments while reading the book.]
I have now finished Nemonymous Night. And, on another level, have come to terms with the fact that I have scarcely read it at all. This is not a book where even surface meanings can be grasped after a single reading. The thinness of its characters, the daffiness of its plot, can inspire one to read quickly, along the images, the aphorisms, to slip through the mind without sticking there, like a television show watched in the background when something else is going on. The substance of the novel is retained, but the grace of individual passages must wait for slower, contemplative rereading, once the mind has been able to prepare itself for such a thing.
This is a very odd book. Given the author's reputation and the publisher's previous releases I shouldn't find this surprising, but I must admit that I do. Perhaps it's because this type of oddness is one I haven't dealt with before. If forced to make comparisons, I might suggest minute stylistic similarity to John Elliott (a digressive playfulness with words and phrases) and structural similarity to Michael Cisco (layers of reality that are difficult to disentangle), but I imagine those comparisons are only occurring to me because of the Chomu Press connection.
Despite their shifting backstories and situations, the characters of Nemonymous Night retain my interest, and the book has a striking overall coherence. This has something to do with the book's recurring imagery and language: carpets, as mentioned above, but other things too, from dilapidated top-story flats to the word hawler. These connections, and the book's continuing rumination on the thinness of identity, make for compelling reading, a kind of prose-poetry, despite the slipperiness of the plot.
There is also a tendency that I might call postmodern, were that not an overused and sterile academic term. One of the things Nemonymous Night is about is its own evolution: the rise and fall of certain narrative strands, the sudden appearance of a character or a detail of setting, toward which the voice of the text slyly alludes without breaking apart entirely. There is a character who might stand in for the author, or might simply be parallel to the author as other characters are parallel to yet other characters. From the erratic motion of the narrative to occasional awkwardnesses of language, the novel almost feels like it was written straight from front to back to with minimal planning and/or revision, uncertain itself as to how, or whether, things will come out, and a remark in the text suggests that it is just how it was produced. For many readers, this will be untenable; others, like me, will love it.
I often think that fiction is, more than a narrative or thematic experience, an encounter with a writer's sensibility. Anything can be forgiven as long as the author's voice comes through, sure and strong and unique. Nemonymous Night positively flaunts its constructed nature, is almost arrogant in its indifference to coherence and structure, and yet, somehow, Lewis ties it all together. If you have an eye and ear for the bizarre, the playful, and the wistfully philosophical, this novel will be a rare treat.