Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As might be expected from a writer who announces that “a page could be dense in various ways,” the style of “The Aeroplanes at Brescia” is one that challenges the reader. On the one hand, Davenport uses similes and metaphors often, and in this way he helps the reader visualize unfamiliar objects. Such, for example, occurs when he describes Bleriot flying “around them like an enormous bee.” Conversely, Davenport’s numerous passing allusions to figures as diverse as the Goncourt brothers, Alfred Lowry, and the Roman poet Cinna require the reader to pause to consider their implications. It is important to note that these allusions encapsulate individuals from a wide variety of historical and cultural contexts, and thus Davenport brings many disparate epochs together. In essence, he is conflating time and space as the architecture of Brescia seems to do.

The reader, then, is invited to perform an imaginative act that links him with the writer. The surreal images of life in Brescia, combined with Kafka’s dreams and thoughts, begin to make sense when the careful reader correlates these ideas and facts in new ways. The main theme—how an imaginative individual is able to survive in a culture based on technology—only gradually surfaces, from Kafka’s daydreams and nightmares, as the central concern of the story. Davenport’s answer is optimistic but conditional: The legacy of the past and the technology of the present must be combined in new, imaginative ways.

The Aeroplanes at Brescia Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bawer, Bruce. “Guy Davenport: Fiction á la Fourier.” In Diminishing Fictions. St. Paul, Minn.: Graywolf Press, 1988.

Furlani, Andre. “Postmodern and After: Guy Davenport.” Contemporary Literature 43 (Winter, 2002): 709-735.

Kenner, Hugh. “A Geographer of the Imagination.” Harper’s 263 (August, 1981): 66-68.

Meanor, Patrick. “The Fourierist Parables of Guy Davenport.” In Postmodern Approaches to the Short Story, edited by Farhat Iftekharrudin and Joseph Boyden. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003.

Olsen, Lance. “A Guidebook to the Last Modernist: Davenport on Davenport and ’Da Vinci’s Bicycle.’” Journal of Narrative Technique 16 (Spring, 1986): 148-161.

Sullivan, John Jeremiah. “Guy Davenport: The Art of Fiction CLXXIV.” Paris Review 163 (Fall, 2002): 43-87.

Vandiver, Elizabeth. “Fireflies in a Jar.” Parnassus: Poetry in Review 21 (Winter, 1995): 59-76.