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Like the Perfect Vacuum of the title, the books that seem to be reviewed in this book do not exist.  neither, in an odd way, does "Lem" as a reviewer;  in the first chapter, someone reviews the book in reference to his Introduction, but that has not been written, either, and must be deduced from its review.  Within the reviews, Lem speaks as the author:  in the review of  his book, he speaks as reviewer of himself as author.  The "I" cannot be finally located.

Literary considerations have expanded to encompass world criticism and the condition of man.  Lem has penetrated existentialism with wry humor and a paradoxical emphasis on the emotional needs of the human organism.

M.A. Bartter, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

 

5.00 out of 5 based on 2 ratings2 user reviews.
A Metareview Reviewed by doomsdayer520 on . Here Stanislaw Lem embarks on a pretty unique method of satire - reviews of nonexistent books. Most interestingly, Lem takes the opportunity to advance his own ideas on technology, ethics, and logic while satirizing both writers and the literary criticism establishment. Getting a grip on these multiple levels of satire is the key to understanding Lem's purpose in this book. In several "reviews" here, he skewers literary criticism by pretending to be an exaggerated version of an academic critic, first by criticizing his own nonexistent longwinded introduction to this book, then by over-analyzing his fictitious books to the point of solipsism. Examples include critiques of a book that is apparently about nothing and another book in a language spoken by neither the writer nor the critic. All the while, Lem satirizes the ridiculousness of such endeavors with ironically overblown professor-isms like "The self-novel is a partial striptease; the antinovel, ipso facto, is (alas) a form of autocastration." Just like you would find in any literary critique written by a professor wishing to impress no one but another professor - a phenomenon that deserves to be satirized. Lem also "reviews" several fictitious books that adapt the themes and plotlines of old classics to modern settings, which in the real world is the type of literary reinvention that is often slavishly over-praised by academic analysts - making Lem's satire necessary in bringing all these eggheads back down to Earth. In other "reviews" here, Lem provides commentary on the fictitious scientific and philosophical theories of his fake writers, providing him with a very sneaky method of advancing his always interesting thoughts on those same topics. Meanwhile, some brutal social satire (an underappreciated strength of many of Lem's proper novels) pops up in his "reviews" of fictitious fictional works. This book often seems to be the work of boring over-analytical ivory-tower scientists and snobs, but that's exactly who Lem is satirizing, in a sly fashion that would probably go right over their lofty heads. doomsdayer520 Rating: 5 5
Mixed Reviews from a Planet Not Yet Formed Reviewed by stephanie on . If the novel also functions as a latitudinal and longitudinal marker for the placement, assertion, and voyeuristic display of the author and her slow shedding of cosmic clothing, "A Perfect Vacuum" represents a frustrated astronomer gazing into her telescope searching the darkest part of the sky for a glimmer of life. In the novel, the author, Stanislaw Lem, cannot cope with the burden of unwritten books that he seems to sit on, like an island of blank pages, and instead embarks to meet his ideas half-way. He utilizes the common standard for literary criticism and accepts that his books (which are really ideas, which are really composites of other ideas, which are measured and dispensed waste of human civilization and meaning delivered in teaspoon-servings via the media), are really only defined by the critical eye that both projects and interprets meaning on a piece of literature, or a piece of pie. It is no coincidence, then, that Lem, like a Narcissus gazing into a pond and becoming disgusted with her own features, addresses the meaning of his book in his description of other, non-existent books. The reader is easily tricked into reading the book straight-forward, as a harmonious grouping of reviews, but the bare architecture that holds these reviews together is not only haphazard, but desperate. When Lem examines the role of non-existence and negation in a non-existent novel, he is at the same time searching for answers to his own work. The genre of review reflects the self-consciousness of authors to embark on to more experimental or less mainstream work because of the imposed neuroses of the "Literary Critical Reviewer." Here, we see Lem taking the master's whip into his own hands and flagellating himself and his ideas, victimizing himself both as an author and a critic. Of course, the false praise that each book receives in its review perhaps reflects the hilarity and tragedy of the Polish Communist regime--a neuroses left over for Lem after he was forced to marginalize his writings for the Greater Good of the Communist Party of Poland. "A Perfect Vacuum" represents a failed house of cards, the workings of a blind mapmaker searching the terrain with his hands, the astronomer never looking away from the single, darkest part of sky in hopes to see a flash of life. Each review in this book is similar: it is the self-acknowledged extinguishment of the potential life of each of these books, and so we must close the book ourselves and wait for it to show flashes of life. Rating: 5 5