This piece and much of the rest of his writings Mr. Murnane has labeled 'fictions,' but another term he favors is 'reports'—thorough, fastidious and neutral in tone, they read like field notes from a journey through the interior ... Later in Border Districts, the narrator paraphrases a quotation from Kafka suggesting that 'a person might learn all that was needed for salvation without leaving his or her own room.' Mr. Murnane’s challenging, rewarding books push this proposition to its logical endpoint, elaborating a fictional world grounded in the imagery of the everyday, in which God is no longer found in the details but is replaced by those details altogether. 'Eternity is just another name for this endless scenery where we wander from one place to another,' he once wrote. Or it’s a map we spend our lives completing.
Relentlessly introspective but dependably playful, Gerald Murnane’s Border Districts is a novel that continually calls attention to its own book-ness ... The result is tedious — but fascinating ... Like Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, it is a philosophical proposition as much as a work of fiction — and often an act of devotion ... In the absence of plot, Border Districts is bound together by intersected themes of light and faith ... Space has rarely been so tenderly observed or so irrelevant ... Murnane’s mischievous suggestion is there is no point in trying to see the world as it is. Your own mind sanctifies and stains the glass.
Slender, tricksy, and absorbing, this new book announces itself 'A Fiction' on the cover but, inside, protests the label at every opportunity ... Long, liquid sentences seem apt to induce a trance even as they keep drawing the reader’s attention back to the only immediate reality, which is that we are reading Murnane’s words. His account of distraction, the mind’s constant wanderings while reading and writing, creates a mise en abyme in which we read and think about him ruminating on his reading and thinking about reading and thinking until the book rather gloriously threatens to swallow itself whole.