are the chemists. The crystallized trees, the way they scrub the
sky. The way the snowflakes stagger."
Reviewed by Pauline Masurel
are forty-two slices of Fog
Gorgeous Stag in
this collection. Some of the great joys of these occur in the tiny,
disassociated slices of statements that can bring a smile by their
very digression. In God
ostensibly about a relic from Bonnie & Clyde's murder spree, the
reader is gifted with a description of the three types of people who
frequent a cafe, "...those who routinely cut their lawn, those who
never cut their lawn, and those woebegone souls who dreamed of one
day owning a lawn – green and vast, lush as a secret handshake, as
low flames burning atop a lake along a back road – of weighing that
significant question: to
cut, or not to cut."
this collection, celebrities pen letters a lot. Often semi-literate,
these are tiny mini-stories within fictions. For example, in Prayer
of Gun Ownership,
a celebrity pens a letter
[i guess i was 12 my first
remington said the little book their to clan the gun that the gun was
packed in shippin grease and oil clean it good fore you go shoot
thangs i took it to grandpa and says grandpa how to do this i don't
know much i am 12 and he put his cigar down my remington walked
outside shot it right up the air i mean both barells loud handed it
to my hands said boy that's how you clan a damn shotgun]
Square brackets are often used in
these pieces, as are interludes in capitals I never did figure out
exactly what these conventions signify [OR don't]. I'm not sure
that it really matters though.
also occur frequently, such as, "Rubber hatchets. Corn cob pipes.
Fried Pepsi. Fried ears of corn. A laser that will etch your own
face onto the handle of a lint remover ($8)". This is the point,
for me, at which words have become semi-abstract. I can glory in the
sound and the rhythm and the surreal contrasts, but what's to be made
of a piece like Spoons,
segues from a few disconnected statements to a list of many different
types of spoon, as pilfered by Henry Ford and tumbling from his
pocket as he drowns. Perhaps it's like modern art or furniture in
antique shop windows. If you have to ask "Why?" (never mind, "How
much?") then you know you can't afford it.
There are a lot of quotations in
this review, partly because I suspect that most readers won't have
encountered anything like Sean Lovelace's writing before. Although
there may be a number of students on MFA Creative Writing programs in
the United States who have read (if not written) rather too much work
that looks a bit like this: some of it good, some of it bad. But how
do we tell the difference. Is there one (and does it matter anyway)?
Am I reading the Emperor's New Words, or is the Emperor even wearing
any words at all?
So, somehow it is much trickier to
feel confident as a reviewer once into this territory of language,
and I can only suggest that the prospective reader judges it on their
own response to the writing as for any other stories, whether they
are story-like or not. I will confess that there are times when I
simply want to skate across the surface of the words in this book, at
other times I revel in the immersion and following the flow where it
takes me. I can marvel at Lovelace's work for its poetry and
beauty, but please don't make me analyse it.
my delight in words themselves, there is also a tremendous thirst in
me, as a reader, to "make sense" of prose, to inject "a story" into a
piece of writing. Perhaps as a writer this urge is not equivalently
strong, which gives me a certain sympathy with alternative viewpoints
as to what the business of story should be "about". But it does mean
that some of my favourite pieces in this collection are those which
retain the beauty and wonder of language and yet deliver a "plot" of
sorts, however free and flighty it may be. In Momentum
we strike out reading with the statements "We almost ate a
fashionable hat! It was glossy and bruised. We thought grape jelly.
Grape jelly on the abdomen of a rotted log." It feels initially as
though all hope of sensible interpretation is lost and we must simply
read along for the ride, but miraculously, like a Magic Eye image,
the pixels of this story resolve into a recognisable tale of
fungus-hunting trip and an instance of haute couture. For me, this
constitutes a truly satisfying and delightful meal as a reader.
another such favourite of mine. It begins "In the year of Thud,
of McEclipse, during the Third Purge of Knees..." This jocular and
unsolemn alternative to Once Upon A Time soon turns starkly serious,
"...to own a single word of writing – a dot of black on white –
was to symbolize, to say I
tick tock and venomous and verve, an endangered thing in a forest
falling, wonderful and wrecked." This then is the legend of the
woman who owned a book. "They say she was laughing. They say they
found not a single word. She read them all, pried them from the page
with her skillful fingers; folded them into intricate shapes. They
say her name was your name, and she lifted the letters into the sky."
And with that single moment of elevation Lovelace goes on to gives
us an ending to transform a gathering of beautiful words into a myth
– a real story if you will.
if I stare long enough at some of the other pieces in this
collection they will all give up stories into the atmosphere of my
eyes. Or they may always remain poetic narratives. If you're into
labels then this sort of ambiguity might distress you. If you enjoy
your words free and fast and loose, yet beautifully crafted, then Fog
may very well enchant you.
Read an excerpt from a story from this
collection at Nanofiction