Staff Book Reviewer Spencer Dew is the author of the novel Here Is How It Happens (Ampersand Books, 2013), the short story collection Songs of Insurgency (Vagabond Press, 2008), the chapbook Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (Another New Calligraphy, 2010), and the critical study Learning for Revolution: The Work of Kathy Acker (San Diego State University Press, 2011). His Web site is spencerdew.com.
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Seven sacraments, clearly denoted, ordered like a ledger and explained in lines to be memorized, recited: this is the framework for Julie Marie Wade’s hybrid work, part poetry, part prose, an exploration of autobiography and mystery, the crown of which is love.
Love here is a mystery in a sense that borrows from that term’s theological meaning: at once awesome and impossible, world-bending and necessitating a commitment of faith. Love is also, in Wade’s terms, explicitly “a doctrine,” grounded in—“integral to its dogma”—the body and bodily experience.
Exploring this mystery, Wade turns to poets and mystics, to fragments of Sappho, to the framework of Vatican II, road trips, and visits home. She also turns to math, another ordered system, another mysticism, finding in the cleanly delineated abstraction of numbers a parallel cosmos to love. “Calculus, like love, is a study of contradictions. Calculus, like love, is also a method of inquiry.”
Formula only goes so far: desire, as Wade presents it, is incongruous, contortionist, “perennially new” as lovers are to each other, familiar and yet always not, each to each like a “palimpsest from which another layer has been peeled back, another fragment exposed.”
Maybe that’s not your idea of math, but Wade takes it there, charting networks, webs of intersection where human stories look, from a calculated distance, like so much lace—sexuality and partnership, fireworks shows and hospital beds, languid masturbation in the bath. From a sliver of poisoned pie to the intricacies of veins on the back of a lover’s hand, Wade sees the world as miracle and, simultaneously, equation. That, of course, is an equation itself: by linking a specific lineage of sacrality with the cool tabulations of mathematics, Wade is at once domesticating and exotifying her subject. “On the third day, I rose early and stood a long time in the living room light,” she writes, linking messianism and banality, measurement and those ethereal slants of everyday which can be testified to but never quantified.
Official Julie Marie Wade Web Site
Official Noctuary Press Web Site