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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Feral children seize abandoned big box stores, these vast spaces ripe for echo and ricochet, kids in swarms, in frenzies, where there used to be racks of flat-screens, gaming consoles. It’s like an update to Lord of the Flies, or a chanted recitation of passages from the text, while something roasts and then chars over a fire of cardboard and shattered palette pieces. The kids here, they have that second order, po-mo savvy: the cultural literacy that comes from being suckled by basic cable. “We hung out for two weeks after that,” one narrator recounts, “but you stopped taking showers and spoke in old movie quotes. One morning you took all the Mountain Dew and split.” Like so many of Forrest’s lines, that one could stand as a narrative entire.
Likewise, she gives us images, artifacts: the warped asphalt where something was consumed, the bone shard confused for a fragment of the moon. These objects have texture, the wear of history to their edges, like the gift one sibling gives another, “some dumb astronomy textbook our father wrote, but I bought it with my own money, saved up from bagging fallen walnuts from the forest floor.” Pluck and risk, the stain and stink of natural oils—Forrest’s characters are at once conscious of their temporary fleshiness (“I would have made out with you in the bathroom longer, but it was the sink, it creaked away from the wall like a bad tooth, and I felt beanbag heavy from all the rice we ate.”) and their imminent end as so much liquid or discolored rot, as a handful of cremains. One kid’s mom’s boyfriend “has a habit of presenting me with baubles and small ceramic animals—hedgehogs, rabbits—glued to cardstock squares, and I’ve discovered a fact about these miniature mammals: the smaller the statue, the more impossible to break.” The lesson here? Ferals kids are tough, but the status, contested in the present, passes quickly enough. “Whoever arrived first wasn’t dead,” one narrator says, of a party. That about sums it up, too.
One story, “Paper/Boy,” is written as a redacted letter, starting “Hey,
Babe,” the tentative intimacy reconsidered. Like the occupied wastelands and memento mori throughout the book, this tactic holds open the curtain on something basic, animalistic, despite the epistolary trappings of culture. The narrator here reveals by revealing and then holding back, a timidity that captures both stream of consciousness “ Awkward transition. Haha.” and a complicated psychological drama “ Just. If you wanted to come over, you could.” If feral kids could scrawl notes, this is what the process would look like, “ I guess there’s some shit I want to say about what I said,” the writer writes, then deletes, saying nothing, leaving us with open space. And “what are open spaces for, if not to burn?”
Official Rosie Forrest Web Site
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