about the author

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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Ghostographs: An Album
A Review of Ghostographs: An Album
by Maria Romasco Moore

Spencer Dew

“The truth of it is that every single instant we are, all of us, obliterated and refreshed,” we’re told in the opening pages of this book. This truth is contrasted with the childish belief of our narrator, “that I lived only one day. In the morning I was born and in the evening I died and the person who awoke in my bed the following morning was someone new.” In any case, however—whether infinitely replaced or infinitely refreshed, dead daily or obliterated constantly with the very passing of time—“Every story is a ghost story,” and the stories here, flash fiction pieces paired with vintage photographs, deliver on that in a quirky, whimsical yet haunting way. Even the most seemingly light-hearted, humorous routines take on a certain shadowy depth when read next to a fading photograph: strangers, posing in mystery, posing as mystery, ciphers in an ultimately indecipherable world. Or, most frightening to consider: mirrors, reflections of our own tattered, ever-dissolving and reformulating selves. Here is a girl who glows. “She was so bright that if you held a book in front of her face, you could see every single page at once.”

Here’s the man who got into a staring contest with a lamp and here’s a mail order baby who refused to stay in place. Here’s an abyss at the edge of town the baby tended to crawl toward, and here are the kids who play hide and seek and the boy among them who ended up hiding under a back porch “for almost a year.... He was quite pleased with himself for not being found, but the truth is we had just forgotten about him. He was a very dull boy.” Later in the book, these kids have grown up: “We no longer hide down laundry chutes, muffled by dirty sheets, or up tall trees, twisted through the branches like vines. / We hide, instead, in crisp suits and lace gowns. We hide beneath belated condolences. We hide behind smiles.” That is the melancholy bite here, as sharp as the fangs of the snakes inside one old woman’s hands—almost passing for veins in dim light, but snakes, certainly, capable of sewing fine quilts as well as biting. As for biting, consider this piece of advice, wry at first glance, tempting you to smile: “Never fall in love with a ghost, no matter how tempting.” But this is how it turns, how it gets parsed out more fully. Such love occurs most often unwittingly, we’re told, such that “the person doesn’t even realize that they are in love with a ghost.... And one day this person will realize that the person they loved never even existed, that he was only a phantom, as flimsy as a song. But by then it will be much too late.” Obliterated and refreshed: that’s how these stories, at their best, handle the reader, leading them along with pieces of a song, right to the edge of the abyss. “The people who went over the railing were missed, to be sure, but they were never truly mourned. There was too much uncertainty. It seemed possible that if we just waited long enough, we would hear them, calling up to us from a long way down, calling up to tell us what they’d found.” Like voices from old photographs. Or mirrors.

Official Maria Romasco Moore Web Site
Official Rose Metal Press Web Site

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