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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Museum of Stones
A Review of Museum of Stones
by Lynn Lurie

Spencer Dew

A mother and her son “sit on the floor of the Museum of Natural History under the blue whale, discussing the way his muscles contracted to propel him through the water. In the semi-darkness we strain to hear the underwater sounds, sometimes muddled, other times perfectly clear.” Later, in the planetarium, “the Milky Way is a wide causeway of sparkling mica schist, bordered by diamond-studded mountains. / He whispers, outer space has many dry planets. HD 209458b and HD 189733b are two that are worth exploring.”

The son is marked, from birth, as exceptional, abnormal—as vulnerable, as ill, as gifted in ways that spawn seemingly occult behavior. He doesn’t sleep. He compiles lists of numeric codes. He molds his fingertips in wax, assembles secret collections of objects under trapdoors. He catalogues stones, curating his own, intimate, museum. He does not fit in, nor socialize easily. He “records the intervals between the flickering” of lightning bugs he captures in a jar. In one scene, indicative of the pathology that haunts this text,

He selects a book on Morse code and memorizes it before we leave the library. I tell him it is possible to check it out and take it home. He shakes his head. I’m sure it’s because he does not want to upset the order. When he is finished he returns the book to the shelf, making sure the numbers on the spine are in sequence with the other book.

Specialists are consulted again and again. Again and again, “My son’s therapist explains there is nothing more he can do,” such that this response is anticipated, awaited with a fearful suspense: “There will come a time when this doctor runs out of ideas and loses interest.” There are procedures—the centrifuging of brain fluid—and a kind of hardened existence—(“A street artist paints my son’s profile on the side of the ice cream parlor. For years his image is on those bricks. When the wall is eventually whitewashed I am relieved.”)—and a stumbling, tattered, barely-holding-together endurance—(“My husband gives me one week to demonstrate I have a plan. Otherwise he and my son will move out. I sit down in front of the computer to compile a list. There are no keys; my son has taken the keyboard apart.”). Meanwhile, other tragedies unfold (“A child’s shoe washes ashore in a distant country.”) or are studied as history (the drawings made by children in Theresienstadt). The family’s own time in South America matters here—evangelical missionaries and condors circling around this mother’s pain, her anxiety, the love that seems coded by and inseparable from those sentiments. This is a stunning book, dealing a blunt force trauma of motherhood, leaving one dazed, as the mother here is dazed, remembering the scenes compiled here as if searching for some forgotten key to explain it all.

Official Lynn Lurie Web Site
Official Etruscan Press Web Site

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