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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A few years back, when the first of my good friends to get divorced found himself, rather suddenly, in the midst of that scene, he spoke of the disorientation—even, he said, a kind of terror—brought about by the fact that the familiar had gone instantly and utterly unfamiliar, unknown. Eyes he thought he knew no longer registered him in any known way; even his home became alien. This is one dynamic explored in these stories of loss and states of loss: lost lovers, lost lives, lost children and feelings, lost memories and possibilities. There is Proustian loss, the smell of a certain lotion from a body encountered last long ago. There is also the loss of nuance of music that results from translation, the loss of meaning that results from speech, the loss of emotion in physical touch, and that species of loss which involves a foreclosure of possibility. A mother is forced to choose between two unborn children inside her. A divorcee loses the chance—or maybe, more importantly, the idea of a chance—at a lover to her daughter. A divorced couple revisits their split, leading to deeper, irrevocable loss—the agony of honest conversation, the clash of memories on their alternate perspectives.
There is much pain in this book, much disorientation, no small amount of terror, the sort of The Twilight Zone and a far more domestic variety. In the two most moving stories, a child has been kidnapped. The child, in his account, “prefers the word lost instead of taken” because “He knows that there is a place for things that are lost.” His parents, meanwhile, can’t consider what has happened as similar to having been “misplaced. It’s nothing like losing one’s keys,” though their thoughts are still structured by the word, and they link their loss to other losses, to “the myriad things that have been lost,” from Atlantis to blood, memory to Pompeii, the Ark of the Covenant to sanity and teeth and life and limb. “Find me,” the bereft wife whispers, in the dark, to her husband, as they—like so many characters in this book—chase after that which is no longer.
Official Amina Gautier Web Site
Official Elixir Press Web Site