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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Once I was at a textile show where a former lover had stitched things that read, to me at least, as not unrelated to our
more intimate times together. Linen and thread, some bits of metal moored to the pieces like empty insect carapaces in
spiders’ webbing. Robinson gets this, and gets at it: how a love letter becomes someone else’s work of art.
Here a mixtape becomes a gallery installation. The private, the tender, gets vivisectioned, spread across a wall, with
labels. Public history from what started out so simple and close: “You have to press record and play at the same
time.” Part of the power of Robinson’s book comes from the careful engagement with real ways things were, as
when instructions on the making of a mix-tape morph, seamlessly, into aphoristic reflections on love and love’s
failure: “You can tape over it,” she writes, “but it’s still there underneath.” And then:
“Sometimes you’re better off unwrapping a brand new blank tape.”
The beat that ghosts out under a new song is, of course, nostalgic; not merely an interruption but also a source of ache: “I never washed the sheets and I search them inch by inch for any trace of her smell, the tang of it.” Characters in these stories are buffeted by loss, by change, wondering “how anyone can hope to leave a mark when everyone keeps tidying everything away,” and wondering even in those rare and awe-injected instance of connection just what is happening here and how and why.
“Later, we do lines together in the bathroom and it just happens. Afterwards, she pulls up her knickers and saunters down the stairs and back to the party like it never happened. Later I look at her dancing, that light spilling around her and it seems impossible that it happened.”
That is also masterful: the liason as an infusion of wonder, meaning both wonderment and wondering why, how, why, how... And, of course, for how long now, and when, and where, for what reason, will I be left wandering the city without my eyeglasses, abandoned by chance in a blur of missing signs, images of the lost plastered over every available inch of wall.
Nowhere is nowhere, one story cautions: “...it’s impossible to be in the middle of nowhere. Every place is home to someone, so you are always in the middle of somewhere.” But feeling somewhere is something entirely different, of course.
These stories capture a tenderness and confusion, in keeping with the title and the genre it refers to—those handmade anthologies of anthems for the moment, the mood, the bewildered, gobsmacked, swooning, and soon-to-be-lost.
Official Máire T. Robinson Web Site
Official Doire Press Web Site