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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A Head Full of Dreams
A Review of A Head Full of Dreams
by James Ardis

Spencer Dew

This chapbook tells the story of one Riley Lazare, who quests out from Oklahoma to Canada, by bus, only with “an Insignia Portable CD Player” and one CD, A Head Full of Dreams, the 2015 album by the British pop band Coldplay. This album becomes a mystical device for Lazare, whose visions and adventures are recounted here in a series of devotional hymns, promotional materials, and maps (both hand-drawn, plotting the relation of the place where our protagonist bought this life-changing album to his childhood home, and digital, offering reviews of the graffiti art of Montreal [which links, in turn, to videos of Coldplay performances featuring confetti]).

Leaving behind a friend with a collection of Playboys, Lazare rises from an “undisclosed location in Oklahoma” on to Toronto and Montreal, sampling poutine and visiting museums, but all the while enraptured by and rhapsodizing over the lead singer of the aforementioned band. Chris Martin is sometimes, in these pages, explicitly confused with Christ; at stronger points, the vocabulary of theology, with its longing for unity through the body of Christ, is applied to Chris Martin. “Downtown, Kensington Market, I am filled with you, Chris, in a way I never was before.” Even after his headphones and, later, his CD player stop working and he can no longer literally hear the album, it becomes, as a physical object, a sacred relic. He imagines treating the album like a family bible, using it to record his name and the names and birth dates of his children and grandchildren and in which he expects one day those same grandchildren to record the date of his death. The text is so brief as to feel incomplete, like the beginning of a project abandoned. We hear, for instance, that Lazare believes Chris Martin to be he in whom resides “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” but we don’t get much sense of what that wisdom and knowledge might be, no exegesis of lyrics, scant reference to show performances. There is something halfhearted about Lazare’s obsession, as if it is all tongue in cheek (his occasional evocation of a register of Biblical language is particularly this way), but if he really does set off on this journey with this one album at the center of his contemplations, why, what does he get from it? We have, on one page, an imagining of Chris Martin reading Rumi to Lazare from his iPhone and, on another, Chris Martin imagined as sharing a meal of smoked meats and thoughts of Beyoncé Knowles with Lazare, but readers who are intrigued by this conceit will want more, a filled-out narrative, attention to psychology, pages of detail that, here, are treated like the pause of silence between all-too-brief songs.

Official James Ardis Web Site
Official Long Day Press Web Site

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