two recent reviews
Two reviews of mine were published recently, but I’ve been remiss with updating this blog—hence the belated announcement:
1. “‘My dream of a fictional archive’: Nathalie Léger’s Suite for Barbara Loden,” Music & Literature, March 2015.
Léger’s book began as a short film notice commissioned for an encyclopedia, a brief notice that was to give an objective, factual summary of cult American filmmaker Barbara Loden, known almost solely for being Hollywood giant Elia Kazan’s wife despite the fact that she directed and starred in one film during her short life: a 1970 film entitled Wanda, an anti-Bonnie-and-Clyde film in the cinéma verité mode. Léger’s project soon grows, morphing into a consideration (one that she terms several time as an “excavation”) of female artistry, how one can write the history of a woman when others’ histories eclipsing a more marginal figure like Loden. How much of trying to unearth a woman about whom no one knows very much—and about whom there are either no materials extant, or else only fragments to be pieced together—an act of writing not only her narrative, but also the narrative of the female artist embarking on such a project? Léger’s prix-winning book is a must-read for all writers, but especially women writers, in how she centralizes the act of discovering one’s subject alongside pieces of oneself in the journey that writing invariably is.
2. “Ruins, Mourning, and Cigarettes: Nicolas Rothwell’s Belomor,” Open Letters Monthly, April 2015.
Belomor, in particularly, is one of the finest, more erudite, and shatteringly profound books I have read in at least the past several years. (Unfortunately, I read it just prior to 2014’s end-of-year holiday season, so it did not make my end-of-year picks—which I posted on my Tumblr, along with those selected by fellow critics, writers, and publishers who were kind enough to get involved in my own brand of a “year in reading” series when I asked them to take part.) Fans of W. G. Sebald and Gerald Murnane will be magnetically drawn to Rothwell’s wholly unique work, a project that synthesizes aesthetics, histories, temporalities, and narratives in such a profoundly melancholy way, and yet with such humanity and respect for our shared—albeit different—experiences of loss, suffering, and cultural shifts that I dare anyone to read Belomor and not be breathless, floored, and beyond impressed with Rothwell’s very singular skill.