A collection of 12 works of prose and poetry that aims to create new art through emulation.
Inspired by the apprenticeship of visual artists, who often copy the works of old masters in order to learn their art and craft, first-time author Hailes attempts to imitate great writers to create new literature. The poem “Sonnet #1: An Elegy to the Manque Midwestern Middle Class by William S. Franzen,” for example, rewrites a Shakespearean sonnet in the style (and employing the Midwestern subject matter) of novelist Jonathan Franzen. The short story “24th Century Metamorphosis by Franz Coupland” reimagines Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis as penned by Generation X author Douglas Coupland. But the results often prove more confusing than evocative, less literary imitation than pop-genre mashup, including references to Star Trek: “On the first day, Kendra Mix woke up to find she was not herself. She was Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise, NCC 1701-D. This came as a surprise to Kendra.” These pieces are so remote from their literary inspirations that the reader often relies on the attribution in the title (e.g., “Franz Coupland”) to identify the intended source, and none of these works stands well on its own. While the slender volume is itself appealingly stylish, with a stark white cover and single red band, the prose is sadly not. For millennia, writers have used imitation to learn their art, but such efforts are most successful when the rigor of close imitation is observed and gives rise to precise invention, as when Joyce Carol Oates rewrote Anton Chekhov’s famous 1899 story “The Lady with the Dog” in a contemporary setting, or when Jean Rhys took a character from Jane Eyre for her 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea. In the apprenticeship tradition, visual artists sought to closely copy those they admired in order to master technique, but these literary imitations combine the style of one writer with the content of a second, producing more confusion than clarity.
An engaging short-fiction concept which regrettably produces unengaging results.