A young woman reflects on her relationship with her father, a fisherman, in this free-form coming-of-age tale.
Less a novel than the impression of a novel, this book by Hart (Creative Writing/London Metropolitan University) is so experimental that it more closely resembles the music of Miles Davis or Talking Heads than a work of literature. Borrowing liberally from Burroughs and other Beat-influenced modernists, Hart uses virtually no punctuation other than semicolons and colons and no uppercase letters to distinguish sentences from one another. The novel tells the story of Natalia, a budding young violinist who is emotionally estranged from her mother and sister; she bonded with her father, Walker, over fishing trips, remembered with soft-focus nostalgia. Later, she drops out of school to pursue her art in the company of a ballet dancer. In literary hallucinations like this, there’s always a bloody ghost—and here we get two, in the personae of Natalia’s grandmother (metafiction ahead) “America” and her great-grandmother Anastasia, whose diaries help inform Natalia on her own emotional journey. Passages like these spill out over the pages but ultimately add up to little more than long, shapeless poetry: “indefatigable and undefined, gesture as though to fall into a coma, turn twice on feet, on pointe, in a pirouette; mark the spaces clearly, the number of footsteps and distance between as, clear and unassuming, a gaze falls, off into the trees, a soft sigh, an attempt to construct a place of unimportance, understand the clear insignificance of glass….” This is also the type of book that dares to address us as “dear reader,” affecting an antiquated mood that its postmodern style does not support. The language and imagery are often lovely but so very nonsensical that the story within is confusing to follow.
Poetic, yes, but this not-a-novel reads like something from an art school writing class.