A strong novella and ten stories twisted and wrung dry.
The inspired title novella, with a nod to Woolf’s The Waves, tells (in second person) of You’s lust for the glam life of Allison Victor, a girl You’s own age: “We were bound together in the sorority of poor childhoods, mild neglect, when promises are but puffs of air that carry us off with the power of tornados.” Both are addicted to schemes of escape. Allison rises from her cigarette-girl job at the Bump to writing a column for the New York Press for a year, then to a Village Voice column and, by small steps, upward to a Sundance scholarship. You, a poet, wins a Young Poets award of $5,000 for a first book, moves to Seattle with an actor boyfriend. She follows Allison’s life online through Allison’s Journal, which is at times well written enough to suggest that she is You’s Dostoevskian double, especially when Allison is spied on a Seattle bus and writes weather-soaked online laments. Allison’s strong memory: swimming underwater in the half-size Olympic pool out front of a motel run by her parents in a New York City suburb. Without warning, like Woolf’s Orlando changing sex, You has become Allison. Or is You still the poet Olive Halliday-Queen whom You spots from a bus seat? Mixed identities indeed! The story ends with a very big nod to Woolf. Among the shorts, “Stealing Purses”—about a woman, dumped by her boyfriend, who takes up stealing purses as if their contents will explain something (she always mails the purses back, everything intact)—has its attractions but remains strange, undertold, half-strangled. Others feature quirky, depressed heroines, sometimes heavy drinkers, their lives sifting through their fingers. From “Surface Reading”: “Sometimes I talk to photographs of myself. I ask them if they know we are going to die.”
Little deaths in the rain, in a first collection from novelist Gussoff (Homecoming, 2000).