A debut author exhibits a mind brimming with ideas and fired by self-inquiry, drawn equally to the wondrous and tragic, with thoughts framed in sections named after the sculptures of Degas, Bernini, and Rodin.
Early on, Parms' (Writing/Vermont Coll. of Fine Art) ruminations can feel overly airy, more tenuously connected ramblings than essays. One wishes she would be less inclined toward free-form exposition, her words filling the space “like careless teenagers,” and simply stick to the point. But perhaps this is mistaking a fugitive continuity for lack of cohesion or wanting to impose order on a writer who canters like an intellectual mustang. For all its deceptively fractured moments, the collection possesses a kaleidoscopic unity, one that gradually grows more appealing and provocative. The child of a biracial, bohemian couple who divorced in her youth, Parms soon learned of the transience and frailty of ideals. Possessed of an “archival instinct to reconstruct and conserve the mundane pieces of a moment,” the author’s approach also captures, often in a euphoria of expression, startlingly poetic insights. Parms is invigorated by eccentricity, her own and that of others', though this can lead to narrative dissipation at times. Yet at its best, the book exhumes treasures secreted in her “almanac of riddle and wonder,” surmounting the limits of language to convey human experience. The author offers beautiful reflections on memory, art, identity, and living within the interstices of the world, and she provides many gems of observation and expertly crafted metaphors and similes. Along the way, Parms also injects the book with an array of arresting historical, cultural, and aesthetic asides.
As an artist and a person, what Parms desires most of all is “to soak everything in,” and as she does so, we find her to be a perceptive, unsettling, and surprisingly endearing guide.