CLOSE YOUR EYES AND THINK OF DUBLIN by Kathryn Thompson

CLOSE YOUR EYES AND THINK OF DUBLIN

Portrait of a Girl
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A lushly descriptive experimental coming-of-age novel, the second offering from the Illinois State University/Fiction Collective Two's ``On the Edge: New Women's Fiction'' series (after Cris Mazza's Is it Sexual Harassment Yet?, p. 205). This one is notable for its wordplay--truly Joycean at best, arch or even ostentatious at worst--and its evocation of the pleasures and horrors of adolescence. Served up in 11 largely self-contained chapters, each headed by a quotation (ironic in context) from the children's book Madeline, the story refers incessantly to Joyce and his works. It's part precocious acting-out, part Kathy Acker-like homage to a source and a master, and part a moving impressionistic elegy. The title story is typical: it moves all the way from a lyrical reminiscence of parochial school to a takeoff on Gulliver's Travels, from a litany of instances that are sometimes effective (if mean-spirited, a common fault throughout here) but that too often degenerate into supercilious or silly catalogues. Likewise, ``Killing the Shrimp'' turns into an affected Joycean stream-of- consciousness. In ``Corndog,'' a man ``partial to little girls'' brings the narrator to Nabokov: ``You are Humbert Humbert and I was your yes yes girl.'' ``Debbit Does Dublin: Hair of the Dog'' is finally too cute for its own good (``to forge in the smithy of her sex tightening her bottom to let out a few smut words...''). The problem with Thompson wearing her sources (and her subconscious) on her sleeve is that this feels in the end--despite passages of clever, sensuous writing--like seminar stuff, its truly bone- cutting humor and wonderful sense of play, its depth of feeling, lost in all the clutter. A writer to watch, but this one is closer to the automatic throwaway prose of Dylan liner notes than to the genius of Joyce. Excerpts have appeared in such literary magazines as Black Ice, Fiction International, and The Quarterly.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-932511-41-4
Page count: 197pp
Publisher: FC2/Northwestern Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1991