Choreographer/poet/novelist Kaschock constructs her debut around a new performance art form combining sound, movement and structures, called sleighting, and invents a new set of meanings to go with it: Needs, Souls, wicking, precursors all take on fresh connotations in a teasingly oblique story written in prose sometimes lyrical, sometimes clotted, requiring the retuning of the ear: “He saw darkness as necessary, a part of the scrutiny, the spelunking of sleight’s potential.” Two sisters, Clef and Lark, have performed sleight, although emotionally troubled Lark left the troupe. West, who runs a different troupe, has met Byrne, a gifted writer who carries a rock in memory of his hated father. As a new sleight work is assembled, a horrible serial killing comes to light, the Vogelsongs’ ritual murder of some two dozen children, and this terror becomes woven into the new show. Kaschock’s inventive but odd story is matched on the page by peculiar layouts, lists, script dialogue and footnotes. Gothic and intense, this fully imagined yet partly private work of storytelling loosely connects themes of pained childhood, eventually wrapping up some of them.
Powerfully original verging on the obfuscatory, this is a novel with no middle ground: Readers will either love or hate it.