THE RETURN OF PAINTING, THE PEARL, and ORION by Leslie Scalapino

THE RETURN OF PAINTING, THE PEARL, and ORION

A Trilogy
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 From poet Scalapino, three anti-novellas that are composed in about equal parts of the automatic writing of Gertrude Stein, the self-parodying storytelling of, say, Robbe-Grillet, and the epistemological doubts of Beckett that words and reality are connectedwith combined results, however ambitious or high- intended, that are in about equal degrees unreadable, unpleasant, and unrewarding. What's commonly called ``characterization'' plays no part here as a woman, in a voice that seems to be her own, goes monotonously on and on from incident to incident, then often back again from incident to incidentshootings, killings, walkings on beaches and highways, laconic sexual episodes, shoppings at marketswith care never to allow a climax to be developed, a clear image to emerge for longer than half a breath, or a resting placewhere reader could pause, savor, or (merciful god) understand and relaxto take place. To make things tougher, syntax is routinely crumpled out of shape, lest the reader be allowed to get up some comforting speed or stride in this arid and self-destructing mine field or anti- story: ``As the person being nothing, in that Ronald Reagan (so it's not in the future) as the old aged apparently formed by Nancy as if light dancers in shorts orange and in green tops skipping (their) frolickingand no connection which there isn't to them those dancers really, in grueling repression of circumstance.'' What is the meaning of all this? Perhaps it can be plucked out in lines like these, about unrelatedness: ``She returns to the clinic. She has no relation to this. Though there is a relation to the retina. There is no way to live.'' Both society and language, it seems, are repressive and built on lies, unrelated to reality, leaving as a way toward truth only writing and the selfboth of these, too, gravely in doubt. Everything is solipsism. However fascinating its philosophic underpinnings, the result here is lamentably without even the distantmost warmths of beauty, allure, or enchantment. In a word: tedious, oh tedious, most tedious!

Pub Date: May 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-86547-469-9
Page count: 234pp
Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991