HERE LIES THE WATER by Meredith Steinbach


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Steinbach's second novel (Zara, 1982)--this one centered on a group of friends (a writer, a painter, a surgeon, an actress, a pianist) who now live in the New England countryside--is stylistically innovative and emotionally involving, but much like a Godard film: all light and texture, a map of moments that don't always cohere. Leslie Bailey, a writer/intellectual (a book on Kenya), ""has dreams she cannot avoid,"" and the novel--plunging the reader (72 short chapters) into ""that raucous season when nostalgia makes a question of us all""--relentlessly moves into and out of private visions. Leslie grew up in a working-class Michigan family: when her mother died, her father ""took her away from the trailer court and the factories to see the tulips in Holland, Michigan."" Her dreams, both realistic and surreal, often involve her friends; Magdalena, an actress on the edge, with whom Leslie has a long-term sexual and emotional relationship; Carlisle Casson, a painter who lost a sister by violence (""How had he come to agree to moving out here?""); Bobby Adams, a surgeon and ex-Black Panther haunted by a child patient who died as a result of racism (""They wouldn't let me cut and he died""); and Marie Still, a pianist who has a son with Bobby. The mosaic of short chapters is punctuated by Leslie's tumultuous relationship with Magdalena and various set pieces: a New York altercation with workmen, Magdalena weighing the household animals, Bobby building a boat in his basement, etc. Passages are eminently quotable, poetic and precise, though in places innovation makes for stylistic confusion. Like Steinbach's first novel, this one has some trouble deciding how accessible it wants to be: in short, a poetic collage that could do with a little more fine-tuning.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1990
Publisher: Another Chicago Press