An experimental novel focuses on one woman’s artistic struggles.
The protagonist in this brief drama goes unnamed yet readers gather early on that she endures a life of frustration. She has grand dreams of being a sculptor but, as with so many artists, these yearnings do not pay the bills. As someone tells her rather bluntly, “You cannot live off your sculptures.” So what does she do instead? Although it is never entirely clear who is speaking (most of the book unfolds in dialogue and characters are never given names), it seems the artist sticks with a job she hates even though it causes her great distress. And so readers follow along as the protagonist argues with others, criticizes herself and her work, and generally expresses feelings of discontent. She pens brief letters to Passion, Pain, and Phobia (for example, “Dear Phobia, You are hosting me as a prisoner”). She also suffers odd accusations, including that she looks too glamorous to be a sculptor. The whole affair unfolds in under a hundred pages and, while the protagonist certainly gets to vent her frustrations, it is not certain if anything gets resolved. Everything in Jbara’s (Muddy Minutes, 2017, etc.) story moves quickly. From the get-go, it is clear that this sculptor has some feelings to express and she does so without pulling any punches. As she responds to someone who claims she is not changing the world with her art, “Actually, I am changing my world.” The problem with this anonymous fury is that the sculptor and her haters are inherently flat. While it is easy to be empathetic to her plight, it is impossible to know much about her or her work. Dialogue can likewise be vague to the point of distraction. This is the case when one character exclaims “I loathe you!” and another responds: “I loathe you too.” What, exactly, is everyone so angry about? Nevertheless, the arguments are always heated. Even if the characters are ambiguous, it doesn’t mean they—and the book on the whole—aren’t full of emotion.
While this fast-paced tale of a sculptor delivers unrelenting passion, portions of the narrative lack depth.