CAT SCRATCH FEVER by Robert Kelly

CAT SCRATCH FEVER

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Less striking than Kelly's work in A Transparent Tree (1985) and Doctor of Silence (1988), but further confirmation of the prolific poet and essayist's mastery of ambiguity and brief enigma. Rather than traditional plot, the jumping-off points for Kelly's prose poems and meditations--sometimes ironically expressed in language appropriated from logic or philosophy--often tend to be the manifestation of nature (vultures, a rose) or abstract ideas of language and writing. The imaginative, folkloric-style fragments (Kelly calls them "researches") that make up the extended piece, "Russian Tales," were inspired by a chart of Russian word-roots and English glosses. Previous collections were perhaps more accessible to general readers, in part because of the rich eroticism (which appears here, in fairly uninspired form, in the title story--an account of youthful sexuality and vampirism) and because they included more nods to traditional storytelling. The current collection has its share of quotable aphorisms, is most accessible in its allegorical tales ("Prison," about a man whose interminable escape attempt breeds nostalgia for the lost joys of simple imprisonment), and delights in nature mysticism, as in "Eucalyptus Tree," which moves from ordinary (if quirky) life to the cosmos. The paralogic of the Every clarity is falling asleep section of "The Annandale Ideology" is a marvelous five-sentence proof of the wakening power of ambiguity. Thirty-one very short fictions that often--to paraphrase the author--go nowhere and give nothing but light.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1990
Review Posted Online:




MORE BY ROBERT KELLY