STORYTOWN by Susan Daitch


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A first collection, from the author of L.C. (1987) and The Colorist (1989), brings together 15 fictions, some of which have appeared in the edgier small-press mags, which is not surprising given the postmodern play of ideas that defines most of Daitch's work. Many of the meta-level narratives here, full of references to pop culture and cinema, are fundamentally lifeless, more concerned with notions of art and interpretation than with telling stories. Two exceptions stand out from a relatively dire bunch. In the long story ""Doubling,"" a courtroom artist is visited by her cousin from Italy, who slowly takes over her apartment and sets up shop as an art forger. The two become partners, eventually inventing a lost artist whose work they churn out for European art markets. Equally intriguing is the title piece, set in a Lake George theme park, where young people act out roles from children's books. While both stories play with the relation between art and reality, they also rely on character and texture, which can't be said for many of Daitch's deliberately more abstract pieces, including a series of very short takes on print culture in France, a dialogue between Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht, and a triptych including descriptions of a mutilated painting by Correggio, massacred bodies in El Salvador, and the Soviet exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair. Many of Daitch's self-reflexive narratives concern the fringes--and substrata--of the art world. A number of them take off from real and imaginary historical episodes: Eleanor Marx's trip to the States; Oscar Wilde in Coney Island; spies and conmen in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War. At her worst, the author plays with some Burroughs-like techniques, randomly quoting from newspapers or simply itemizing surreal images. Daitch explores the nature of art and the meaning of defacement, destruction, and duplication in fictions that invite their own deconstruction.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1996
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Dalkey Archive