Dorothy, A Publishing Project, 2010
Q: Who is Renee Gladman?
A: A quick internet search doesn’t unearth much. Her name may also be Annette. She teaches in the Literary Arts Program at Brown University. She lives somewhere in Massachusetts. I don’t know where she was born. She edits and publishes Leroy, which brings the world beautifully bound chapbooks. She also operates Leon Works, which is an independent press. She’s friends with Eileen Myles. She’s the author of 4 works of prose and 1 collection of poetry. She’s a restless writer. Her prose poetically bends our expectations of what a novel should be and what it can do to the inside of us.
I read EVENT FACTORY, Renee Gladman’s first installment in what will be a trilogy of novels about the invented city-state Ravicka, while sitting on top of a stone wall, feeling a lot like Humpty Dumpty.
At only 126 pages, it is a slender novel, each word packed, lean, and oddly flat.
Although at a glance everything seems straightforward in this story about Ravicka – which is on the verge of vanishing – and is in fact quite explicit, there is a puzzling air wafting throughout Gladman’s prose, something contradictory in nature, that kept me at a peculiar distance.
I reached out.
I tried to scale walls.
No matter how much I wanted to be a part of her make-believe world, I never forgot I was a foreigner in this place, someone who would eventually leave Ravicka, much like her linguistically-inclined narrator, who arrives at the opening of the book and leaves with us at the end.
On the surface, Ravicka has yellow air and strange outgrowths and customs that seem friendly enough. Every interaction begins with cordial greetings and gestures – Hello, Hi, Gurantai – but any dialogue after these aerobic salutations is either misleading or deceptively ambiguous.
Deceptive because everything seems to make some kind of weird sense but nothing ever really does, no dots are connected, and yet I always wanted to read more, my curiosity tangled up with the slow disappearance of this silent city that often felt (but never truly was) entirely emptied of its inhabitants.
There is a pervasive sense of urgency among Ravickians yet none seem deeply bothered, just lonely and disconnected and constantly in motion.
As with any novel that digs its fingernails into my skin, there were parts that will perhaps forever remain lodged in my brownish brain matter.
Being somewhat perverted by nature, I will probably always remember the narrator (a woman) waking from a disorienting sleep and feeling a hand enter her, then some fingers, then a different amount of fingers, then a whole fucking fist, and the narrator makes a primitive sound, the sound of unexpected delight, something I can hear only because I want to, and the convulsion that cracks her spinal cord is her body getting up and leaving her breathless.
The other memory stuck in between the electrified pillows of my consciousness is not so sexual but more musical and foreboding.
The narrator is with her friend, Simon, waiting for a concert to begin. Until then she has not seen so many Ravickians gathered in the same place. As with many cultures, music brings the people together. Finally, 2 musicians walk onstage. The woman is armed with a cello, the man, an oud, which, according to Eileen Myles, is a totally percussive guitar.
The Ravickians make a lot of noise when these 2 people walk out to perform for them. The frenzy even makes a woman in the audience rip open her gown. Then everything settles and silence regains control of Ravicka, pressing down on its populace.
But that is not the image I have lodged in my brownish brain matter. It isn’t. What I remember, and probably always will, is the narrator’s voice speeding loud and clear towards the stage the second the woman pulls across the strings of her cello. A pointy eruption from the narrator, an acoustic shout that can’t be kept guarded inside her throat when the cellist brings her instrument to life, and so the opening notes of this concert are a mixture of the lowest-pitched viol directly followed by an uncontrollable punctuation mark of vocal glee.
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