AN EXERCISE IN DUPLICITY
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, Fra Keeler, Dorothy, a publishing project, 2012
Reviewed by Lindsey Drager
There is a house and in it a man has died. The house is thus desired by a different man. The house is purchased quickly. The veracity of the printed word is questioned. Sleep occurs. There are knocks on doors and strangers. There are conversations with visitors that employ a healthy amount of subtext. The title is mentioned, but we do not know if we should treat it like a name or a theory.
"Things creep up on us when we deny their existence." (10)
"It always makes me queasy to think of manipulation as a general category." (21)
"There’s more to a public life than wars." (28)
Issues addressed: safety as it relates to desire, the paradox of home, heredity and ancestry.
The undead man who purchased the dead man’s house begins to engage in a variety of suspicions. Phones ring. Dreams unfold. Rather than the man search and research, the archive seems to seek him. We first suspect the dead man and the undead man are one.
"But then thoughts get passed around from brain to brain, so that our thoughts are only ever a repetition of someone else’s thoughts." (38)
"Some things are worth looking at double." (40)
Issues addressed: the uncanny, the credibility of memory, plural publics.
We begin to wonder where the split between fiction and philosophy is located. Is the book a novel with dissolving plot or a single mind collapsing rather than reflecting? Why does the difference seem to matter? We begin to write in the margins that the book is self-conscious. We also ask the following questions: Do all events occur bound to and as a product of other events? Does event progress, resurrect, or envelope? What happens in the fissures between components in a series, or catalog, or archive?
"Everything seems larger when you are looking at it from the bottom up." (44)
"Everything accumulates strength right before it goes down." (54)
"Certainly a person cannot be made from a chopped up person." (68)
Issues addressed: the authority phantoms wield, repetition and déjà vu, the ethics of composing the self.
A sentence begins to haunt. The sentence, like the title of the book, is both a material, tangible line of language and also a damning. A walk is taken. Milk and bread is consumed, though hunger is left unsatiated, thirst unquenched. There is an incantation that the people of the book are somehow connected. We as readers recognize this connection as their union in the space of the book, but the narrator only sometimes seems aware he is (within) a book. Also, we come to realize the story has no protagonist.
"Thinking is pure misery, a job assigned to the miserable and the wretched, to think each thought to its horrible and suffocating end." (75)
"Because surely, how one feels about the day is inseparable from how one feels about oneself." (78)
"No failure could ever be permanent." (94)
Issues addressed: maternity and mirrors, the dangers of obsession, the inevitable anxiety installed by entrance into the social arena.
Issues addressed: risk, unfriendliness, constraint and enclosure, trust and how we qualify its opposite.
"I had the distinct feeling of having cut off parts of myself." (119)
"Everything, I thought again, has already happened, even the end." (115)
"What is real?" (111)
A frame surfaces and a veil is withdrawn, relatively speaking. There are new characters. There is a testimony, though restraint is practiced in the offering. The outside and the inside begin to slip into and around each other, ever-eddying. The narrator drinks a glass of water. There is rain. The necessity of the end loiters and looms, even after the body and the book is folded closed.