House with the Blue Bed: Lovely Tale of Pornography

Alfred Arteaga, Author Mercury House $12.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-56279-106-3
Poet and U.C.-Berkeley professor Arteaga begins each of these brief essays promisingly with specific images, but most of them trail off rather than shed light. For example, one essay opens with a vivid description of the Westwood area of Los Angeles, but soon Arteaga is nattering on about his suffering from ""dislocasia,"" aka disorientation. Another piece about a job he held in the L.A. county coroner's office during his sophomore year of college begins with an acknowledgment of fear, but then veers off to discuss road trips that workers took to break the boredom. Glimpses of the author's relationships with his daughters lend tenderness, but do not go much deeper. He returns repeatedly to the moment when he saw police holding a gun to his daughter's head, which is a shocking image, but not much more. Often the jarring lack of a segue makes the pieces seem arbitrary: an examination of how fiction writers often narrate their lives to themselves leaps to a snowstorm during a Galway Kinnell reading, and a tale of reading poetry in Italy ends with a woman informing the author that his family name is Basque. Not helping matters much is Arteaga's love of astonishingly convoluted sentences: ""Rather, at this moment, than follow the path across the sand or from sand to other sand, and even rather than consider what lies beneath the surface plane, that is, rather than direction and alternation, than linear movement and selective identification, than horizontal and vertical, rather than these, the matter of rather itself."" (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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