Portraits of Ruin

Joseph S. Pulver, Author
Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. Hippocampus (www.hippocampuspress.com), $20 trade paper (386p) ISBN 978-1-61498-025-4
Reviewed on: 01/28/2013
Release date: 10/01/2012
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Loneliness, loss, and the feelings of emotional dislocation that they engender are the foundation for most of this challenging collection's 36 selections. In "And this is where I go down into the darkness," a man gets a terrifying glimpse of the void when he reads a bleak philosophical text following the disappearance of his lover. "(a piece) about angels left out in the rain" presents two characters in varying states of disrepair trapped in a desolate landscape straight out of Beckett. In "La Festin de l'araignée," an avenger with a mechanical arm menaces pimps and drug dealers in a squalid city cemetery. Pulver (Sin & Ashes) writes in a style pitched somewhere between narrative fiction and prose poetry, and the compression this calls for often produces awkwardly phrased sentences that show a self-conscious artifice at odds with the strong emotions they struggle to convey ("His years, foreword to the quilt of happened he just inhaled, are a disease, an inhabitation of bitter countries"). The raw power of these stories is undeniable, though in only a few does it find artful expression. (Oct.)