Point and Line

Thalia Field, Author New Directions Publishing Corporation $14.95 (148p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1442-1
Mike teases Sal about her hair and her shadowy shoulders./ He calls her his `dirty little iceball' and she smiles that he loves her enough to name her."" Debts to previous genre-busting metafiction and metapoetry, and a persistent interest in the physical properties of a book, are pulled through a winningly feminist sensibility in this remarkable debut. A set of nine discrete poetic essays, post-modern myths, apparently-unactable theatre-pieces, versified diaries, extended jokes and fictional experiments (along the tonal lines of Gillian McCain and others) add up to, as the Kandinsky epigraph describes it, ""a new, independent life in accordance with its own laws."" ""Seven Veils,"" from which the opening quote is taken, uses long lines to tell the semi- or pseudo-story of a teenager who happens to be a comet as she careens brilliantly through ""dummies,"" ""governments,"" ""households,"" animals and rites of passage. Heavily indebted to Wittgenstein, ""A\1"" interweaves the thoughts of an analysand with ideas about other situations, among them that of a cat in a famous philosophical quandary. ""The Compass Room"" experiments with perspectivism, multiple narrators and vague settings, in a way readers of John Barth will recognize: ""Each book has a title and all chapters have numbers,"" it opens. ""Walking"" tries to recreate the moment-by-moment perceptual experience of a walker in a city, scattering phrases, lists, associations and sentences all over its 23 pages, in an ambitious update of late-model New York School verse. ""Hours"" is a postmodern parody of a play-script, with impossible stage directions for ""Microbes"" and ""Whales."" While the methods of proceeding are familiar, the characters and results are not, making this wonderfully varied first book a real pleasure. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!