cover image Salamandrine: 8 Gothics

Salamandrine: 8 Gothics

Joyelle McSweeney. Tarpaulin Sky (SPD, dist.), $16 trade paper (180p) ISBN 978-0-9825416-9-2

This collection of eight shorter works by McSweeney (Percussion Grenade) flits from cleverly conceptual prose-fiction to subliminal alliterative poetry. McSweeney's breakneck prose harnesses the throbbing pulse of language itself and thus eludes any sort of straightforward plot development. Yet snatches of continuity emerge that appear to narrate the stream of consciousness of an unhinged mother inhabiting a real or imagined apocalyptic landscape. McSweeney's opacity lends a vertiginous quality, denying the reader any orienting poles for the projected reality. The prose capsizes into repeated and shuffled words or rhyme schemes. At times this is distracting. The work relies heavily on oft-employed Beckett-esque literary tactics which can abandon the reader mired in a shoal of loquacious babble. Luckily these minor flaws are outshined by McSweeney's cerebral wit. For instance, the first story, "Welcome a Revolution", is irreverently bright. It narrates the inane covetousness a mother feels for the poise and style of her female friend/enemy/now-rising-revolutionary-leader. Another brilliant tableau is a scenario in "Charisma" that plays upon the etymology of the word sabotage and takes the form of a swindling of the narrator's daughter at a foreign open-air market. Despite the unevenness of McSweeney's literary style this is a delightful literary amusement. (May)