Book of Mutter

Kate Zambreno. Semiotext(e) (MIT, dist.), $17.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-58435-196-2
Novelist Zambreno (O Fallen Angel and Green Girl) draws on elements of essay, memoir, photo album, and poetry to grapple with family, history, memory, and writing in this genre-blurring work of nonfiction. The tone is elegiac: Zambreno is grieving for her mother while attempting to make sense of their complex relationship when all that remain are trace memories, photographs, and the slipperiness of language. This book celebrates hybridity and indeterminacy, juxtaposing meditations on theorist Roland Barthes, artist Louise Bourgeois, writer Virginia Woolf, and artist Henry Darger alongside more personal deliberations that probe the writing of this book itself and recount Zambreno’s mother’s painful succumbing to cancer. The composition of this book requires the reader to participate in constructing links, noticing patterns, and making meaning; it is what Barthes would call a “writerly text,” welcoming the reader into its many entrances and possibilities. Zambreno’s work is an exercise in semiotics, a study of meaning-making, for things that seem intimate, foundational, and basic to being human: history, memory, mother, mourning. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/2017
Release date: 02/01/2017
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