cover image The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets

The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets

Kathleen Alcott. Other Press, $14.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-59051-529-7

Jackson calls Ida “I”; she is himself, and he her. Their bond is more than love, more than friendship even; it is very nearly a blood link, and the intensity of it seems incestuous at times. In this dreamy, barbed novel, Ida tells the story of this relationship after it has ended. It begins when Jackson and Ida are infants and continues through their mildly rebellious Northern California adolescences and on into young adulthood. Neighbors first, they become lovers as teenagers but their relationship is off-balance in an important way. As a child, Jackson sleep-talks with his brother, and Ida listens and mines the conversations for prophetic information. As an adult, he thrashes with night terrors and, at Ida’s prompting, creates beautiful art while sleeping. Ida’s role as an observer and manipulator to his helpless actor tilts their connection unevenly, and eventually topples it. The initial sense of beauty and sweetness between the two is tempered by uncomfortable intensity and claustrophobia. Ida’s narrative is peppered with horrors as well—Ida’s mother’s death by fire, a classmate’s kidnapping, Jackson’s brother’s growing insanity—and what emerges as a whole is an emotional narrative that is not easy or relatable but that sparks with convincing pain and nostalgia. Agent: Victoria Marini, Gelfman Schneider. (Sept.)