cover image The Longcut

The Longcut

Emily Hall. Dalkey Archive, $15.95 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-62897-397-6

Art critic Hall debuts with the intelligent if derivative story of a young artist on a circuitous path both mentally and spatially. The unnamed narrator gets lost in increasingly recursive thoughts about her inchoate art practice while on her way back from lunch to a soul-deadening admin job. She’s also preoccupied by a friend and fellow artist whose career is doing better. At the moment, the narrator’s only idea for her work is a decorative egg she plans to photograph. She also ruminates on the color blue, the inscrutable passing of time, Wallace Stevens, Argentina, syntax, her pocket-size cassette recorder, whether jewelry is art, and so on. Notably missing is anything that might delineate the character from her high-minded thoughts. It’s an intriguing experiment, but Hall’s straight up approximation of the style associated with the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard goes way beyond mere homage, beginning with the first line (“I was always asking myself what my work was, I thought as I walked to the gallery”), which uses the formula from Woodcutters and The Loser. The result is a frustrating experience that jettisons character and plot, but finds nothing to replace them. Art people might get a kick out of the portrait of an artist obstructed, but as fiction it comes up short. Agent: Tina Pohlman, Ross Yoon Agency. (May)