Three Novels

Elizabeth Robinson. Omnidawn (IPG, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-890650-51-3
The three novels of the title are Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868), and George Gissing’s Eve’s Ransom (1895): three late Victorian novels that might be said to center on women, sleuthing, and connections therein. Robinson (Also Known As) devotes a section to each, using lines from the novels to construct poems with titles like “Clairvoyance,” “Quicksand” and “Decorum” (in the opening Moonstone-based section), and two section-length works. Firmly in Susan Howe’s mode of pulling prevailing ideology out of suggestive snippets, Robinson’s poems, at their best, speak at once to an earlier age, and to our own: “The land’s grace incarcerates, redouble’s itself,” notes one line, while “There is no secrecy, only swathing—” quips another. These are darkly pleasant, revealing forays into another era’s mind. When “Pariah” ends “Yet in the eyes of the world, vindication bears little relation to mercy,” one hears all sorts of ghosts and echoes. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/19/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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