Carla Harryman, Author . Atelos $12.95 (180p) ISBN 978-1-891190-10-0

In the world of this putative novel, far more fantasmagoric poem than fictional narrative, the first thoughts of a child and the dying thoughts of a post-nuclear race blithely coexist; it is a land where erotic impulses, social hierarchies, alternative cultivation and "a death god's radar" mix with a moral ambivalence that recalls Lewis Carroll and a violence and artistry that recalls Lautréamont and Samuel R. Delany. Purporting to track "the paradise and wasteland of utopian desire," two characters, Gardner and M, coax us into their mental adventures with a slipstream of avatars and misfit angels, and with each other. Both are gendered female and live in a city where women normally "do not sleep piled up on themselves as male captives in sloughs of despond," but who do engage in a variety of bodily trials and tribulations designed to gauge the limits of their world (i.e., of our ruined dreams of the ideal). M comes upon a man who gets separated from a group of dirt bikers mindlessly jumping a ditch; Gardner, "on the shore of her own giganticness," gives birth to Caesar and leaves him to M and a variety of others. A lot of the action is bleak in its characterological affect, uncompromising in its brutality (and ecstasy) and difficult to figure out. "Frankly, women want to own men for the sake of revenge." This book will convince readers of all sexes to surrender as many as possible. (Dec.)

Forecast:Harryman was an integral part of the 1970s Bay Area Language poetry scene, and now teaches at creative writing at Wayne State University in Detroit. There Never Was a Rose Without a Thorn, published by City Lights, is her best known and most assigned book, but her many smaller press publications are ripe for selection. Fans of Mac Wellman or Sam Shepherd's experimental theater, or of Alice Notley's recent work, will find this book similarly accomplished and engaging.

Reviewed on: 12/17/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Discover what to read next