cover image In One Version of the Story

In One Version of the Story

Chuck Carlise. New Issues, $16 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-936970-45-2

In this haunting debut, Carlise creates an ars moriendi out of the legends of L’Inconnue de la Seine, an unknown woman who drowned in the Seine River in the late 1880s—and who was immortalized in a death mask. The drowned body works as both a site of ornate beauty and of horror as L’Inconnue becomes a blank slate to be written upon. The fantasia of this young woman is imagined in manifold: the night of the drowning re-written again and again. “This is one kind of closure; how our histories learn/ to tell themselves. The mind, in time, filling the gaps.” Contrasting the narrator’s personal history in the present against various timelines, Carlise envisions the story of the mortician who made the mask alongside other fragments of L’Inconnue’s mysterious past. Ekphrastically exploring this mask’s history in photograph and text, Carlise builds a tender world from his obsessions. Readers also learn that L’Inconnue’s face was used as a model for Resusci-Anne, a CPR manikin. Playing with the interconnected images of mouth-to-mouth, kissing, resuscitation—what it means to lose someone and bring back the dead—Carlise asks readers to consider the complexity of such tropes as the ingénue (which often deny the subject their agency) and asks how we construct our personal mythologies. (Oct.)