Dreamlives of Debris

Lance Olsen. Dzanc (PGW, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-1-938604-58-4
Style works hand-in-hand with substance in Olsen’s singular new novel. A foreword by Lidia Yuknavitch explains the conventions of the novel, which would otherwise be oblique. Each page abounds in white space, with a dollop of text in the middle, and each block of text has a heading that identifies it. Most are headed “Debris,” after the first-person narrator and heroine. (Debris identifies herself as the Minotaur, while Yuknavitch calls her not a monster but a disfigured girl, recasting the myths of Theseus and the labyrinth.) But others encompass various literary, mythological, and historical references, like “Saint Augustine Song,” “Lady Tiresias Chorus,” and “Daedalus Song.” The novel resembles a mosaic, with pieces added one at a time, building the picture narrative tile by narrative tile. The writing is poetic, often suggesting the yarn-spinning feel of Robert Fitzgerald’s famous translations of Homer (“Let us say my eyes are the colors of onyx.”). But there’s a streak of modernist mischief. A fragment headed “The Terrible Angels Song” goes “Jump. Jump now. Do it just to see what happens.” Some images resonate more than others, but Olsen’s piquant and sometimes percussive reimagining effectively challenges a comfy and lyrical view of classical mythology. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/13/2017
Release date: 04/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
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