cover image Burial


Claire Donato. Tarpaulin Sky (SPD, dist.), $16 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-939460-01-1

Donato's debut is a dark, multivalent, genre bending book that follows a female protagonist as she tries to come to terms with her father's death while conflating her hotel with a morgue. Following in the lineage of such writers as Clarice Lispector, it is a meditation on the multiplicity of the meaning of words. The story is presented as a series of vignettes wherein the reader is presented with characters like the Groundskeeper%E2%80%94who knocks on the protagonist's door, calling: "Housekeeping. Have you stayed in this cooler before?"%E2%80%94and The Voice, which "dwells in the morgue and the mind and the brain, insisting a person is never alone." The novella is propelled by a reframing of words and a digging into their roots both etymologically and symbolically; all meditations turn groundward and the father who is "at rest, half-dead, though very much alive and not yet buried," is frozen again and again in the bottom of a lake. The protagonist's musings also often open into striking cinematic moments: "%E2%80%98...I cannot stand its thickness,' she moans, and fog encloses the graveyard that encloses the deceased." Donato has composed with unrelenting, grotesque beauty an exhaustive recursive obsession about the unburiability of the dead, and the incomprehensibility of death. (May)