cover image Calamities


Renee Gladman. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $25 (144p) ISBN 978-1-940696-28-7

Fiction writer Gladman’s elusive and exquisite nonfiction collection investigates the potential and limitations of writing and narrative. The book comprises vignettes that are both critical and personal. In each one, Gladman (The Ravikians) constructs an intimate portrait of the writer at work. She is both playful and serious in tone, ruminating on the various romantic couplings among colleagues during a faculty meeting, looking for a “poetics of space” in Antonioni’s film Red Desert with creative writing students, or pondering loneliness in the “little white city” where she teaches. Each vignette doubles as an investigation into a literary or artistic form, from poetry to drawing. Blending the everyday with the profound, she asks, “I began the day staring into the face of the question of narrative—was anybody still interested in it, and, if so, why?” Gladman pushes up against the boundaries of narrative while nestling comfortably within it. Her prose is vivid, meandering, and acute. Gladman’s love affair with writing comes through when she describes “writing so as not to write, so to find the limit (that last line) beyond which the body is free to roam outside once more.” The book is a welcome addition to the tradition of experimental literature exploring the boundaries of genre, identity, and artistic expression. (Sept.)