cover image Dan


Joanna Ruocco. Dorothy: a Publishing Project (SPD, dist.) , $16 trade paper (152p), ISBN 978-0-9897607-2-0

Ruocco (A Compendium of Domestic Incidents) has created a compelling and intriguing piece of contemporary fiction with her strange new novel. The town of Dan seems to be a place of almost post-apocalyptic neatness, with a touch of the insane and the unmentionable hiding just below the surface. At the center of this town, is Melba Zuzzo, colorless and bland as her namesake, attempting to navigate the overwhelming sense of stasis and uncertainty that is Dan. Dan is populated with a curious cast of characters, most of them male, who flit in and out of Melba's life, causing disruptions to her psyche. There is Mr. Sack, with whom Melba debates the exact consistency of time, Grady Help, who is ostracized for being a renter, and Don Pond, whose company Melba seems to enjoy in spite of his moody outbursts. In Melba's interactions with the town's residents, the meanings of time, existence, and day-to-day drudgery are explored. All is not what it appears to be in Ruocco's story: engaging descriptions, inventive wordplay, and each character's own foibles speak to something deeper. Ruocco's work is cutting-edge, pushing the established tropes within contemporary fiction, calling her readers to interpret and examine the nuances of seemingly everyday life. (Oct.)