cover image The Red Shoes and Other Tattered Tales

The Red Shoes and Other Tattered Tales

Karen Elizabeth Gordon. Dalkey Archive Press, $12.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-092-8

Is a dress the same dress if you change the buttons, make the cuffs into a collar and slash the hem from ankle to thigh? A similar question could be asked of Gordon (The Deluxe Transitive Vampire). She has taken her 1989 Intimate Apparel: A Dictionary of the Senses and refashioned it, using many of the same text selections that appeared in the previous book. This new version may do little more than move it from the reference section where, as Gordon teases in her new afterword, ""no one I know ever goes looking for diversion, delight, and debauchery,"" to fiction. It might be better shelved with poetry, since it seethes with alliteration and interior rhyme. It also demands more attention than readers who prefer a linear narrative may be willing to give in order to reap the full power of Gordon's wordplay and layered story lines. Told in dictionary form, with alphabetical sections ranging from absinthe to zipper, the book needs to be read not just straight through, but by weaving back and forth among footnotes, references and related characters and definitions. Gordon employs a multitude of characters and fairy-tale references, but it's not really a book about Yolanta or the Little Match Girl as much as it is a book about loving language. As in her earlier books, the imagery is sensual (""She sank her slight buttocks onto the bench and wiggled into her new kid gloves""). Gordon's use of language can almost be too lush and unconventional, but that is also the charm of this unusual, fascinating and sexy literary experiment. (Mar.)