cover image Idiophone: An Essay

Idiophone: An Essay

Amy Fusselman. Coffee House, $16.95 trade paper (132p) ISBN 978-1-56689-513-2

“How bold is a work of art that doesn’t tie it all up neatly at the end—that does something, abandons it, and moves on to something better?” asks Fusselman (Savage Park) of Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker at the beginning of this energetic and poem-like essay. Exploring different aspects of the classic holiday ballet, Fusselman bounds with great dexterity from theme to theme—covering topics including addiction, motherhood, gender, and art—until she has transformed the traditional essay into something far wilder and more alive. “It is so unbelievably easy for one world to turn into another,” Fusselman observes while on a backstage tour of The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center as she watches the stagehands take down the set. “I am in this world, but sometimes I feel other ones pulling at me.” Throughout the essay she moves among worlds—the fictional setting of the ballet, her past, and Tchaikovsky’s era, among others—but she never fully situates the reader in any one setting, instead preferring the simultaneity of confusion and exploration: “I want to open the door and get out of the world./ I want to open the door and let more worlds in./ I want to be in two worlds at once.” And yet, despite the chaos this method and these desires engender, the author keeps herself, and her reader, grounded in reality: “The Nutcracker has bodies in it, and bodies always state the truth.” Like the ballet itself, the most profound resonances of this work are in its celebration of human capability and complication. [em](July) [/em]