cover image Death and Other Holidays

Death and Other Holidays

Marci Vogel. Melville House (PRH, dist.), $23 (144p) ISBN 978-1-61219-736-4

This uneven novel by poet Vogel (At the Border of Wilshire & Nobody) follows the life of April, a thoughtful young woman bemused by the world around her, as she chronicles her days over a year’s time. Mourning the loss of her mother’s second-husband, Wilson, she also grapples with her own father’s suicide. She reminisces about quasi-Jewish family gatherings, muses on advice given to her by her friend Libby, and falls for Libby’s fiance’s cousin Victor. She reads obituaries, is confused by the advice of a clairvoyant, and witnesses a baby bird as it’s struck by a clueless driver, page by page revealing the melancholy lens with which she views the world. The chapters, some less than half a page long, are elegiac, logging April’s responses to the lovely and the sad. Most everything is metaphor, from anchor screws to the beetles that arrive every summer—“an infestation of idiocy.” All these vignettes are meant to accrue meaning and result in something weighty, and for some readers they will. But for others, Vogel’s bijou collection of moments fails to add up. Nevertheless, the book succeeds in creating a portrait—if not an indictment—of the anxious times in which it was written. (Nov.)