cover image Dead Souls

Dead Souls

Sam Riviere. Catapult, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-64622-028-1

In poet Riviere’s provocative debut novel (after Kim Kardashian’s Marriage), poetry enjoys a booming market and the London literary world is run amok with scandal. Publishers have instituted a plagiarism detection program to judge and decipher submissions, resulting in the punishment of poet Solomon Wiese. The unnamed narrator, an editor of a literary journal and failed poet, encounters Wiese in a bar and listens to the story of his rise and fall and how he got in trouble for appropriating large swaths of other poets’ work (“He wanted to regurgitate all this meaningless rubbish, that he’d accumulated, just by reading poetry, so he had simply thrown it up onto the page”). What follows is a potent slipstream of the narrator’s conversations with others and interior monologue about the performative aspect of public readings and the potential merits of Wiese’s retreat from London (“He was even prepared to believe this calculated withdrawal would provide him with the necessary circumstances to renew his artistic endeavours”). The book’s single paragraph, which calls to mind Thomas Bernhard not only for its form but its rhythm and cadence, becomes increasingly demanding on the reader, but it gains traction with criticisms of a calcified literary canon. This esoteric crisis-of-craft story will appeal to fans of Kate Zambreno’s Drifts. Agent: Anna Webber, United Agents. (May)