cover image Still No Word from You: Notes in the Margin

Still No Word from You: Notes in the Margin

Peter Orner. Catapult, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-64622-136-3

Pushcart Prize–winning fiction writer Orner (Maggie Brown & Others) brings his lyrical, mosaic style to the story of his own life in this gorgeous and contemplative memoir. Blending photographs, family lore, speculation, and literary musings, Orner’s nonlinear narrative weaves through elliptical reflections and faint memories from his 1970s childhood to the sorrows and delights of his adulthood. The poetry of Yusef Komunyakaa, for instance, becomes a salve in the aftermath of his stepfather’s death, loitering in Orner’s mind as he reflects on his mother’s grief: “We all go where love takes us, whether closer or farther.” Elsewhere, seeking solace from some unnamed grievance, Orner spends a day marveling at the crowded prose of Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day: “[Her thoughts] connect like they do in our actual brains. Meaning: they don’t.” A similar stream of consciousness logic pervades his loosely connected vignettes, with certain recurring figures and dreamlike appearances of half-forgotten acquaintances. As Orner observes, “There’s no greater fantasy on the face of the earth than the linearity of time. Time only circles.” Likewise, when his fragmented ruminations loop back to a powerful impression or image or favorite book, the effect is like turning over a prism in one’s hands, catching vivid flashes of light at each angle. Evocative and erudite, this meditation on impermanence and its ephemeral joys is a gem. (Oct.)