cover image To After That

To After That

Renee Gladman. Dorothy, $16.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-948980-25-8

This slippery and stimulating novella from Gladman (Calamities), which was originally published in 2008, explores the writing process behind one of her unpublished novels and the relationship between writing and living. The story begins with Gladman as a 20-something poet in an unnamed city in the mid-1990s. Drawing inspiration from Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Red Desert and a fictional film about two Black women artists who are lovers, she begins writing a novel called After That to express what it feels like to be alive, attempting to develop a plot out of her distaste for cellphones and her unease about gentrification (as the reader learns from a partial summary of After That, a pivotal scene involves a neighbor annoying Gladman’s narrator by showing up in her apartment while talking on a cellphone). Incredibly, Gladman pulls off a story about a failed piece of writing that doesn’t feel self-indulgent. Instead, it’s packed with wonderfully strange ideas (while writing After That, Gladman wondered if she was existing in the realm of fiction), and it builds to a clarifying conclusion about the relief of letting a project go. This is a marvel. (Sept.)