Newcomer Can’t Swim by Renee Gladman


who’s aiming higher than Renee Gladman? her wrestling with the basic ideas of fiction–and its osmotic border with poetry–can lead to spectacular instances of art, passages at home in strangeness, maneuvering with uncanny grace in fields of indeterminacy and unknowing.

i knew her mainly from reading JUICE, a strong, sustained meditation where she stretched the connections that mended sentences’ semantic gaps to their limit… this latest, NEWCOMER CAN’T SWIM, is a collection of “installations” and i found myself taking a shine to some more than others. i liked those with a stronger narrative momentum than those that constellate various portraits or scenes (but it’s pretty radical stuff and i may be too poorly equipped to apprehend some of these seriously new approaches.) …in any case i thought “Untitled, Woman on Ground” was awesome, heartbreaking, and completely new. it might be a breakup story, it might be a story about rubbernecking around an accident. it repeats a theme of the book–the various ways we fail to communicate or only communicate in desperate and blunted ways. another favorite was “kingdom in three panels,” especially louie’s dog-mind…

some came up short nonetheless, where i both emotionally and intellectually couldn’t connect. but i did think what she’s going for is some incredible place that requires real inspiration each time. and it’s pretty hard to hit that every outing. people get blamed for that much ambition, and i’m not sure wrongly–but when she connects the transport’s pretty phenom.

consume directly from kelsey st press.

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