ON THE WINDING STAIR by Joanna Howard

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barely trembling still lives a la duchamp’s ÉTANT DONNÉS, howard’s genre games hint at motion–sea wrecks, cowboys at chase, revolutionaries and kidnappings, gypsies and sailors, violence and unleashed victorian sexuality–but these tales remain defiantly frozen, artificial and perfected. the accumulating effect is occasionally claustrophobic and often a mesmerized enthrallment.

i dug “The Scent of Apples” for its rich tapestry of place and character, the gorgeous baroque style. also, “She Came from the East,” which was a snappy, dark comedic act. in fact what was surprising, throughout the book, was how the tight and detailed language opened up at times to, danced to the rhythm of, jokes.

one other to mention, because it seemed a distillation and symbol of her method, the opener: “Light Carried on Air Moves Less,” whose climax of flickering poses uncannily animates the parched landscape around it.

buy it from the publisher or find it at your local library.

hey, what’s behind that door?

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