Quote – Liking the Way Books Made The World Tilt

“He liked to read the ones that nobody came for; he didn’t understand all of what they said, but he read them just in case. He liked the way they made the world tilt different ways in his vision.”

-Leah Bobet – Above (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2012)

Women Made of Words

A review of Sean moreland’s Rowena in Lackington’s issue 2 ( http://lackingtons.com/2014/05/13/rowena-by-sean-moreland/ )
By Derek Newman-Stille

Sean Moreland’s Rowena is a tale of names, words, and memory, and how these have been implicated in the creation of women’s identities. Structured as a series of letters from an accused witch to her daughter, Rowena is shaped by the aesthetic of loss. The eponymous protagonist reveals the loss of name and home that occurred for women in history and even after the death of her husband, who she is accused of murdering, she is forced to keep his name, taunted with the constant reminder that the world views her as his property.

Although words form her entrapment with her husband through contracts made between her father and husband, and words further rob her of her name, they are also part of the act of recovery, the means by which she is able to discover herself and her own identity. When she discovers a secret book written by her husband’s first wife, she is instantly attracted to her words. There is a blending of book into body that occurs as she lovingly examines the book’s spine, compares ink to bodily fluids and sexual fluids. The book becomes more than a text, but rather a communication across time and between spirits. There is a beautiful blending of text into identity, a love affair of words and spirits

Moreland reveals that much of what we are is words, that we are texts needing to be read and to express ourselves and that every reading of a book is a form of seance between the author and the reader.

De-voiced by patriarchy, disempowered by the official word, Rowena and her husband’s deceased first wife Ligeia need to voice the depth of their feelings and identity through subversion, through hidden texts, and these secret texts are part of the act of recovery, part of the expression of the self who is perpetually silenced.

Moreland’s Rowena is a beautiful love affair through ink and text, a meeting of pages full of memory and the desire to speak.

To read this and other stories from Lackington’s, visit the Lackington’s website at http://lackingtons.com/ .

You can access Sean Moreland’s story Rowena directly at http://lackingtons.com/2014/05/13/rowena-by-sean-moreland/ .

Mute Ghost in a World of Words

A review of S.M. Beiko’s The Lake and the Library (ECW Press, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Photo for The Lake and the Library courtesy of ECW press

Cover Photo for The Lake and the Library courtesy of ECW press

S.M. Beiko’s The Lake and the Library is nominally a story about growing up, and the feeling of nostalgia for things lost and things changing. It is about the discovery of a library filled with books that are gateways to fantastic worlds, pages that become birds, clouds, and wings to lift her to new highs of fantasy. The library is a shifting space, becoming other worlds as walls are expanded by the great breadth of adventure and fantasy within the covers of the books it houses, literally shifting to become fantastic spaces from beloved classics. And the library holds a boy, unable to speak aloud, but able to speak volumes in the universal language of fantasy with Ash as his co-creator of worlds of adventure.

The first part of the novel evokes the highs of an escape, new experiences, exiting distortions of reality, and only in the latter half of the novel does it become clear that this is an addict’s tale. Ash begins to experience the dangers and draws of being in a continual state of escape. Reality begins to wear thin for her and she begins to distance herself from anyone who doesn’t enable her habit, anyone who pulls her back to reality. Friends, family, all begin to be sacrificed to her need, her desire to get away from herself, her world, and all that feels too mundane, too real to matter.

The world outside of the library begins to shift, become unstable for Ash, losing its substance as something grows within her, thorns that tear into her skin, holding her, consuming her from the inside and pulling her back to the library. Fantasy begins to eat into reality, making the real a pale and lifeless substitute for the highs of the fantastic. And when reality gets to be too much, a sound like rushing water surges through her, enveloping her in its wash of abstraction, removing her from a world that seems too harsh, too sharp, too real for her to touch. The water cushions her while it draws her deeper, washing away signification and everything that made her who she was.

The library is haunted by memory, nostalgia, the dreams of things lost and forgotten, and yet it has power, a deep hold like thorns in the veins of those who seek to escape, those willing to uproot themselves and lose the ground that feels like it is only holding them in place.

Libraries are beautiful places, deep places, charged with a depth made of the weight of tales, and this depth can both add to one’s story, but can also consume and obscure one’s story. Ash finds herself suspended in a depth of tales that renders her as a drop in a lake, her story washed away by the weight of other worlds more alluring to her than her own life.

To find out more about the work of S.M. Beiko, visit her website at http://www.smbeiko.com/ .

To read more about The Lake and the Library, visit ECW’s website at https://www.ecwpress.com/lake