Loads of Learned Lumber

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Lucy Ives, _The Worldkillers_

ELUSIVE, INTRIGUING, IVESIAN. Do the three texts of The Worldkillers constitute a triptych? Or are they best approached independently? The energy circulating in the book is not going to lay all its cards on the table, so you will have to make your bet and take your chances.

"My Thousand Novel" is a series of poems that feels like a sequence--they did appear as a chapbook (Cosa Nostra Editions), they do all center on a distinctively configured first person speaker, and there is a gathering intensity that flickers through jokiness, anger, and exhaustion until in the final poem ("To Find the Particular Place Then to Hold onto It") it gets to some new and terribly clear space:

Have you ever thought it is strange how you have to talk to so many people each day who don't need           your existence
Who don't need your weird existence, like
I don't need yours, reader
O push the clouds away, O push away the thick silk mat of me coming towards you
Push now the barrier in your mouth
A whole hill of tissue a whole room
We either say no words or weep into

Still...there is an aleatory quality, or an anarchic streak, or perhaps even some Rousselian composition strategy ticking away here, well muffled, that makes one wonder whether just how sequential the sequence is. What is going on?

"The Worldkillers," middle panel in our triptych, is a novel--a short one (fifty-some pages) whose chapters sometimes seem like prose poems, but a novel, perhaps a Balzacian one with its interest in furniture, perhaps a David Mitchell one with its hints of an elaborate mathematical puzzle, perhaps a Victorian thriller with its demanding, imperious ghost, perhaps a country-house-weekend murder mystery with its spectrum of eccentric guests. Or..is it not so much a novel as a quick, weird tour of the novelistic?

Last section--"On Description," subtitled "An Essay," but here too some sections could readily be taken for prose poems ("The eye remains fixed within the face and yet certain entities entice it, the anticipation of skin, something sinks in cloudy liquid"). The essay is on literary description, exactly as advertised...yet in a book that elsewhere seems to have only an attenuated, fifth-cousin relationship to mimesis, representation, and vraisemblance, why are we getting such careful, searching, earnest statements about description? Why, after the poems flowering out of their own verbal chain reactions, after the surreal tale of the archetypal mad scientist's dim assistant, do we have this essay's precisions about the mimetic, standing perfectly perpendicular to everything else in the book?

Obviously, I was left with questions. Which, truth to tell, is how I most like to be left.

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