Loads of Learned Lumber

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lucy Ives, _Anamnesis_

HER FIRST FULL-LENGTH book, from 2009, but the writing-aware-of-itself theme seen later in Orange Roses and even more recently in The Hermit is very much to the fore:

Write, "Bright sun came through in a pink stream"
Write, ""It was just like living in the country"
Cross this out
Sorority girls falling down
Cross this out
In the cold seasons I only want to do want I want, what I want to do
Cross this out

The (self-addressed?) imperative "Write" occurs on most of the pages of the book, hitting a kind of crescendo at the end. It kept making me think, probably inappropriately, of the "Recite!" that recurs through the Quran, but perhaps not utterly inappropriately, because the text seems to come from a powerful sense of needing to say something and an immediately triggered response that the statement one has just now come up with fails to get it said--the imperative "cross it out" comes up quite as regularly as "write."

Anamnesis could be usefully read alongside Ben Lerner's Hatred of Poetry, I think, in that embodies the idea that part of what makes poetry poetry is bearing up under the burden of its own inadequacy. It also stands in an interesting relation to the old Beat maxim "First thought, best thought" in that the first thought is so often rejected, but in a way left to stand--that is, despite all the injunctions to "cross it out," nothing is crossed out, the gesture of the rature imagined rather than made.

What does the title mean? "Remembering," in effect, or perhaps "Not-forgetting" or even "Not-not-having in mind." The world has a specific meaning in Platonic doctrine, the Christian liturgy, and medicine, but I'm guessing it serves to emphasize that what gets written has always a complex relationship to what is recalled, and what is recalled has a complex relationship to what was experienced.

Reading Lucy Ives is like having a conversation with someone about 11% smarter than you are.

How is all this self-awareness going to play out in the forthcoming novel, a "witty, urbane, and sometimes shocking debut novel, set in a hallowed New York museum, in which a co-worker's disappearance and a mysterious map change a life forever"? I will just have to wait until August, I guess.

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