Hey promise this blog won't turn into an around-clock self-promotion vehicle! But I will be posting reviews and stuff if that's okay. I will also write soon on Nightwood, promise!
For Mommy, one of three main characters in Kate Zambreno's novel, the way to keep dark thoughts and evil at bay is to dote on a granddaughter (because girls are sweeter than boys), watch TV (even Oprah, who's black yet articulate and gentle), collect angel figurines, and wait for the moment when "hubby pulls up in his chariot." Mommy doesn't like to dwell on her runaway daughter Maggie, a bad girl who lives in the depraved city of Chicago. Maggie, we're told, has become a cutter and a bulimic to relieve her suffering. She has little defense from the pain of daily life except violent lovers and pills prescribed for her bipolar disorder. "Maggie is trying to externalize the demons she has deep inside. That is why she wears all black and has black nail polish. That, and she enjoys making her mother deeply unhappy." When the last lover rejects her, Maggie spirals down from waitressing to selling sex. The third main character, street prophet Malachi, was inspired partly by Malachi Ritscher, who immolated himself near the Kennedy Expressway three years ago as a protest against the war in Iraq, and partly by Septimus Smith, the suicidal veteran in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. For Zambreno's Malachi, there's nothing to mitigate the pain of insanity, confusion, evil, and a heedless populace. Not much happens to any of the three until the very end, when their lives converge. Still, I found myself mesmerized, mostly by the rhythm and occasional whimsy of the prose. Zambreno breathes life into her characters with language alone. —S.L. Wisenberg