Nate D's Reviews > Threats

Threats by Amelia Gray
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Apr 26, 12

liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2012
Recommended to Nate D by: Josh N-M, still leveling off his laundry-stacks
Recommended for: YOUR FATE IS SEALED WITH GLUE
Read from April 24 to 26, 2012

I WILL GATHER YOUR OLDEST FRIENDS AT MY HOME AND WE WILL HAVE A CONVERSATION. YOU WILL HEAR US TALKING BUT WHEN YOU COME INTO THE ROOM WE WILL STOP TALKING.


On the persistent unreality of loss, perhaps.

Isolate yourself, obsess over the details, they're all you have, they're all you will ever have even as they deteriorate into sopped shreds at the bottom of the basement stairs.

New young authors are writing some really good books these days. In its odd dread and smearing of the assurances of home, this suggests Blake Butler's There Is No Year, close in tone and component parts but with different execution, more definable, less wild and unconstrained. The unreality of Butler's fiction is calibrated to overwhelm the usual classroom-trained desire to pick apart the allegory in everything: too much happens to separate out meaning in each instance and the whole must be accepted as simple narrative reality, even while expressing certain universals. Gray's strangeness is slower-building and suggests a different kind of continuity and weight of images, one more encouraging of symbolic reading, though this may be deceptive in its own way. And when things get strange, as they must, the effect is different, unbalancing in a different way.

I read this too quickly, perhaps, and tackled the last hundred pages on an interminable middle-of-the-night subway ride, in an empty car drifting between stations for two and a half hours. While this probably dissolved my critical reading skills somewhat, making the narrative endpoints all the more cryptic feeling (or maybe they're like that for everyone?), it also heightened the affective aspects. I was wide open to unreality and marrow-leaching sorrow. Half-asleep at times, two thirty in the morning awaiting yet another transfer that wouldn't come, I had no protection against this. I will revisit in more analytical mindset. It will surely be quite different, though I can't say for sure which will be better. I'm sure affective defenselessness placed me closer to the character's experience.

I have some caveats. Though the book drew me in, especially in aforementioned context, there were some obstacles to this, as well. Full identification had to overcome a certain stylization of the dialogue and characters. I'm no crusader for realism or anything, but the particular manner of stylization felt over-familiar. I think, with the relatively flattened delivery of the prose itself, the characters and their words over-suggested certain patterns I noticed when I read a lot of McSweeney's collections (quick check, and yes, Gray has been published there). It seems a little lazy, too default-current-literary-mode, and it took me out the experience at times. Especially when so much here is done so well, so uniquely. (The intense pathos of repeated voicemail listening. The affective architecture of the home, its intrinsic mystery and, yes, threat.) Some of the weirdness may be pointing this way too, even though I love weirdness. I want it to be essential weirdness, not lazy extraneous weirdness. Unneeded weirdness leaches the power of necessary weirdness. I think this happened a little bit here, towards the end especially.

I'm thinking about this again and I guess (concisely) my issue is that the book worked on an affective level, but that this wasn't always fully supported by the narrative and characterizations, creating something of a disconnect.

But these are only the caveats on a potent debut novel. I'm excited that this exists and that more will surely follow. I'm excited by the doors opening in current lit in general.

(These three stars are a high three and I would recommend this to anyone seeking manifestation of a highly promising current impulse in lit. I think she can do better, but that's not to suggest that she must do better to present us with a thing of value. The thing of value is already right here.)

Perhaps only by proximity and new-young-authorness, this also suggested Ryan Boudinot to me (I read Blueprints Of The Afterlife a month back). All of these books express parts of a vision that seems very current to me, a post-postmodernism that is seeping up out of the literary cracks just now as we speak it. By post-postmodern, an obviously annoying characterization I feel owe apology for, I just mean that none are seem necessarily post-modern to me by the usual indicators, but that I believe they bear the indelible stamp of its preceding them, if that makes any sense. It all makes me quite excited for the future. (include maybe also Ben Marcus, once I get around to reading The Flame Alphabet).

I think I'm rambling by now, wandering the empty house, pulling papers out of cereal boxes fallen behind the fridge, only to re-read and dwell, steeping myself, yet again, and so I'll take this moment to stop.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Drew "By post-postmodern . . . I just mean that none seem necessarily postmodern to me by the usual indicators, but that I believe they bear the indelible stamp of its preceding them, if that makes any sense."

It does, and it's probably the best way I've seen that particular point made. Great review.


Nate D Thanks! Yours was terribly helpful to me as well.


message 3: by Nathanimal (new)

Nathanimal "even though I love weirdness. I want it to be essential weirdness, not lazy extraneous weirdness. Unneeded weirdness leaches the power of necessary weirdness. I think this happened a little bit here, towards the end especially."

This is well put. Really good review.


Tuck i like your review


message 5: by Sean (new)

Sean Unneeded weirdness leaches the power of necessary weirdness.

This neatly sums up my recent experience with Gutshot.


message 6: by Nate D (last edited Mar 07, 2016 11:36AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nate D Yeah, your review of that one makes a lot of sense to me as well -- Gray seems so poised to deliver exactly what I'm looking for that I feel the lack even more for it. But Threats still has a haunting quality that sticks with me. I suspect that she'll turn up with something utterly undeniable at some point.

And thanks, Tuck and Nathanimal, whose comments I somehow missed until now.


message 7: by Sean (new)

Sean According to the jacket copy she is working on a new novel. Something tells me I may like her better in long form.


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