is truefiction is a lie.
is it the reverse?
lies and fiction tells the truth.
this remarkable novelremarkably deceptive in its complexityLance
Olsen juxtaposes photography and fictionjuxtaposes the truth
and the lie.
truth of photography denounces the lie of fiction.
is it the reverse?
lie of photography ascertains the truth of fiction.
is a story about a lie.
is perhaps too strong a word.
is perhaps a better word.
unnamed narrator, You, and his lovely photographer wife, Andrea, have
decided that they do not want children.
are noisy, messy, egomaniacal, cruel, combative, recalcitrant, naive,
needy, histrionic, uninformed, opinionated, untruthful, insecure,
moody, amoral, and physically and emotionally destructive.
grandma back East in New Jersey wants grandchildren.
You and Andrea invent (imagine) a child (a girl) and prove her existence
photographs showing Andrea pregnantAndrea giving birth to Genia
(that's the name You and Andrea decide for the girl because the girl
will be very photogenic)the infant girl being held by the arm
of the mother (only the arm is seen in that photo)the little
four or five years old Genia dressed as a bunnyand so onuntil
the final photographs become smudged and erased themselves making
the rest of the story unreadable (invisible).
photographs undermine the fictional representation and expose the
vulnerability of the narrative.
is it the reverse?
fiction denounces the unreality of the photographs.
photographs (and the mini-essay about photography that runs through
the novelwith quotations from Diane Arbus, Susan Sontag, Roland
Barthes, and others) undermine the narrative in a double attestation
of the logic of the action and the effect it has on reality.
there is more here than just the lie about the imagined child.
is a profound novel about finding one's place in the world.
one sentence to the next (the narrative is made mostly of one-liners
that digress from one another) one travels from Idaho to Katmandu
to Venezuela to Ukraine to St-Petersburg, and so many other exotic
places in the world, in search of the right place.
rather in search of the right aggregate of words to describe the unreality
of realitybecause it feels like there is always somewhere else
the process past present future gather into one sentence as one becomes
aware of a certain liquid pulse of anticipation in one's decisions
and one's actions.
is a very intelligent, touching, sensitive novel.
there is more.
day you are you, supposedly, and one day you are not.
moving was as easy as changing your mind, or changing your mind was
as easy as moving.
novel then about making decisions.
being here and everywhere at the same timein the past the present
and the future at the same time.
in the world, in other wordsin the unreality of the real world.
this novel is also having to make decisions about where, when, and
how Beckett's Unnamable put it at the beginning of his own narrative:
Where now? Who now? When now?
realizes how Lance Olsen had learned from the great master, and how
innovative his novel is.
there is more in this deceptive novel that juxtaposes photographs
a photo comes down to choices.
this novel comes down to choices too.
we trust the narrator's words?
do we trust the photographs?
point being, there is no context to privilege one reading over another.
trusts the photos (and so do the friends back East in New Jersey who
learn that Andrea is pregnant) otherwise she would not send generous
gifts of money for the child who does not really exist.
photograph is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less
the story of a lie thendepending on who you want to believe.
novel that masquerades as an album of photographs.
an album of photographs that pretends to be a novel.
like when you pat a dog and discover he is dead.
can never be sure of anything because things are not what they appear
to bebut they are.
may perhaps be too strong a word.
is a profound serious playful novel about decision making.
moving story (a love story) about a liea beautiful lie.
the unreal is exactly like the real, only more sincere.
so the only thing remaining of her (little absent Genia) is a certain
fullness to the air.