Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyIn this ingeniously constructed labyrinth of eight stories, poet Levis ( The Widening Spell of the Leaves ) leads readers down a variety of dizzying ideological paths. Starting with a schoolroom in Belgrade, where a small boy spots a ``minute Milky Way'' of shockingly black freckles swarming across his history teacher's shoulders, the author seizes as subjects the politicization of history and the nature of memory. The freckles are significant in their purposelessness: they refuse ``to refer to anything except themselves.'' These spots--which expand and contract with each breath--represent an innocent vision that vanishes with age. All of the tales are wound in this fashion around ideas rather than characters: events and people are often revealed as illusory, figments of the author's many-angled musings. Neither voices nor locations are consistent: the book's terrain shifts from Eastern Europe to ancient Rome to Oaxaca. Instead, Levis forges connections between stories by means of incantatory verbal rhythms and stunning images. The seductive befuddlement is intentional . Mystery may not satisfy everyone, but for Levis, ``the purpose of a maze is to change the ones who wander there, until they believe their knowledge of it is so complete that they lose their way with confidence.'' (May)
Library JournalA poet whose books include The Dollmaker's Ghost ( LJ 6/15/81), Winter Stars ( LJ 6/1/85), and The Widening Spell of Leaves (Univ. of Pittsburgh Pr., 1991) here publishes fiction for the first time and, as one would expect, provides stories that sentence by sentence are a pleasure to read. Eight monologs by distant men, remote either geographically (Belgrade, Rome) or historically (one is a deposed ancient emperor), offer elegiac chronicles of loss. Women rarely speak, appearing primarily to take off their clothes, objects of the narrators' gaze. Eschewing traditional storytelling, these pieces progress in a ruminative manner, guided by the process of remembering and interrupted by time-worn discussions on narrative method--plus some terribly grand thoughts. Some readers will find the stories beautifully inventive, others will call them precious and pointless. Both are right.-- Brian Kenney, St. John's Univ. Lib., Queens, N.Y.
- Smith, Gibbs Publisher
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