In Forms of Devotion, [Diane Schoemperlen] tests the bonds of her craft, creating an arresting and wonderfully readable work that is also a treat for the eye.
The illustrations, selected by the author, are wood engravings and line drawings from the seventeenth, eighteent, and nineteenth centuries. The subtle interplay of words and images creates a backdrop for Schoemperlen's witty and intelligent exploration of devotion in its many forms: devotion to material objects and daily rituals, to the pleasures of the body and the pains of romantic love, and even to the delicious stability of the status quo. The result is a playful, sometimes surreal, and often mysterious justaposition of a historical fascination with anatomy and classical themes and Schoempelen's contemporary fascination with everyday people, places, and things.
Each story is a creative delight, rich in mischevous wit, irony, and multilayered meaning. The title story, Forms of Devotion, is a wonderful literary cataloging of the qualities of the faithful, those who "sail off to work, perfectly confident that they will indeed get there: on time, intact. It does not occur to them that they could just as well be broadsided by a Coca-Cola delivery truck running the red light at the corner of Johnson and Main." In How Deep is the River?, the author offers an innovative take on the ubiquitous high school math problem that begins, "Train A and Train B are traveling toward the same bridge from opposite directions..." Quite different in form, yet alike in their ability to entertain and provoke, the stories in Forms of Devotion show once again that Diane Schoemperlen's voice is as intriguing, fresh, and electric as ever.