Dreamlives whirls dreamlike, its settings unsettled even during the early chapters. The language isn’t just poetic, it’s telegraphic, and scenes take place at warp speed.”
• The Brooklyn Rail
"Lance Olsen radically reshapes the myth of the Minotaur in his brilliantly conceived novel Dreamlives of Debris. Reworking the myth, he transforms it, widens and deepens it as we read along, the act of reading itself becoming movement within a labyrinth. … Dreamlives of Debris is a machine to think with, one that transports the reader by extraordinary means, a book that challenges received notions about what constitutes story and storytelling.”
“ Dreamlives isn’t a singular dream but a collection of a castaway’s inner thoughts. Shunning the momentum that comes from traditional plot and character development, Lance Olsenan author known for innovative, genre-trespassing narrativeschallenges the reader to make sense of the book’s internal reality.”
• Fiction Advocate
“Lance Olsen’s new novel Dreamlives of Debris explores the Thesesus and Minotaur myth through Debris, a deformed girl/monster hidden in a labyrinthor what Olsen calls a ‘liquid architecture.’ Each page, devoid of a page number, is a turn or fall in the labyrinth in which Debris accesses shimmersvoicesthrough history while navigating her desires.”
• Propeller Magazine
" Dreamlives of Debris is a stunning song cycle on the pixelation of memory in a hyperdigitalized universe, opening out into an extraordinarily beautiful and powerful meditation on nothing less than the erasure of time itself."
-David Shields, author of Reality Hunger
"Like the minotaur it invokes, Lance Olsen's Dreamlives of Debris is a great hybrid creature, surprising and mysterious and imbued with new power. Perhaps born of such parents as Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red and Ben Marcus' Age of Wire and String, Olsen's novel is finally entirely its own brilliant monster: courageous with the inexhaustibility of its myth, unfettered by the usual conventions of linear storytelling, destined to challenge and change any reader brave enough to delve its fantastic labyrinth of language."
-Matt Bell, author of Scrapper
"Lance Olsen opens up an astonishing world of thought and emotion-a place distant but familiar that hangs almost out of the reach of our daily perception. A place we have only glimpsed at moments. A world that we have longed for all along, and have nearly forgotten. Through Olsen's magic and fragments and echoes this world comes back in uncanny and haunting ways. A beautiful and moving reading experience, Dreamlives of Debris is a unique and impressive achievement."
-Carole Maso, author of Mother & Child
"In a rapturous fusion of myth, premonition, philosophy, and human history, Dreamlives of Debris delivers us to the pure poetry of perception. I fell in love with Debris. Monstrous in form, radiant in spirit, she hears everyone: Sappho, Sophocles, Borges, Plato, a traveler on the Silk Road, Danielle Steele, Justin Bieber. Brigitte Reimann grieves her own diminishment as Bradley Manning explains his transition to Chelsea. No words seem more profound or true than any other. Those who dare to listen this way will be transfigured, scattered through time and space, bewildered, ecstatically alive, forever lost in a vast labyrinth of infinite possibilities."
-Melanie Rae Thon, author of Voice of the River, Silence & Song, and The 7th Man
"Breaking boundaries of horror, science fiction, nonfiction, love story, and myth, this rare and brilliant novel reinvents the female 'monster' in the form of a disfigured girl. Subverting the hero's journey, Debris goes on a quest to find her self within an impossible labyrinth where architecture mirrors the disfigured female body, imprisoning and revealing a girl monster who stands between humanity and the darkness. In this world where what seems to be monstrous is more human than human, the stories most difficult to tell are the ones we most need to be told."
- Aimee Parkison, author of Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman
Olsen's latest novel details the lives of formally inventive artists over the course of a day in 1927 while deploying some literary innovations of its own.
Berlin in 1927 was home to a number of thinkers, writers, artists, and filmmakers whose work would change the 20th century. Berlin in 1927 was also a liberated society on the brink of falling prey to fascism, adding a harrowing sense of tension to any retrospective account set in that time and place. This novel from Olsen (Dreamlives of Debris, 2017, etc.), whose work often makes use of innovative structures, pays homage to the creative figures who populated that world. Structurally, it moves from artist to artist—including Käthe Kollwitz, looking back on her life; Rosa Luxemburg, pondering the volatile politics of the time; and Billie Wilder, considering the nature of desire and taking a historic view of the making of art. Olsen employs an array of literary styles, moving from prose to newsreels to a screenplay and a shot-by-shot breakdown of a short film. At times, it reads like a postmodern take on modernist fiction, a contemporary homage to the work of John Dos Passos. The vignettes following these characters sometimes leap headlong into their pasts or futures even as the action of the book confines itself temporally to one day, and the narrative itself is well aware of the horrors to come in Germany: One newsreel alludes to a series of newborns as being "every one an Aryan King or Queen!" The combined effect of the different styles on display here is virtuosic, but Olsen never loses sight of the bigger scope of history—or the tragedies the future will hold for most of these characters.
This novel manages the impressive task of being both experimental and accessible—and thoroughly moving to boot.