An isolated woman writes her novel and awaits her roommate’s return.
Lewinson’s debut novella follows an unnamed narrator—a former art handler at a contemporary art museum—who spends her days in a storefront-turned-apartment with blacked-out windows. “I have not left this room for longer than I care to reveal to you,” she says. “I have found that isolation breeds productivity and I’m reluctant to mess with that.” As she waits for her roommate, Meredith, an up-and-coming artist, she does a few things: writes this novel, reads nonfiction, sits in a corner picking at the carpet, and obsesses over many things, including sex, Meredith, genital mutilation, Dutch still life paintings, and Marie Bonaparte’s quest for sexual fulfillment. Lewinson’s ability to observe is masterful and made only stronger by the novel’s static quality. About revisiting her old college books, she says now, “I can only see the highlighted text, the rest recedes into unimportance, and I am beholden to my youthful judgements.” Propelled by plotlessness, the novella becomes a bricolage of facts, fiction, history, literature, and art. The narrator returns endlessly to certain ideas and facts until she bends, changes, and rewrites them into something else entirely. Throughout the novel, she reimagines what happened to Marie Bonaparte’s clitoris—which was surgically moved three times—and how she met Meredith—at a museum, a summer camp, a class about Dutch realist painters—until the truth becomes almost entirely obscured, though Lewinson consistently proves the “truth” is less interesting than the way she explores concepts like gender, sexuality, and art. Endlessly inquisitive and wider in scope than length, the novella proves a worthy addition to the canon of messy, strange, and keen women.
Genre-bending, hard to categorize, and teeming with life.