Fiction. "This is the story of Anselm." A woman plans to set down a faithful portrait of her ex-lover, just days after he's fled their one-room romance. But as she looks back on the crash-and-burn affair, her writing quickly reveals her own contempt for and obsession with moody, unpredictable Anselm. The 35-year-old narrator is an unpublished writer and retail clerk who spends her working hours shelving in a downtown bookstore, her days off laying low in a Brooklyn luncheonette. Anselm is a charming but hapless recent New Yorker, composer of music, and an Ivy League drop-out who hails from a disastrous Appalachian childhood. His storyline is heartbreaking, yet the fallible narrator goes in and out of sympathy for him as she vacillates between telling his story and theirs. In a voice that evokes the melancholy of Jean Rhys and the frankness of Annie Ernaux, WATCH THE DOORS AS THEY CLOSE recounts the intense affair as it disintegrates—all the while painting vivid scenes of American rural poverty and New York bohemia at the turn of the Millennium.
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About the Author
Karen Lillis was born in Washington, D.C., during the Vietnam War and has lived in Virginia, Texas, New York, Paris, and Pittsburgh. Her books of fiction include WATCH THE DOORS AS THEY CLOSE (Spuyten Duyvil, 2012), THE SECOND ELIZABETH (Six Gallery Press, 2009), Magenta's Adventures Underground (Words Like Kudzu Press, 2004), and i, scorpion: foul belly-crawler of the desert (Words Like Kudzu Press, 2000). She is currently finishing her first book of nonfiction, Bagging the Beats at Midnight: Confessions of a New York Bookstore Clerk.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Watch the Doors As They Close based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)(IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE: About a year ago, the author of this book wrote a complimentary article about CCLaP for her personal blog, although in no way was this done in expectation of a good review in return. Nonetheless, it should be kept in mind when reading this write-up.)Knowing what I do about author Karen Lillis, I had been sort of gritting my teeth in expectation of reviewing this latest novella by her; because to be frank, this academically-minded former bookstore employee has a habit at her popular blog of championing the kinds of abstract, highly experimental work that I have a low tolerance for, and I was afraid that this was going to be the case as well with this newest slim volume of hers. But the good news is that this is actually a highly readable, engaging and entertaining story, essentially a deep character study of one of those douchbaggy, intellectually bullying, constantly mooching "artist dudes" that otherwise smart women seem to constantly fall for, written entirely as a series of reminisces from one of these smart women and examining all the sneaky ways that such guys manage to burrow under such women's skin. As such, then, potential readers shouldn't expect anything even resembling a traditional three-act plot, but rather should be prepared to enjoyably wallow in Lillis' casual, unhurried prose style, the point not really to find out "what happens" but rather to get a complex inside-out understanding of just what makes such Proust-quoting underachievers tick, jumping randomly from location to location around the world but admittedly at its Romantic finest (with a capital R) when looking at the characters' time spent in a deliberately precious contemporary Paris, cliched days of staying on back cots at Shakespeare's Books and pretending that poor artists still hang out in the Left Bank, but effective and moving nonetheless. A perfect companion to Ann Beattie's Walks with Men (covering the exact same subject but set in early-'80s lower Manhattan), this will strongly appeal to fans of New Yorker stories and other intriguing blends of academic and mainstream work, and it comes recommended to that specific audience.Out of 10: 8.8