J.A. Tyler’s new old school

J. A. Tyler’s writing has caught my attention with his fairly (uncommon these days) old school ‘modernist’ approach. Think of William Faulkner and/or Virginia Woolf’s obsessive hermetic space. I call it ‘brainy fuzziness.’

He seems focused on timeless narratives—with hardly ever any pop references non-intrinsic to the human condition. This is real dangerous ground to tread, because it’s painfully boring when not done well.

I usually respond more to edgy vernacular, with prosaic and almost glib tendencies; but J. A. Tyler really hits some stunning lines, especially with “In Their Palms” published recently in Pequin:

“And he woke to the light of a still white wall and an up-tilted palm holding stains of pills begging water and tears.”

“She held her palm to the sky and the ceiling and smiled and slept and pierced him with her lashes. And she smiled. And his sun shifted in its sky.”

There’s also lyrical play in the ‘palm’ motif, as he repeats alternate versions of “in their palm/in her palm, etc.” Tyler seems cognizant of the spatial implications of words or phrases, almost like e.e. cummings coaxing the eye down the page with words which act as tonal notes. Tyler writes one line paragraphs “And he went,” and “And he did,” (the ‘and’ phonetically paired with other one line paragraphs “An invisibility,” and “An affair.”)

It’s refreshing to see such intricately composed writing and restraint from today’s ironies in writing, which I’m shamelessly guilty of, but that’s neither hear nor they’re.