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A Voice of Leaving: Renee Gladman’s The Ravickians

The Ravickians
by Renee Gladman
Dorothy Project, 2011
168 pages / $16  Buy from Dorothy Project or SPD

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second volume of a trilogy of novels exploring the crumbling, war-torn imaginary country of Ravicka, The Ravickians is less an exploration of the people and culture of Ravicka than it is a breathtaking book-length meditation on loss. The book moves through what it means to be lost, to get lost, to lose connection with your fellow humans and surroundings. This is all done in a brief novel divided into three parts: 1) a first person account of a day spent wandering by The Great Ravickian Novelist Luswege Amini; 2) a poetry reading that same day given by Amini friend Zäoter Limici; and 3) 52 pages in twelve sections of unascribed dialogue spoken during a night out in the broken down capitol city of Ravicka that includes Amini, Limici, other writer colleagues and some new characters not mentioned earlier in the text.

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4 Comments
May 21st, 2012 / 12:00 pm

6 Books: Deb Olin Unferth on Nonfiction

In this week’s installment of 6 Books, Deb Olin Unferth, author of the brilliant, laconic memoir Revolution, recommends 6 nonfiction books. Here are her picks:

To After That (Toaf) by Renee Gladman

It’s a book dedicated to a book she has written: what is a cooler premise than that?

Parrots for Dummies by Nikki Moustaki

Yes, from the Dummies series, a simple how-to book: feeding, cleaning the cage, etc., but stay with me here. I found the book very moving. Her portrait of the parrot is of a tragic figure in a cage—it feels almost Kafkaesque. She captures the personality of the parrot as a beautiful, complex, panicky person who you’d do anything for in hopes that it’ll fall in love with you. And there’s also the sadness of the author, who you can tell is struggling: she has to write about clipping, though she mostly hates it. She has to talk about breeding though she thinks it’s a terrible idea. She includes pictures of birds flying in the Amazon—there, isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that where they belong? They fly a hundred miles a day out there, while here they can move only a few feet. Which is better for them, do you think? she wonders.

Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith

This book has shown up on so many lists now that it’s almost like putting Consider the Lobster on this list. But I’m including it here because you know what? Zadie Smith is a badass.

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein

This may be my favorite book of all time. This is the book that made all my short shorts possible, that made my memoir, Revolution, possible. I first read it riding a train to Chicago and I’ve never been the same. How to write about war and make it funny. How to write about furniture and make it sad.

A Giacometti Portrait, by James Lord

For Lord—who agreed to sit for a portrait for Giacometti—what initially seemed like a pleasant afternoon turned into an existential nightmare, as Lord discovered just what “finishing” a portrait meant to Giacometti.

Atlas of Remote Islands, by Judith Schalansky

How can descriptions of islands far, far away—islands that I’ll never visit, islands that the author has never visited—feel so lonely?

Author Spotlight / 5 Comments
June 2nd, 2011 / 5:09 pm