Click through to read the full review of Derek White’s POSTE RESTANTE, the twenty-fourth in this full-press review of Calamari books.
POSTE RESTANTE resists. This is not a traditional novel because it simply doesn’t function in that way, it does not have a forward moving plot or character through-line or action perpetuated by conflict. Instead, POSTE RESTANTE is a book built on scenes, and each scene begins with the same thematic pull: an eager novice (a student, a brother, a lover, a friend) starts a venture into some unknown (a new environment, a problem, a relationship) and though most is not ever understood, even in the end, the characters celebrate this lack of resolution.
from ‘Shields (Not Spears) Keep the Island Safe’:
Although he spoke English well and had good intentions, we didn’t understand why he was saying most of the things he was saying and his translations of what the other villagers were saying didn’t correlate with their body language. Our only way to communicate directly with the other villagers was to offer clove cigarettes, even though we didn’t smoke. They believed that inhaling fire and breathing out smoke made you look powerful and fended off evil spirits.
Too, most of the evidence of these journeys (the characters’ and presumably White’s) is delivered in cryptic notes or messages or irreverent allegories that purposely do not resolve, allegories that tell a story, that have meaning, but that do not suppose an end. Postcards metaphors sent gummed up, sticky with blur.
from ‘The Colloidal Broth of Brothers’:
He replied with a postcard of what I presumed were his footprints near frothy globs of scum at the shoreline. I always considered the public forum of the postcard, legible to the hands that deliver it, to be a cheap incestuous alibi. I was from the same blood but was relatively well-rooted in factual representation. Or maybe I was just more tolerant and/or naïve.
So while POSTE RESTANTE gives the reader a dirge of scenes that are interesting to read in and of themselves (and much less chaotic and complex than the writing in his earlier publications), White does so without apology, without hesitation, but instead with a simple foreword as explanation, a mirror held up to his characters’ travels:
The nocturnal histories contained here were transcribed in the dark, in the wake of sleep when I couldn’t always see what, in fact, I was writing. So forgive me if they don’t make sense to your senses. These are merely the residuals, in translated words and images, that clung to my feet as I woke up and walked across the floorboards of where I was living at the time.
Copies of this book are available here.
Next up: Miranda Mellis’ THE REVISIONIST (which I’m already reading & already love love loving).
Word to your mother.