Click through to read the full review of Derek White’s MARSUPIAL, the thirty-ninth in this full-press review of Calamari books.
MARSUPIAL, the second novel from Calamari Press’s founding editor Derek White, is more of a novel proper than his debut book, and more digestible as such. While White’s POSTE RESTANTE read as a series of vignettes held together mostly by its insistence on travelogue, MARSUPIAL gives us a clearly threaded narrative and a hook to pull us along its corridors:
One by one the light particles accumulate in this living room, buzzing wasps painting an impressionistic scene, shedding light on Marie-Yves’s dysfunctional furniture, for the most part discarded movie props. I could be anywhere, but here I am in this living room, this “habitation,” this building, on this street, in this city, in this foreign country—a country I have only read about in magazines or books or seen in movies. And my brother is a crawdad junkie and I am slated to be his stand-in. I struggle to make sense of all this, and to make sense of Marie-Yves Curie by her décor and dysfunctional furniture props. And to make sense of my brother by his choice in her. I continue reading into it.
Told via mixed genres, blending standard first-person narrative, faux definitions and encyclopedic entries, screenplay excerpts, film production callsheets, and other errata, White builds the story of movie-making in a foreign country where the lives of Marie-Yves and two brothers entangle (read: ensnare). But rather than be the simple story of lives intersecting, MARSUPIAL is a novel that continually evolves, characters turning in and out of crawdads, living lives that seem like films, making films that mirror their own lives, and amongst it all the tension of brother on brother, lover on lover, where names transform and characters figuratively (and literally) ingest one another:
When they found Juane, I was in the vulva bed wearing Crawdaddy-O’s outfit. I had thrown up all over myself and was mumbling that I had “swallowed pieces of our mother” and was “burning from the inside.” According to Troy, Juane was ranting on about “the changes going on inside of me,” that whatever was incubating was now hatching, and when they took Juane across the street to the studio hospital, I insisted I could “explain everything”…
MARSUPIAL is a dynamic read, and is evidence of Derek White’s growth as a writer, both in terms of how he handles a narrative that is expansive and corrosive yet with a straight-forward root system, and how his language has developed into more looping and overlapping, with a broadened vocabulary palate and a refined strength in structural presence. The pull of MARSUPIAL is much more magnetizing than White’s previous novel, which is what good writers strive for in each new work, and all of it makes me even more excited for his forthcoming ARK CODEX ±0, which you can and should be reading up on here.
But, as the ARK CODEX ±0 isn’t available yet, pick up a copy of MARSUPIAL here to get your Derek White on.
Up next: Gary Lutz’s STORIES IN THE WORST WAY & SLEEPINGFISH 8.
39 down, 2 to go.