My Review of Jane Unrue’s Life of a Star

Check out my review of Jane Unrue’s Life of a Star in the Brooklyn Rail’s July/August 2010 issue. Here’s an excerpt:

Immersed in these wrenching scenes, where Unrue’s melancholic lyricism overflows, it’s easy to feel like her narrator who, after reminiscing about kissing her lover says, “This was a moment when the image and the words collide, the kind of moment people live for.” At one point, the narrator, embroidering, compiles a wish list of all the things she needs for her craft. This list could also serve as the best summation of how this novella was put together for it, too, is a “catalogue of patterns, stitches, backgrounds, combinations and suggestions, useful bits and pieces, images.” Unrue’s imaginative precision gives way to indeterminacy, clarity to tentativeness, cohesion to dislocation. The events and images in this world are delivered in a sensuous prose that harkens back to Carole Maso, another accomplished master whose prose belies great intelligence, insight, and a willingness to submit to the seductive power of the sentence. Think of Life of a Star, then, as an illuminated viewfinder, one where parallax, ambiguity, blur, and discontinuity may impede immediate recognition, but one which still impresses through the sheer power of its startling imagery and commanding poetics, its accretion of clues and repetitions. In the end, all of the fragmentary, floating images in Life of a Star finally cohere into an enigmatic portrait of a burned out visionary, an object lesson on the fleetingness of desire, of the perpetuity of pain, on the doubtful, but nevertheless worthwhile, possibility that language may bring meaning to life, or, at the very least, help one to endure its vicissitudes.

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