Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On "The Physics of Imaginary Objects" by Tina May Hall ***

Tina May Hall is an amazing wordsmith, of that this collection leaves no doubts. Each sentence is a gem--so much so that I often felt I was reading poetry rather than fiction. And that may be one of the reasons I felt something missing some of the time--that attention to plot.

But on a sheer sentence level, I loved much of what is here. Take, for example, the second story in the collection, "Erratum: Insert 'R' for Transgressors." The story is built around a few key lines that are repeated over and over with minor variations. It is beautiful to listen to in one's head, and I'm sure beautiful to hear read aloud, and it leads to a kind of climax as a good poem often does--but for me, it did not seem an epiphany in the sense that one would often glean from a story. It was more like we climb this mountain of words with the author and then, at the end, stare down at the beautiful valley below.

The stories are mostly very short, in keeping with their generally poetic nature. Some of them sparkle with neat ideas. I thought the pieces on a woman who stores a finger she has cut off in a jar, on a woman who falls in love with a television meteorologist, and on a town with a huge sinkhole in its center to be entertaining on this level.

My favorite pieces, however, probably fall into much more traditional fare. The lead story, "Visitations," is magnificent, as is the novella that ends the collection, "All the Day's Sad Stories," which appeared earlier as a Caketrain chapbook. That latter story recounts a tale of a young couple trying to get pregnant and of a set of mysterious written X's that keep showing up around their property. It is a mystery of an unusual sort, and it is also a story that relishes in declarative sentences. This style, maintained throughout the collection, works well for Hall, reminding me, with her penchant for the poetic both of Blake Butler and of Kate Braverman.

A word also on the design--I love the small trim size and the choice of typeface for this collection. I felt like I was reading a short handbook on the subject denoted in the title of the collection.

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