Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Holly Anderson's THE NIGHT SHE SLEPT WITH A BEAR is like visiting an alien country you think you remember


THE NIGHT SHE SLEPT WITH A BEAR by Holly Anderson (Publication Studio, Portland, OR) is like visiting an alien country, you think you remember--from dreams you might have forgotten.  It’s a novel-like fiction made up of mesostics and flash fiction. I checked Wikipedia:  
A mesostic is a poem or other typography such that a vertical phrase intersects lines of horizontal text. It is similar to an acrostic, but with the vertical phrase intersecting the middle of the line, as opposed to beginning each new line.
The practice of using index words to select pieces from a preexisting text was developed by Jackson Mac Low as "diastics". It was used extensively by the experimental composer John Cage (Walsh 2001).
The Night She Slept with a Bear also comes with music by Chris Brokaw on itunes.  And since the fiction resembles a musical composition, with themes repeated and intersected, it’s probably  a great addition.  Here’s the beginning, which gives you an idea of fragmentation that’s getting at something, but you’re not sure what exactly. Like much poetry, you feel the emotional weight of the images. Meaning sifts through, though you may not be able to articulate it. What I couldn’t reproduce are visual images that act as counterpoint, maps, a compass, wilderness, outlines of static that resembles weather. It’s the logic of right brain thought. An internet definition of that: "The right half deals with a task on an emotional level, being perceptive and often fantasy-oriented, while having an affinity to taking risks."

I couldn’t find a better way to explain THE NIGHT SHE SLEPT WITH A BEAR. Layers of fantasy have eternal themes, death, sex, redemption, aging, time, childhood; what it’s like to inhabit a human body on a planet, are explored obliquely though Anderson’s unnamed heroines.  Here’s a sample:

The Theory of Everything
They’ll re-purpose her car. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t have a whiff more gas
anyway so she’s sleeping underneath it right now. Sleeping off this
poisonous sun that makes her see triplicate. She snuffles. She snores
lightly. Jiggles her brake foot once in awhile.a I’m trying to observe
everything clearly, take notes and hope to hell I can figure out what’s
going on. By now I’m officially missing. We’ll have to hoof it soon enough.
She’s waiting for darkness and regular vision to return. She describes it
as two bull’s-eyes sliding back into place. Sight realigning with a
registration so precise it has a nearly audible ‘click’. She does go on
about her vision problems.1

She also goes on about rogue planets and errant propagation in computers.
Did I know anything about that? What about the fruits, flowers and
fish we’ve lost for keeps?2 Sonar signals and the tyranny of ringtones,
electric force fields and genetic mutation. Naval Jelly. Cast iron pans.
String Theory and her favorites — ’gluons’ and ‘neutrinos’. Her version
of String Theory makes it sound like everything’s colliding all the time in
a huge net shopping bag of vibrating strings. That there are many more
dimensions than we have a clue about. .

a. Recipe For Returning
Drive an old green Buick across a
frozen strait with stolen bottles
of Bordeaux, a sack of rice, a
sack of beans, slabs of smoked
lake fish and a box of books.
Find a cabin. Don’t get out of
bed for a month. Then cut all
your hair off and wander the
daylight hours until your feet
bleed in your boots. When the
ice moves out in the spring it
will sound like gunshots. You’ll
be awake on moonless nights
and the ice will thunder and
boom. The ice will cleave and
branch black and run for miles
under the grainy snow. This will
fix you up. All that emptiness,
all those blue shadows of crusts
and drifts. The sky will wave rags
dipped in stars and you’ll wave
back. In the spring you’ll take
the ferry to the mainland. And
you’ll be back. To your self.

Strange territory, not really. How do brains process experience?  How do we make sense or just find some way of labeling what we call life?  I suggest BEAR to all who want an adventure on page or ipad or iphone  that doesn’t reflect the “naturalistic” forms of mainstream media.
http://www.publicationstudio.biz/books/186  for publisher. The Night She Slept With A Bear is also available as an app  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/holly-anderson/id582089103?mt=8   Both book and app come with music by Chris Brokaw [ 

S.W.