Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis, Mark Gluth

BEST OF 2010

Mark Gluth and I have a few things in common. We're both huge fans of the work of Dennis Cooper (Cooper is the editor of The Little House on the Bowery series Gluth's novella was published under). Gluth and I have a similar manner of writing (short sentences, brief details, focused on prose more than plot). And, both Gluth and I had our short stories published in Cooper's short story anthology, Userlands. Gluth's short story was the small seed, a few sections, of what later became this novella.

There is a cyclical nature to Gluth's story. The permanence of death lives throughout the pages. The way death is an effect on the living. The death of Ms. Kroftis dogs leads to her own death, followed by the death of a friend of a screenwriter working on the works of Kroftis, followed by the death of a child, followed by the death of a husband, and then the presence of a dog. And, in the end, Ms. Kroftis is still so much present. Maybe death isn't quite as permanent as I may have suggested? The cyclical nature reminds me of a delightful film, Before the Rain (which begins with a man already dead who ends up dying, again?, by the films end).

As I said, Gluth's writing is precise. His sentences are so brief. The novella is split into three sections. The first section, on Ms. Kroftis, is the most beautiful. Each sentence as if it were peeled from the most precious flower. The second section is tougher. The sentences become choppier and less prose focused. The author finds himself trying to move the story along. In doing so, the short, choppy sentences begin to hurt a bit. Then, Gluth returns us to his prose in the final section. The section that truly pulls the characters together as if they were one. As if no one ever died or lived. Is it all just about experience?

Gluth is less focused on plot. Or, at least it feels that way. If plot is his purpose... then he fell from his path, I think. There is a small plot. I don't mean to suggest Gluth incapable of forming a purpose. There is plenty of purpose. But, there is a roaming nature to the purpose. A wanderer lost. What does it matter if nothing is ever truly found? Maybe, we all want meaning on too much of a regular basis.

The writing is a bit experimental. The characters not fully formed. The prose unlike most. The playful, free form nature of the writing is refreshing. Has Gluth created a whole new form of fiction? Not quite. But, I do wish more people were releasing works filled with this much life.


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