May 29, 2012

Laura Mullen on Daphne Marlatt

“Who’s There?” The book begins—as Hamlet begins—with a question, and the insistence on an unfolding that must follow upon a sudden awareness of presence. Who = character, There = setting and both together: plot. His story: “history, the story of dominance. mastery. the bold line of it.” A deep engagement with the archive, Daphne Marlatt’s Ana Historic is also an exquisitely and subtly crafted novel (this “book of interruptions” feels loose and fresh as a draft), its poetic prose both transparent and prismatic, providing a wise guide to the problems and opportunities exposed by second wave feminism while opening—gently, lovingly, lucidly—an inquiry into history as a discourse, and lineage as an issue. The territory the book explores includes the rough beginnings of a logging town or outpost in the Pacific Northwest and—as palimpsest—the civilized present incarnation of that geography; the narrator is a history student turned faculty wife who turns again, away, straying first with her mind and then with her heart and soul, becoming one of those who can never go home again, given what she comes to know. In questioning charged absences in the historical chronicles she finds traces of women whose almost erased lives fire her imagination, and she unfolds herself—going from research assistant to novelist and from a stale and stalled marriage into a relationship which is tender, warm, intimate, and vulnerable. She unfolds herself: it turns out that that opening “Who’s There?” was not necessarily a question for another after all. Or not only. Ask it of yourself: read this—more than once. “the real history of women…is unwritten because it runs through our bodies: we give birth to each other…it’s women imagining all that women could be that brings us into the world.”

Hear Laura read from this here.
(Learn more about Laura Mullen herself here.)

No comments: