Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review of "The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis" by Mark Gluth

         Devastatingly beautiful. Devastating and sad and immensely beautiful. Mark Gluth's debut novella will grip you with its terse, declarative sentences, pull you along with its wandering domestic storylines and make you feel the crushing burden of the seasons, love and being. It will make you long for your loved ones who will one day die and make the world around you stand out in significant beauty simply because it is present and real and exists.
        As in life the events that occur in The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis are driven by chance, have little meaning behind their causation: tragedy occurs, words are said, life goes on. Events happen, many without reason, but which have far reaching effects. Gluth is masterful at writing the main events of the novel off the page, this keeps the narrative's focus away from unnecessary distraction and on the emotions of the characters.This simultaneously shows great restraint on his part and maintains a detached feeling throughout. The events that occur to the characters are sad, insidiously and hopelessly sad and the only force that holds the characters together are the love which they share with each other. Young couples, old couples, humans with each other and humans with animal companions. Love is the quiet central theme of the work and by hiding it beneath layers of tragedy Gluth makes love appear that much more beautiful. Gluth shows that love is fleeting, mortal and insulates us from entropy.            

             Much of Late Work is a study in the connections between dreams, art, love and death. Every character whose profession is mentioned is an artist: sketcher, writer, photographer, playwright. Some are more talented than others but art is universally portrayed as a source of freedom and a way to connect with love after death. Many of the character's works are referred to or written out in full in the novella. Late Work bridges an all to common chasm in literature between pathos and intellect, Gluth combines them remarkably well.There are steady but understated threads of Borgesian recursion and metarecursion which overlap enough (but not too much) and provide the novel with satisfying verisimilitude along with an air of the supernatural. I found that the novel takes on extra dimensions when the nested layers of works described in the novel are mapped out.
            Late Work can be read in one (intense) sitting and yet packs force greater than, say, one of Marquez's tomes.  I can think of one other work for me that has had the same effect per page as Late Work but the intense overwhelming sadness of this novel places it light years beyond. This is in the "Little House on the Bowery" series along with Cows which I reviewed a few months ago. The novels' subject matter is world's apart but both share a particular visceral writing style. I'm almsot sorry to do this but the basic, chained sometimes ambiguous sentances reminded me of Lin at first. I had pegged this style as inherently emotionally detached but Late Work has swayed me to believe quite the opposite. Late Work was Gluth's debut and came out in 2010 but all I have found from Gluth since are some online music reviews. He is from the Pacific Northwest and is certainly one of the most interesting writes I've heard about from up here lately.

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