Quarterly West has published an appropriately twisted review of Joyelle McSweeney’s Salamandrine (TSky Press 2013), written by the wonderfully deranged Tasha Matsumoto, who is now welcome to job here at TSky, should she read this and need a job that pays nothing beyond fame and glory.
In Joyelle McSweeney’s story collection Salamandrine: 8 Gothics, language commits incest with itself…. Sounds repeat, replicate, and mutate in her sentences, monstrous sentences of aural inbreeding and consangeous consonants, strung out and spinning like the dirtiest double-helix, dizzy with disease….
WARNING: HAZARDOUS MATERIAL. To speak a single serpentine sentence from Salamandrine might cause asphyxiation….
One might say that these stories take place in the Rust Belt, but the Rust Belt is less of a formal setting and more like a pollutant from which these stories cannot escape, a cinematic miasma, a cataract over the narrative lens. What I mean is, that the Rust Belt is not scenery but an inescapable sorrow, a “cancerscape,” a “traumazone.” A suffering….
This is very much a book about motherhood, and writes against capitalism’s attempt to mechanize motherhood, to turn her labor into labor, a factory-womb producing workers-of-the-state. The mothers in Salamandrine are gangrenous, abhuman creatures: a vampire, a cannibalistic zombie who eats her own brain and entrails and cradles her rat, a mother who vomits gold cloth and suspects her daughter of having an affair with her lover. Pregnancy explodes into an impossible pageantry—a mother dresses up her daughter in a dusk costume or as deodorized death, a mother who wears a hat adorned with dead birds and dresses her daughter in coffin clothes with high-button boots….
McSweeney writes like a synesthete sculpting sound, her sentences cross-wiring and corrupting our senses. It’s as if McSweeney wrote these sinful and sinewy stories with the knife of mad scientist, slicing and resuturing syntax, as prose unexpectedly breaking into verse. This is a book full of choral keenings, the echo in your ultrasound, a “lunguage.” These words ring and richochet like tinnitus in your ears.