Review: Still Life in Motion

by SF

snstilllife.jpgThe arrangement of the many stories in Still Life is an adventure in itself. The groupings have titles and the succession is ‘stories about something,’ ‘stories about nothing,’ ‘stories about things that might have happened,’ ‘true stories,’ stories about things that should have happened’ and so onwards with playful ingenuity.

Reviewed by Bob Williams

Still Life in Motion

by Sean Brijbasi

PretendGenius Press 2004, ISBN 0-974261-0-9, $14.95, 248 pages

Fiction usually brings us recognizable themes and characters set in a world that we perceive as real. The creation from this of an artistic work involves some manipulation and artificiality. The obtrusiveness of such manipulation will be more or less obvious depending on the skill of the writer but we will tend to accept it even when it makes a spectacle of itself. But there are alternatives.

Brijbasi explores such alternatives. He concerns himself with the irrecoverables of life. These are the small, almost invisible, quirks and reflexes that play on the surface of our minds and actions. Irrecoverables exist at a level prior to character, incident or conflict. Brijbasi is the poet of irrecoverables. The shadowy figures of his skeletal world have no faces and they would not accept epiphanies. They do accept absurdities and they revel in contradictions. Brijbasi carries this to a degree that naturalizes absurdities and contradictions. The result is less fiction than a display of the mechanics of fiction that focuses on the bare minimum of expected content. This austerity, however witty it often is, brings the reader to considerations of what reality might be like if we look at it closely and if it is in fact real.

This is the second book by a young writer. The first and shorter book, One Note Symphonies, appeared three years ago. It already showed a mature polish and acceptance of exotic worlds worthy of report. Still Life is more varied and presents a wider range of ability. There are effects that might elude the reader. For example, in a scene where the protagonist watches television and hears the following, the reader will miss the point unless the reader knows that Brijbasi was born in 1967: “Born in 1967, he went on to do nothing and was remembered by no one.”

But there are constants in Brijbasi’s shifting world. Martin from One Note Symphonies is a frequent actor in Still Life. Sasha from the opening story makes a floating appearance elsewhere before she takes on a more concrete existence towards the end of the book. Martin proves to be a nuisance and Brijbasi kills him off several times (in ‘Minor Character’) only to have him revive and end up in bed with the heroine.
The arrangement of the many stories in Still Life is an adventure in itself. The groupings have titles and the succession is ‘stories about something,’ ‘stories about nothing,’ ‘stories about things that might have happened,’ ‘true stories,’ stories about things that should have happened’ and so onwards with playful ingenuity.

Brijbasi’s playfulness is often displayed with funny and apposite descriptions: “So this girl that I’m meeting tonight, Saturday night, I’ve known for a few years now, but I’m starting to misknow her because, well, it’s hard to admit, but I know that she has been unloving me slowly for the last year or so and I want to crash land like a lullaby in some stripper’s arms.”

In the section entitled ‘Reading Stories’ Brijbasi loiters with intent over academic writing and tests. The satire is loony but exact and a construction of elaborate wit. Too involvedly sustained to quote, it contains such delights as sportscasters commenting on a public reading.
This book is exhilarating in its freedom and its poetry and wit are a constant refreshment. In my review of One Note Symphonies I wondered if such a special talent could survive in today’s glut of books but Still Life indicates that he is a survivor. This is very good news for us all.

To buy the book: look at Still Life in Motion – Amazon.com

 

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cover designed by Stratos