Monday, August 22, 2011

Eileen R. Tabios' Silk Eggs, Collected Novels

Dismayed, she realized she spent much of her working hours at the internet cafe surfing for something in order to make something exist. Her name was Madonna.

The cafe was owned by a granddaughter of Romanian gypsies. She banned cigarillos. She worked out five times a week at the local gym. She was kind. The cafe owner's name was relegated to initials: H.D.

Living a good life, someone once whispered in a childhood schoolyard, is one conclusion to a grave secret. (Chapter V, “Opium-scented Lace”)
With some twenty trade titles to her name, American poet Eileen R. Tabios recently released Silk Egg: Collected Novels (Exeter UK: Shearsman Books, 2011), a sequence of twelve novels boiled down to the bone, appearing to the eye as poem-sequences. Should these pieces be read as short novels, prose-poems or poems? And what of the sub-title under the title inside the collection, “Collected Novels (2009-2009),” the entirety of her book-length fictions composed during the space of a calendar year?
Once, there was biology.

It produced a mother whose absence was a singe.

It sang.

It replaced marrow—a song camoflaged by inevitably aging bone. (Chapter III, “Silk Egg”)
Boiled down to the bare bone, what makes these pieces novel in scope is the amount of material packed into each sequence, saying so much through so little, yet nearly as many words in her back cover blurb as there are in these novels combined. How is so much packed into such small spaces? Packed in, through skimming across inference, and letting the reader fill in the appropriate spaces. As Tabios writes on the back:
Last century, I temporarily borrowed Jorge Luis Borges' chatelaine. I slipped off a certain key and made a copy before I returned it to its chains and the old man (OMG: can he ever snore!). Since then, I've been able to slip into Jorge's Library of Babel whenever I wished—that permanent stain on the 7th floor's limestone windowsill was from the d'Yquen I'd carelessly spilled from my treasured wine glass (stolen previously from Vermeer). About a year after I wrote all of the novels that comprise Silk Egg, I returned to the Library of Babel's 7th floor with a bottle of Ajax cleanser (“stronger than dirt!”) that I'd hoped would work this time in erasing proof of my unpermitted visitations; that hardened pool of “nectar of the gods” ever winking out a small sun from the bibliophilic dimness. It was during this yet again failed attempt at the domestic arts that I also stumbled across a book whose spine mirrored the color of the sweet liquid I'd spilled; I do love this wine's color—an apt symbol of enlightenment among Buddhists. I pulled out the book from the shelf, blew off the dust, opened it, and discovered there the same words that comprise Silk Egg. However, the novels were contextualized by the book's title: Inevitable Gibberish. I dispute the Library of Babel's context—but there's no need to take my word for it: I've decided to release Silk Egg to the public and have readers judge whether these novels are more than the leavings from more acceptable narratives as authors strive to use every letter, space and punctuation mark in every possible combination.

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