Monday, July 9, 2007

Half Life - Shelley Jackson

Shelley Jackson's first novel, Half Life, is a darkly comedic and exceptionally intelligent metaphysical mystery about Nora's awakening of identity--while her conjoined sister, Blanche, sleeps on their shoulder. Jackson creates a parallel world populated with "twofers," a perfect setting to explore the nature of identity, exploit the arbitrariness of classification, and warp the inherent boundaries implicit in the narrative. Half Life exhibits why Shelley Jackson is one of the most dazzling, imaginative, and inventive writers in America.

Half Life was my pick as favorite book of 2006. It is recently out in paperback. It's an adventure, at times hard work, but ultimately rewarding. Jackson confronts many issues in this novel: gender, body, individuality, sexuality, the politics and ugliness of personal and global violence through a retrospective lens on America's atomic legacy and, implicitly, through the specter of a more-recent ground zero. While these are certainly serious topics that are handled earnestly, Jackson is precise in her interjection of dark humor, keeping the reader motivated and entertained from page to page.

Congratulations to Shelley Jackson for winning the 2006 James Tiptree, Jr. Award, given at Wiscon in Madison, WI.

For more Half Life fun, check out the MuTT (Mutant Typology Test from mutatis-mutandis) at Shelley's website. Her other works include the hypertext Patchwork Girl, the short story collection The Melancholy of Anatomy, and the Skin Project, a short story told through 2,000 tatoos.

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