by Sarah Marine
One D.O.A., One on the Way
by Mary Robison
'One D.O.A., One on the Way' is a post-modern Southern Gothic, unable in form to decide on sweaty fictions or steel gray truths. With its humidity, its heavy green stillness and three generations of an old-money family, the book is temporally choppy and elusive. The characters, these mortal storms of all evolutionary stages, the still lull, the torrential rain, the high winds, are in post-Katrina New Orleans.
The narrator, Eve, bold-mouthed daughter-in-law of the haughty patriarch and matriarch, gives us a singular view of the physical landscape as a film location scout. Her telling of the debris-laden city, with its belching sewers and wandering inhabitants, is interspersed in the narrative between lists of stats about the hurricane choked area, thoughts on her ailing husband, his ne’er sober twin Saunders and Petal, her institutionalized sister-in-law. Reading 'One D.O.A., One on the Way' is like riding a train through the city, through a succession of tunnels. In the light, out the window you glimpse the heavy flora and flooded avenues, the red X’s just beyond the front lawn. In the dark, in the tunnel, as your senses refocus you become intuned to the passenger's conversation, grabbing breathy, hurried excerpts of the dialogue of survival, tales of ambulances that never come, city blocks dark for miles, madness and regeneration all braided together. Robison's demure brilliance seduced me into three complete read-throughs since November. I love this book.
an outside observation: Whilst reading this novel I was often left with an apocalyptic sense of vertigo. The narrative and setting are in a strange relationship which straddles a dance and a battle. I will offer an obscure comparison- that to the devastatingly short-lived, brilliant HBO surf series 'John from Cincinnati'- most specifically the scenes at the motel.
Friday, February 13, 2009
by Sarah Marine