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The Art of Elliptical Prose
on 24 September 2014
This collection is, if nothing else, interesting. There are pithy pieces consisting of no more than a line, to at its longest, a confessional and touching bit of autobiographical fiction about the narrator and her relationship with her half-sister, entitled "The Seals", which is all of 27 pages, and possibly the most 'complete' story in terms of a conventional narrative.
That Davis is anything but conventional is immediately apparent in the form and content of most her stories. They range from letters to hotel managers and board directors, which reveal the characters of the letter writer, often disorganised, meandering and unfocused, to lists, one of which "Local Obits", literally contain the paras of obituaries. There is something touching and resonant about this random compiling, and pushes the envelope for what is deemed acceptable as narrative fiction, though the intent and effect is ambiguous. There are also pieces which look like work-in-progress story ideas and surrealistic dream sequences, the latter of which I must admit, capture in words rather well the often illogical yet vivid sequences that one encounters in dreamscapes. Elsewhere, Flaubert's correspondence is cited as the source for some of the pieces.
On the whole, this makes a really curious work, for a living author. The stories seem more like posthumous pieces collected to give a glimpse of the genius and working process of a departed writer, and one can't help but think that a more finished product should precede this collection. However, judging from a peek at Davis's earlier works, that is clearly not the case.