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S.D. Chrostowska’s “Permission: A Novel”

Permission A Novel

My essay “A House Divided,” on S.D. Chrostowska’s book Permission: A Novel (Dalkey Archive, 2013), can be read over at 3AM:Magazine. Permission struck me as a complex and deliberately contradictory book that I simply could not shake free of. I was particularly taken by the variety and sophistication of the ways in which Chrostowska used photographs in her book. I would glance at them expecting to quickly consume the image and then move on with the text; but the images repeatedly stole my attention, and I found myself eventually going back to the text having been taken somewhere entirely unexpected and yet related. After multiple readings, I feel that it’s a compelling novel of ideas unlike almost anything I can think of, except, perhaps, Fernando Pessoa’s equally unclassifiable The Book of Disquiet.


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is a great review! I think the author should be very flattered by the comparison to Pessoa.

    I was reminded recently of this idea of writing as a gift as I read the first volume of Javier Marias’ Your Face Tomorrow, a motif to which he returns again and again, here and elsewhere, and which, as you know, opens the novel: “Telling is almost always done as a gift, even when the story contains and injects some poison, it is also a bond, a granting of trust, and rare is the trust or confidence that is not sooner or later betrayed, rare is the close bond that does not grow twisted or knotted and, in the end, become so tangled that a razor or a knife is needed to cut it.” Story that betrays the reader, the reader that betrays the story, memories gifted away with one hand, and yet held onto with the other, and this idea of cutting – the relationship, or a letter, or perhaps the pages of an old-fashioned book, or perhaps cutting the online connection – also seem to fit well Chrostowska’s novel. I also find something of “conceptual art” about it – an act or performance that to be fully understood requires some broader theoretical context – thus challenging the text’s self-sufficiency…

    October 2, 2014
    • I love the connection you make with Javier Marais. He does write quite a lot about what it means to write. Thanks!

      October 5, 2014

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