Sprawl – by Danielle Dutton

“Dear Mrs. Baxter, Welcome. Your earnest and expensive skepticism is otherworldly. For this reason, I advise you to take two or three sheets of paper and make a journal of anything remarkable that occurs in the next few days. Idle romances, typographical reproductions, eye- and ear-witness testimony, the reality of our special community—I recommend all these pleasures to you now. You’ll need to keep track. You’ll have to be strong, Mrs. Baxter. Everything is different, but over time, to a certain extent, nothing really changes. Such is the critical authenticity of our every historical moment. Focus on apprehensible objects and their previously unapprehended relationship to other objects around your house or this place (your body to fish, glass to a quality of mind). It’s a good deal of fun. Yours, etc.” (16-17)

These are not the opening words of Danielle Dutton’s magnificent recent novel Sprawl (Siglio Press, 2010), but they do most clearly articulate both the approach she takes and all that she appears to regard as being at stake. Sprawl is, as I take it, its narrator’s own first-person “journal of anything remarkable that occurs in the next few days.” We shouldn’t get too hung up about whether she is literally keeping a journal. The important part is that the novel presents us with a woman’s “earnest and expensive skepticism”—her inner state of mind & being, as it were, that come as a result & cost of being a part of the world. And her world is costly indeed, for it is that of the suburbs. Read the rest of this entry »

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