Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

"Mislaid" by Nell Zink (Fourth Estate, 2015)

A gay white young poet marries a white lesbian student of his. They have 2 kids then split, the wife taking the little girl and raising her as a black, identifying as black herself. After a decade or so the two halves of the family meet, the children at the same college caught up in a drug heist.

There's much fun about the lives of poets, e.g. - They thanked his generation for inventing the methods of appropriation ("found poetry") and spontaneity (carelessness) that consecrated their impromptus as art (p.11). And there are many quotable parts, e.g. -

  • Returning to poetry, his rock of abstraction in the storm of reality (p.120).
  • "When Mom said she was gay, and Dad said he married her because he got her mixed up with boys, and everybody's white, that was way too complex. And there it is! You take it to the next phase." There was an awkward silence during which everyone drank, as though Karen had proposed a truce (p.271)

I liked the tone, and kept wanting to read more, though once the drug plot started the pace slowed.

Other reviews

  • Seth Colter Walls (The plot’s broad strokes are the stuff of comic opera, updated for the 20th-century American south. It would be easy for passages steeped in such knowingness to curdle into a work of literature that’s more grimly impressive than it is joyfully immersive. So it’s a delight to find that, ultimately, the kids of Mislaid come out a little less damaged than their parents. Like Zink’s own writing style, they’re too hip to the sins of the past to fall back on easy political characterizations and assumptions, and too witty to be depressed for very long.
  • Walter Kirn (a screwball comic novel of identity ... Zink’s narrator is a knowing, omniscient figure who speaks directly to the reader while floating anonymously above the story, offering sharp observations and mordant commentary and smoothly moving things along in the manner of novels from an earlier century ... Instead of the crabbed, neurotic tone that one might expect when treating such loaded material, she skips along with ease and clarity, summarizing, compressing and encapsulating, unflappably wise and in control. ... It’s a provocative masquerade with heart, not just an exercise in role reversals, reminding us that the gaps and cracks between our insides and our outsides are the spaces where our spirits live.

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