Owl in Darkness: Zoe Rosenfeld (Shebooks)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Yesterday I shared the list of books that I'll be reading soon, while waiting, say, for a delayed dishwasher and kitchen countertops to appear (only nine days more, I'm told, or perhaps I did not hear correctly, so famished, thirsty, and wait-weary am I) or while riding the train to the city as my creative nonfiction class gets underway at Penn.

This morning, I'd like to tell you about the first book I read from that list, Zoe Rosenfeld's immaculate Owl in Darkness. I did not have the time, last evening, to begin something long and new. And so I turned to this 7,500-word Shebook and fell, at once, in love. Rosenfeld is recreating a writer's retreat—to a manor house, a foreign landscape, a town where she feels she is watched. She cannot write, this writer. She is not sure that living, alone, counts for writerly material. She is afraid of something, haunted by...what? A rabbit, an owl, a giant salamander, an old Edsel in the woods, a minor library, a horse with a wrong name—all these take on mythic proportions.

Writer friends, you will recognize yourself here. Reading friends, you will believe the stillness, the fear. Anyone at all will be elevated by the language. Here is a little of what I found and loved:
In the morning, she watches fog rise out of the trees like pale hair pulled from a brush. The sky is sea-mammal gray overhead, and it hangs low over the forest; the trees look very black, the lichens on their trunks standing out brilliant white and ghostly.
You want more? How about this?
At the clearing's edge, there's a strange, sloped shape, and she picks her way toward it through the brush till she can see what it is: an ancient Edsel, doorless, rotting in the woods. As she gets closer, she sees that its interior is almost all gone, the seats reduced to metal coils, the gauges cracked, the floor deep in dead leaves. The car's surface, once blue, is now the bleached, matte color of the sky.
Poetry in every line. Real poetry. And a story that can be read at once, experienced in a single sitting.


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