in exacting, excruciatingly lovely detail: Rainey Royal/Dylan Landis

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sometimes I bring a pen to the books I'm reading and scrawl across the margins—outlining and exclaiming, starring the sentences. Sometimes (very rarely) I know, after the very first lines, that such an undertaking would be pointless. Every detail would be starred. Every terrible, haunting surprise.

Every sentence.

I did not write in Rainey Royal, the Dylan Landis novel, because I would not have left a page untouched. I'd have lost the lines beneath the multiplying stars.

Details matter to Landis, and for her teenage angsty artful Rainey, for Rainey's duo of best friends, for Rainey's terrible and charming father, her Rainey's house full of musicians and cast of teachers who can do nothing to protect her from the hands of her father's live-in best friend, Landis offers details of a precisely feral sort. This house where Rainey, now motherless, lives among her father's "acolytes" and within her father's rudderless command (so many straying hands). This school where Rainey gets away with murder, and wishes she did not. This couple that Rainey, on a dare, robs. These streets where she walks where she must be as tough as the world thinks she is. This best friend of hers who may be sleeping with her father. Is she sleeping with her father?

I saw it all.

Rainey's adolescence will either break her, or she will make of all its pieces art.

Here is Landis, making art:

The grandmother is tethered to earth by the steel wheels of her chair and the absence of one leg. Her remaining leg, and her upper arms, are buttery loaves of flesh. Yet Rainey looks at the high cheekbones and flawless hairline, the elegant ledges of brows and lips carved as gracefully as Tina's, and takes her in as shapely. Someone has pinned up the grandmother's thick silver hair with curved combs, and gold hoops hang from her ears. Rainey repeats to herself: She has no idea. It is the source of her beauty.


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