Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Douglas Messerli | A New Way of Seeing (on Jane Unrue's The House)

by Douglas Messerli

Jane Unrue The House (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck, 2000)

The narrator of this beautiful poetic text describes, in its various aspects and relationships with its inhabit, a modernistic house, a house of great architectural style "built on narrow supporting columns arranged on a geometric grid...pierced around by windows." But while the house is almost wondrous in its ability to reflect illuminated light and receive sunlight, there is something almost sinister and dark about the constructed box.

At several points, the narrator—in her detailed descriptions of moving up and down its staircases and in and out of its rooms—lashes out in desperation seeking "a new house" or a complete immersion in the nearby lake. Indeed, at one point in her frustration, she seeks a new vantage-place by entering the matching house attached and looking out from its windows just has she has done from her own.

Much of her movement throughout this geometric grid is, perhaps, an attempt on the part of the narrator to find a new perspective, a new way of perceiving. And, as her masturbatory fantasies increase along with brief memories of sharing the house with another, the reader begins to perceive the very sterility of this glass container in which the narrator is entrapped.

There are no narrative punches or even near-explanations in this work, but the beauty of the language and the emotional effect the author achieves through it should delight anyone for whom plot is not the major device of fiction.

Los Angeles, 2000