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Eckhard Gerdes. Cistern Tawdry.

Fugue State, 2003. Unpaginated. Paper: $18.00.

"Language connects. To disconnect, language must be discarded. Freedom cannot result from socialization--only indebtedness can. If you learn a language." Except that the characters in Cistern Tawdry keep connecting, even as they die and split into other selves, even as their language appears to be unraveling: "you think you can refrain from meaningful communication? Impossible!" With multiple disruptions of continuity, Cistern Tawdry is a story that creates meaning through visuality, fragmentation, collage, witty wordplay, and humor, as well as narration. Although the text at first appears daunting, Gerdes provides encouragement to readers in the "Editor's Foreword," where he offers explanations and interpretations of the first several primary visual pages. Potential readers who continue on where the "Editor's Foreword" leaves off will find themselves pleasantly enmeshed in the story of Cistern Tawdry, a writer trapped in the midst of an unfulfilling job and failing marriage. After a night of drinking, he comes home to discover that his wife has left him and taken their children with her. Cistern commits suicide, and his soul splits into multiple pieces and personalities. The second half of the book follows these parts in their heroic quest to reunite and return to the earth. Any text requires the engagement of the reader in order to make meaning. Cistern Tawdry highlights this aspect of reader interaction by presenting a text refreshingly unlike those we are used to interpreting--it demands active engagement on the part of the reader. Sometimes this engagement requires effort as we attempt to decode unfamiliar signs, but it is always delightful and surprising.
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Article Details
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Author:Graham, Lorraine
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2003
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