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Joanna Ruocco. Dan.

Joanna Ruocco. Dan.

Dorothy, A Publishing Project, 2014. 152 pp. Paper: $16.00.

Much like her previous works, Joanna Ruocco's fifth book Dan is a departure from the expected. It is a departure from logic and order. It is a world of fabricated ponderances: the protagonist Melba Zuzzo worries about the substance of time--jelly or miasma?--she concerns herself that perhaps she is not Melba Zuzzo at all but a reincarnation of the very dead Bev Hat, and so on. When considering why her principal liked her, she reaches epiphany: "Perhaps [Principal Benjamin] had been drawn to Melba precisely because he had sensed in her an utter lack of distinction, a pinched, lackluster quality that would only intensify with the years, eventually yielding a person so small and blanched he could put her in the pocket of his mustard-colored frock coat, marking her absently from time to time with his thumbnail as he might mark a nutmeat." Dan is a place without space, or a space without space: a town filtered of rationality, a novel part noir, full on fairy tale. The night, for instance, is 'a batter poorly mixed, a batter into which bagged blueberries had been introduced by an amateur baker, a woman who had never worked at a bakery, who shook the berries from the bag and folded them, still frozen, into the batch, so that two distinctive types of muffins resulted from the oven, the one type heavy with fruit, the other dry and light, almost a biscuit." Ruocco's prose, much like her micro-galactic world building, is spectacular. At once lurid and dreamy, at other times completely absurd, her sentences are synchronous black holes and star explosions: They pull you in and burst. Under the whimsical cloak of magical invention, Dan is a serious novel that is not afraid of playing or pleasure or glut. "[Melba] concentrated on the paper sliding beneath her, the incessant soft abrasions and electric tingles along her scalp," and so will the reader--squirm and delight under all the imperceptible paper cuts of Ruocco's creation. [LILY HOANG]

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Author:Hoang, Lily
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2014
Words:393
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