Turtle Place Press, $17.95
The jacket duplicate for Iris Smyles’s “Droll Tales” advertises a actuality that is “a mutually agreed upon illusion.” Essentially “allusion” is a far better word. The title of the assortment cites Balzac’s “Droll Tales.” The “glossary of terms not located in this reserve” recalls the Bureau of Surrealist Exploration presided over by Antonin Artaud, who’s cited later on in the reserve and famed for his Theater of Cruelty. The author’s be aware is a restatement of Zeno’s paradox, the “Tractatus” of Stoic philosophy in which a turtle beats Achilles and in the long run no one particular gets anyplace.
Here is the entry below “Indicating” in Ms. Smyles’s glossary of unused conditions: “(derivation of indicate): the uncomfortable sentiment behind what is actually stated. See: The indicating of lifestyle. Life has no meaning. You imply anything to me. Why are you being so suggest, I considered you beloved me.” Keep in mind Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Lifestyle”?
You only have to open the very first tale, “Medusa’s Garden,” the vade mecum for this surrealist undertaking, to be launched to a suburban form of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. In this article the narrator unstintingly can take us down one more rabbit hole to the Salon des Refuses of 1863 as the teacher urges his college students to “Refuse fate, my cursed minimal types.” But the ballerina likes “traveling” a lot more than she likes “leaping,” and so becomes a flight attendant. “Going for walks down the Ramblas on a layover in Barcelona,” she joins “the Guild of Dwelling Statues, descendants of the tableaux vivant,” ultimately accomplishing in Raphael’s fresco “The College of Athens” and John William Waterhouse’s “Echo and Narcissus” in Nice.
The language soars in a totally free-associative model in which anything makes perception when eluding any traditional narrative arc. Her “yard” is loaded with adult males who have come to be frozen, “like the way Dante froze when, overcome with nerves, he saw Beatrice in the road.”
“If I ended up a sculptor, I’d make a fountain of Ophelia bleeding from the wrists. . . . But I am not a sculptor, I am a sculpture.”
As with all surrealism, the flights of fancy are typically erotic. In one particular of her iterations, she is the model in Courbet’s “The Origin of the Earth” — “a portray of a girl lying down, her legs splayed, her vagina, covered by hair, open. In London’s Covent Garden, I painted my genitals in oil . . . and set up a gilded frame showcasing my decreased 50 percent. When a coin was thrown into my hat, I crossed and then uncrossed my legs in acknowledgement.”
Surrealism is also characterized by humor, which the creator employs. Albert, the director of the performances, who has an aversion to McDonald’s Joyful Meals and a love of Tolstoy, says “All Delighted Foods resemble a person a further, just about every sad food is unhappy in its possess way.” Pink Lobster, Burger King, and “a four-star cafe with very good Yelp evaluations” all have cameos, together with Raphael’s product La fornarina.
It is Robert Hughes on pace. “Stone nudes litter the parks, and their vaginas and penises do not shock mainly because they had been sculpted extensive ago, and their topics are extensive lifeless, and by their fatalities their vulgarity has been transmuted into beauty.” States Albert: “We are recollections in advance of they are remembered.”
The pithy brilliance pours out like drinking water from one particular of the sculptural fountains that are described. “What do men and women appear for in artwork, just after all, but an echo of themselves, some experience of recognition and with that consolation?”
“We method empathy by the mirroring of facial expressions.”
“Persons who’ve had Botox demonstrate a diminished capability for empathy.”
“An item unobserved is like an event that has not occurred. . . . Like Schrodinger’s Cat, alive and lifeless at the identical time. . . .”
“Medusa’s Backyard,” this to start with piece in the selection, is a seamless masterpiece. Ms. Smyles is an “associationist,” a Dr. Johnson of creative conception. “Melancholy is the contentment of currently being unhappy,” she claims, quoting Victor Hugo, in her “Pricey Reader.”
“Contemporary Grammar” employs a child’s scrawl of diagrammed sentences in which “the silence of heartbreak is deafening.”
“Older people overlook that novelty is not in fact novel for little ones, considering that every little thing to them is presently relentlessly new” is the premise on which “The Two Jacobs, With an Introduction by a Third” commences. Together the way, a single of the Jacobs who likes to be identified as Jake satisfies Iris (the author’s alter moi), who informs him she has go through Chekhov’s “The Woman With the Canine” as element of a literature-in-translation undertaking in which she options to translate “all of the French Symbolists into Pig Latin.”
In “Beautiful Bachelor,” the narrator goals she is “an aspiring dental hygienist from North Dakota on a Tv demonstrate that includes twenty-5 surrealists. . . .” In “Veterans of Future Wars,” the zany locution “So your fallback strategy is to be a celeb. Makes feeling” and “Beginner actors are like volunteer firemen, apart from instead of conserving your existence, for a number of hours they ruin it” develop into premises.
“My Ex-Boyfriend” commences Arcimboldo-like, “I beloved a man who rather of a deal with, had a wheel of cheese, and alternatively of a wheel of cheese, experienced a tuba. . . .” In the conclusion, the face “experienced a cracker, which he ate.”
Is it automated composing or autofiction? In “My Ex-Boyfriend,” Peter Feinstein, who “5 many years ago . . . had not created a poem in about ninety times,” has conversations with his unconscious when he comes residence from do the job whilst conjuring an picture of Freud seeking down on him from a “spot on the ceiling.”
“A Fortune of Cookies” has this adage: “Just one working day you will speak to your favorite Chinese restaurant and talk to them what they want.” One more story, “The Autobiography of Gertrude Stein,” has tiny to with either Alice B. Toklas or Gertrude Stein. The quotation is just there as the beginning level for a riff that involves a canine named right after Stein’s brother Leo.
Ms. Smyles is promiscuous and protean and her personalities proliferate cellularly. The labile character of id is itself the lingua franca of her design and style. The prose reels on like a automobile out of handle. Pronouns are a supply of controversy.
In “Philip and Penelope in a Wide range of Tenses,” Penelope is quoted by her lover as expressing: “[You] [are] having issues inhabiting a feeling of I with regard to [me] proper now.”
In “Aboard the Shehrazad,” Ms. Smyles anticipates the reception to her individual reserve when a single of her figures, Jacob Blau, who has just eaten the closing chapter of “The Magic Mountain” at an stylish ship’s meal, provides a neologism. “I am fearful I blurbed. Occasionally when I have gas, my entire body involuntarily expels it in shorter bursts of favorable e book-jacket copy.”
Somewhere else, “Alex shrugged and commenced detailing his pre-Copernican perspective toward weather, how he believed it revolved all over him.” “Our secrets and techniques and rites are so very well concealed that even our personal users do not know that they are customers, though some suspect.” “The guide opens with the discovery that God is useless, and the plot follows Guy as he lookups for the killer. . . .”
A translation of Mallarme’s “The Azure” into Pig Latin, “Ethay everlastingway Azureway’say anquiltray ironyway” (“The eternal Azure’s tranquil irony”), epitomizes Ms. Smyles’s delightful silliness. She is alternately outstanding and maddening. She basks in originality right up until it manages to develop into predictable. Don’t forget Billie Whitelaw’s mouth in Beckett’s “Not I”?
Francis Levy’s “The Wormhole Society” will quickly be launched as the two a reserve and a graphic novel. A trailer for the animated version of his novel “Erotomania: A Romance” can be discovered on YouTube by hunting for “Francis Levy Erotomania.” He life part time in Wainscott.
Iris Smyles is the creator of “Iris Has Free Time” and “Relationship Ideas for the Unemployed.” She lives in East Hampton. “Droll Tales” will be out on June 21.