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163 Book Notes “me.” The result is that language itself becomes the agent of intimacy. As such, language is the tenuous link that holds the characters together and prevents their story (such as it is) from evaporating into the fumes of the apocalyptic. The testimony of the poem holds memory in place when the very world threatens to dissolve: “To write alone for nothing and no one, here is what’s left.” Undoubtedly, the psychological and philosophical landscape that the Secret of Breath explores is unsettling. What this poem propounds, however, is not ultimately despair or resignation. If the book concludes with the assertion that “to some extent all death has already started,” it also suggests by its very title that there is a secret to be plumbed. This, Howald hints, is a “recognition ,” the “friction” that moves air in and out of the lungs, the chafing of breath as it frustrates oblivion. Picture Palace, by Stephanie Young ingirumimusnocteetcomsumimurigni, 2008 reviewed by Craig Santos Perez Stephanie Young’s Picture Palace begins with an epigraph from Bachelard: “We are unable to relive duration that has been destroyed .” The first line of the book reads: “And yet it has not been”—as if to say that duration has not yet been destroyed but still lingers in memory. Picture Palace is about “duration”— how time approaches, passes, and haunts—and how we try to “relive” time, even though we are ultimately unable, through memory and written, filmic, or imagistic recordings. Young writes: I set out to write a memoir. A plot of ordinary relation, and at each corner, a church. Protestant, evangelical, 1980s. One church is a building on Wadsworth Ave. Another is a radio station, and one opens onto a series of schools (elementary, secondary, higher). One is a governing body, and one is a think tank. One is Colorado. One colorado review 164 is a marriage, itself having taken place inside another church. The church occupies and marks every plot point so much so that even Colorado becomes imagined as a church. Within this frame, the she-child “couldn’t see a thing. Couldn’t see the lines connecting one corner to another.” This expresses the desire for and difficulty of memoir; it can’t be perfectly “spelunked.” Despite this, Young presses: “Nevertheless the attempt seemed useful. So I bashed it with a stick (keyboard). I couldn’t see what I was doing any better than I could see what I was running into.” This bashing accounts for the first half of Picture Palace, which is composed of four pieces that interlace poetry and prose. The first, “The Image Record,” paratactically captures voices, texts, thoughts, images, and moments: I’m pretty much covered in putty in that picture it’s time again, friends for little pink umbrellas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I could skate away on this near-dearth of information The “near-dearth of information” reflects the near-dearth of memoiristic narrative throughout the book. While we could skate away from meaning, what keeps my attention is the unpredictability of what the poet runs into: take, eat this is my body “broken for you” with the pastry fork with the violence of plows with pastry with slander 165 Book Notes with theft with false testimony with lust We can imagine the body broken for us as the text itself—as narrative. In writing memory, then, Young is “prone to go multitude .” This multitude is explored in “Chapters First through Third.” Each vignette is sequentially titled “1.2,” “1.3,” “1.4,” etc.—invoking biblical chapter and verse. The writing itself, however, isn’t exactly gospel: My Baptist finger picks my Baptist nose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I remember being happy all the time in the future of limited possibilities. I say I hate you. The fluid rushing into my spine snaps me back into the heroic pursuit of literature. A haughty voice discusses the film rights to my highly unusual childhood. Perhaps an unusual childhood demands an unusual form of writing. If so, Young succeeds in creating a memoir that is more than simply a plot of ordinary relation; indeed, the “memoir” in this memoir is always moving through a range of subjects, forms, syntaxes, and tones. In...


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pp. 163-167
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