by Julie Reverb
Calamari Press, 2015
113 pages, $13.00
Reviewed by Gabino Iglesias
Julie Reverb’s No Moon is my sixth or seventh Calamari Press title, and the one I feel best embodies the press’ vision and aesthetic. At once a noir-esque exploration of longing and psychological/emotional grime and a celebration of language delivered in bursts of prose that feel like poetry, No Moon offers readers a bizarre narrative in which the most important elements of cohesion are surprise and verbal acrobatics. This is a book in which many individual passages act like tiny art/performance pieces that add up to something bigger than the sum of them.
No Moon is a single narrative in the sense that themes, spaces, and characters (Lucy and Bily) pop up repeatedly, but it can be better described a collection of vignettes that explore the darkest corners of the places where Britain’s underground clashes with suburbia. This is a book about being down and dealing with it, memories, and everyday life filtered through nihilism-tinged poetry. It’s also a hypersexual trip with borderline surreal touches and passages that seem to push the boundaries of acceptable connections and thought processes:
“The screen is on its last legs; the sound phoned in. The scene is played out as it plays out as Lucy lurches in front and pulls her g-string to the side. Her dance is dead, crab-legged. She’s lamb-pale behind a satin slip. The screen is at least house–maybe wale-sized. A whale’s eye is the size of a fist, or maybe a dustbin lid. Whales have long lashes, longer than cows. Pause here and picture their coy winks across deaf seas.”
Literary fiction has often been compared to jazz because, in some cases, there’s a special rhythm to it that allows authors to play around with “melody” within the same work, not to mention the musicality of the words. No Moon is one of those texts. Reverb has a knack for mixing rhythms and speeds that make reading her work a pleasure. While some stories are like frenetic staccatos that demand to be read as if your eyes are punching the page, there are also page-long paragraphs that are reminiscent of Dave Foster Wallace if he’d had a thing for unfiltered darkness and wrote from a small apartment in London.
What is being said in each page of No Moon is sometimes overshadowed by the way it’s being said. Calamari Press publishes work that breaks away from standard storytelling and plays around with language, but Reverb’s mixture of very real grit, dreamlike imagery, and linguistic fireworks come together to rival the stories. Once literature abandons storytelling and becomes only about acrobatics, interest tends to flee in the opposite direction. Thankfully, Reverb knows this and always pulls the reader back down to the ground before the explosions of poetic language turn into everything and swallow the narrative. That being said, the best moments in this short books come from passages in which both things meet:
“Near-naked dead-end regret brought to life and pawed by eyeless packs of graffitied bus stops. This is what goes on in the suburbs after sundown. An ape chorus bends and howls guernincally at what will only get worse in comfortable footwear. Pushy parents fine-tooth the programme on the front row. Tact stands in the wings in pissy knickers knock-kneeing and mouthing missed cues. The cripples at the starting line are ready for their close-ups. The getaway car is long gone.”
No Moon is packed with emotional harshness, grief, longing, dirty streets, nakedness, and the odor of stale piss. However, it’s also pregnant with unexpected moments of humor and magical moments of eloquence that outweigh the uncomfortable moments. This novel is at once unlike anything else out there and something that fits perfectly well in the bizarre and outstanding catalog of books published by Calamari Press.