Bookshots: 'Mira Corpora' by Jeff Jackson
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Who Wrote It?:
Acclaimed playwright Jeff Jackson, who has had five plays produced by the Obie award winning theater company, Collapsible Giraffe.
Plot in a Box:
"A coming-of-age story for people who hate coming-of-age stories" about a young runaway and the gaps in his dream-like memory.
Invent a New Title For This Book:
Read This If You Like:
Dennis Cooper, recommendations by Don DeLillo, the publishing sensibilities of Two Dollar Radio, the writing of J.T. Leroy even though he was a fraud.
Meet the Book’s Lead:
Jeff Jackson, apparent authorial avatar who I hope is more fiction than fact, proud owner of one seriously fucked up childhood.
Said Lead Would Be Portrayed In a Movie By:
Any number of damaged, androgynous boys that populate independent queer cinema and The CW.
Setting: Would You Want to Live There?
An orphanage? A forest surrounding an abandoned amusement park? The alley behind a Chinese food restaurant? No thanks.
What was your favorite sentence?
At first I think I'm going blind, but then I realize there's nothing to fear. A veil is being lifted. I watch as the house transforms itself around me. The paint on the walls, the furrowed lines of my palms, the oracles huddled in the hallway with their twitching shoulder blades—everything is slowly becoming blank.
Provocative, dreamlike, and just a bit meta, Mira Corpora is an impressive debut. In the author's note Jackson claims the novel is based on journals he kept while growing up which, if even half true—god damn. The fact that he can string together enough words to form a coherent sentence is a miracle, yet he's managed to craft a uniquely compelling narrative. The prose here is haunting and elegant, but never intrusive. It reads like a bullet, a slow motion bullet time bullet, viewable from multiple angles, like in The Matrix.
The novel begins with the writing of the story, and drops us in media res at key points in Jackson's—the character Jeff Jackson's—harrowing childhood. And then each time it feels like we are building towards denouement, a solution, an answer, we are lifted from the story against our will and deposited, shaken and disoriented, somewhere else, forced to start over.
Yes, there are mysteries to be solved here, but that doesn't mean the novel lacks for straight-up storytelling. There is the orphan Jeff Jackson, who escapes to the forest to live amongst a society of teenage runaways. There is the homeless Jeff Jackson, living on the city streets, squatting in abandoned restaurants, trying to find an elusive punk frontman. There is also Jeff Jackson the slave, heavily medicated, body sold to the highest bidder. These fragments form a cohesive whole, that ends with the beginning, as well as the writing, erasing, and rewriting of the story. A story I imagine would be completely different every time I open the book.
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