Monday, December 26, 2005

Jane: A Murder

I just finished reading the most amazing book of poems, Jane {a murder}, by Maggie Nelson. It's a 221 page poem sequence/documentary/nonfiction novel/memoir, in which Nelson explores the story of her aunt Jane, who was a law student at the University of Michigan in the 1960's, and who was murdered by a serial killer four years before the author was born (a case that was never completely solved, and left many lingering questions unanswered). The book is a pastiche of brief lyric poems, dreams, prose poems, quotes from Jane's diaries, interviews with Jane's boyfriend of the time and other friends and family members, and excerpts from newspaper articles. It's quite a mish-mash of genres, yet it all holds together beautifully and the narrative arc is simply riveting. I could not put it down (which is something to say for a book of poems of this length).

Here's an excerpt, from a poem that I think captures the sense of genre crossing from lyric to memoir to non-fiction documentary:

The Gap

does not appear to itself
chopped up in bits,

William James
once said.
It appears to itself as continuous.

But there can be
holes in time
the mind tries

to ignore, holes
that perforate
the felt of

the night sky.
An aching gap
James said, trying

to describe
the space made
by a lost word.

To fill it up
is the destiny
of our thoughts.

What transpired
for five and
a half hours

between Jane
and her murderer
is a gap so black

it could eat
an entire sun
without leaving

a trace. Listen
hard enough,
James said.

You can hear
the rhythm
of the ache.


the machinist said...

I heard her read from this a few months (maybe 6?) ago at New School. I was quite haunted then; I can't wait to check it out.

jenni said...

The idea of it is pretty intense. I'll check it out too. Thanks Peter!

megs said...

I just ordered it based on all the cross-genre-amazement. Thanks for the recommendation.

Collin said...

Sounds amazing. Will add to my "must purchase" list immediately. Thanks for the tip. :)