Fiction Collective Two is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction.

La Medusa


La Medusa
by Vanessa Place

Quality Paper
2008
Price: $22.00

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La Medusa is a polyphonic novel of post-conceptual consciousness. At the heart of the whole floats Medusa, an androgynous central awareness that anchors the novel throughout. La Medusa is at once the city of Los Angeles, with its snaking freeways and serpentine shifts between reality and illusion, and a brain—a modern mind that is both expansive and penetrating in its obsessions and perceptions.

Vanessa Place’s characters—a trucker and his wife, a nine-year-old saxophonist, an ice cream vendor, a sex worker, and a corpse, among others—are borderless selves in a borderless city, a city impossible to contain. Her expert ventriloquism and explosive imagination anchor this epic narrative in language that is fierce and vibrant, a penetrating cross-section of contemporary Los Angeles and a cross-section of the modern mind.


"Is the brain all these little movies, one synapsing into the next? Or I mean is culture that? Who are all those people on the freeway next to me, or dying in the blink of an eye when I forget about them. Vanessa Place's La Medusa is a novel of a million (I am sure there is a more precise count) brilliant suggestions about the mind and time and us. What seems impossible is that she is pulling "it" off in this impressive tome that moves like traffic when you have gotten it impossibly incredibly light. No wrong moves here. We get home fast." —Eileen Myles


"Dazzling and daze-inducing, Vanessa Place dares to ask the dangerous question: What happened to Modernism? Why did what was ambitious, difficult, serious and experimental in Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Stein, and Beckett give way to a glittering string of infinite jests - high-wire acts, virtuosity, transcendental Camp? La Medusa returns to James Joyce's Ulysees to find the inspiration for an investigation into the nature of experience. Los Angeles takes the role of Dublin. The brain and its double cortex generate the stylistic intricacies that the organs and senses do in Joyce. And this is above all a Female Epic in which the swirling city-universe is explored and shaped by the petrifying eye and intellect of the wily Medusa, her coiling locks extending everywhere. "

—Michael Silverblatt, Bookworm, KCRW Public Radio


"La Medusa, Vanessa Place's monumental polyvalent, polyglot epic novel of Los Angeles in which the postmodern morphs into random-access postcontemporary, in which the device of the narrative text in film script form has replaced that of the epistolary novel, is like a shocking rock slide of polished stones of the first water, cut by master jeweler, faceted into ten thousand-and-one sides — and the whole spill run in relative slow motion with no drag, no yawns, all be-bop, hip-hop Now. And sardonic: it zaps, out Fante-ing Fante and out-Rechy-ing Rechy. Looked at metaphorically in terms of motion pictures, Medusa is an epic silent, as long as Von Stroheim's Greed and every bit as cumulatively powerful. But one thing is certain: no matter how good the picture may turn out to be, the book will definitely have been better." —James McCourt


Excerpt


INTRO


Doctor Casper Bowles eyes his mirror'd visor.

Feena checks her pink Barbie mirror

while Athalie her mother looks at her own hand.

Jorge can't see for shit 'cuz of the sun,

And the golden-bellied woman stands blind as a proverbial bat.

 Then there's me, flattened & weeping in one hundred and one windows.



..................................................................................................... tear here



Pineal Gland: Regulates circadian rhythm.

Meanwhile:


INT. MYLES P.'S SEMI - RTE. 40, OUTSIDE FLAGSTAFF, AZ - DAY


Myles P. scopes the rearview. On the outside of his truck


In the Pink


is written across the side of the giant pink semi in white cursive like soft-serve ice cream. The paint is seven layers pearled atop one another, hard-set and jewel-clean, sculpt thick as a man's little finger. The cab's interior is also pink, its puffy carnation-colored leather sewn in a diamond pattern, chocolate brown buttons dimpling each corner. The dash is pink touched with purple, as if evening had set in, the sky gone swollen and sad as the seat in which Myles P. sits.


Myles P. is driving. He and his wife Stella take turns driving 10-hour shifts because that's the legal limit for any one driver, because they want to get completely cross-country in 2.5 days, because Myles P. figures this is how long it'll take to return to their small stucco house off Magnolia Boulevard in Van Nuys, CA, from the Big 'N' Beautiful Rig contest, hosted this year in a clay arena outside Durham, Caroline, a vine-strewn state whose official flower might well be the magnolia. The small white bud.


He is alone now. Practically.


Myles P.'s wife Stella's sleeping in the waterbed in back, cradled beneath a sea-green throw with knotted white seams she knitted herself during their last cross-country haul, 10 tons of seedless watermelons, packed in regular wood crates that couldn't keep the melons from rolling and rubbing against one another; and Myles P. and his wife Stella laughed and ate Boston lobster, a two-pounder, each of them, they snapped the claws with nutcrackers, used the sweet meat to mop up pots of salted butter, businesslike as maids who'd spilt a churn. Myles P. eventually found it necessary to cut the butterfat with fistfuls of oyster crackers, popped like blistered peanuts into his cheeks, while Stella said the tail tasted just like honey, and did you know Tupelo has the best bees, and Myles P. felt like crying but didn't. Didn't even speak, just crunched his crackers, thankful for the salt curing his tongue.

Sometimes, while one drives, the other one lies awake, resting against a corduroy chairback, watching the 31" satellite-hi-resolution TV, screwed in alongside a full-length mirror, picture's not quite as perfect as plasma, but pretty damn near. The other may later shower and shave in their small shower stall, holding a bar of Dial in one hand while pressing a pale thin buttock or rubbery thigh against the white linoleum wall now flecked with red, for even this bad boy shimmies slightly and things get slippery when wet, like the signs say. When he's not driving, Myles P. likes to watch old shows, fish-out-of-waters, such as The Beverly Hillbillies, Hogan's Heros, or Gomer Pyle, USMC, or busheled lights like Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie, scenes he's seen a hundred times, which're always on, wherever forever he happens to be. "They keep me regular," he'd ho-ho, for the world, Myles P. reckons, is sufficiently pit-full of peril and riddled with fate, so he applauds the constancy of characters who spend generations ducking change and its dangers. His wife Stella, on the other hand, can't get enough of telenovelas such as Tres Mujeres, or Three Mothers, though she does not speak a word of Espa?ol save that which everyone speaks.