A woman writes by cutting words and animal pictures from newspapers and magazines. By joining the pictured with "the words for which they are longing," she makes balance out of chaos. Napoleon's Mare, thirteen chapters and a section of prose poems, is a diatribe, a discontinuous narrative - as much about writing as about the bewildering process of constructing a self. A woman performs her own cesarean. High school girls are erasing the skin on their hands. A commune goes to court for custody of a lesbian's child. These pieces of story are adhesive, pressing. The narrator's faith in the power of words to shape change is countermanded by the evidence of the damage words can cause - their separate existence apart from the best intentions. At the same time, it is their separate existence that entrances her.
"It happens rarely but it does happen and I call it 'a moment of grace' when you receive a text that courts you, seduces and calls you, imposes itself on you, keeps you reading - famished as you are for quality, strength, power, humor, poetry! - famished as you are for a REAL author, a mind and soul, a poet above all else."
—Anne-Marie Alonzo, Managing Editor, Editions Trois, Quebec
"Lou Robinson writes to make a 'self,' a daunting and beautiful project that makes her writing brim with mystery. In addition to generating this self (and body), her character, a woman making 'collages,' is also trying to make sense of her times. Implicit here is an ambitious and intelligent sense of humor. Napoleon's Mare, driven hard by the poetry of Ms. Robinson's sentences, rides through dreams, memoir, and sexual history to reach us. And it gets there." —Andrei Codrescu, author of Belligerence
"Passionately inventive, Napoleon's Mare subverts the chronological form of a memoir with the 'mak[ing] balance' of collage. This lateral writing is flush with the excessiveness of a woman's mode of telling, the wild energy of lesbian desire, the kaleidoscopic practice of a singular voice. 'You illustrate your passage ahead of you,' Lou Robinson writes, as she does it." —Daphne Marlatt, author of Ana Historic
"Napoleon's Mare is a narrative that pulls the reader into its eddy, into the thinking of its own highly principled terms. Full of light and darkness, it sets the mind - in an exquisite balance of pleasure and pain - spinning towards new horizons, figures. Lou Robinson is a writer to watch." —Gail Scott, author of Heroine,
Space Like Stairs, and Spare Parts
Machines, like the kabbala, were meant to ease the anguish of the brain, its straining after meaning, its hopeless love and abhorrence of harmony. Impatient with devices, alpha dream machines, writing machines, creating conditions just as easily arrived at by accident or hardship. I decided merely to concentrate on the impossible: moving objects at a distance. Without words or devices of any sort. I knew a man once who claimed to be kinetic, as in Caucasian or pecan, as an excuse for not being able to speak the truth. Women, he seemed to think, were exclusively verbal, it was up to them. Two things joined, two things joined against the laws of probability. Thus ended a series of experiments begun 1971. A long experiment in various houses by water. I knew a woman once who said, after we separated and were trying to be kind by phone, "I've had enough of this little experiment." The joy of moving objects at a distance, their wordless float. Once in a trailer in Athens, Ohio, I watched a woman wrap herself completely in tinfoil. Until their primitive versions of physics on any impressionable surface. Dust. Sugar. Skin. Frost. I knew a woman once in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who went to bed each night entirely encased in saran wrap. Crinkling, rustling, dull dry rounded thumps. He rolled her in a carpet, he said, so he could beat her without damage. Once I knew a woman who had a body cast from ankle to neck. Lived on cookies and wine from the corner store, as far as she could hobble. We made movies every night. We made them without cameras. Once I went through a box of clothes abandoned by her former lover and found a lace skirt with the lining cut out, and a leopardskin muff. Protection is lifted. Speed is trapped. Women are bound and gagged.