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.
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.
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.
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.