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Dahlia's Iris: Secret Autobiography and Fiction

Dahlia's Iris:
Secret Autobiography and Fiction

by Leslie Scalapino

Price: $13.95


Is it a detective novel? A metaphysical tract? A social statement? A free-flowing tributary of the Stream of Consciousness? Which players form the backbone? And what of the boys? And the boxes? Dahlia's Iris: Secret Autobiography and Fiction is a novel whose protagonists are detectives investigating the death of Dahlia Winter's husband and the mysterious deaths of boys who are imported for labor in a future-time San Francisco. Citing the plots of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Terminator 2, and Blade Runner, the novel appears at first to be a detail of these films all at once, like a colonization of them from the inside. But immediately the plot of Dahlia's Iris assumes its own life. Based on a conception of the Tibetan written form called Secret Autobiography, the novel makes a time-space in which sensation, actions, and thought-memory are occurring alongside our present-day space. Madness or genius? Maybe both.


"Leslie Scalapino's writing reveals how far language-and therefore thought itself-can go beyond what we are accustomed to, and the forms in which she writes delightfully defy our expectations. Yet her work is infused with a seriousness, a passion, a timeliness, and an intelligence with which we profoundly identify. A new book by Leslie Scalapino is-always!-cause for celebration. "—Lydia Davis

"Dahlia's Iris is a one-of-a-kind work of genius and daring. It exists in a celestial sphere of its own making like a comet that only exists by shattering the invisible warps that are in its path."—Fanny Howe



Pete Debree, a partner at Inventions, is on the white field - they're seated in his office - but in the mown white or the high orange-rust flicking in the changing sky that's white shining, he's quick, alert. Yet, however keenly intelligent, affected. He has a lazy soul if there were souls, Grace apprehends - in Medieval Christian theology, a person described as committing sloth, suffering which impeding the will the person cannot rise to receive, is not receptive of, the grace of God; a form of that being the man's cynicism, corrosive laughing at one devoted - as if in that ploy of sloth he, dropping the apple of discord (or a ball in a game), doesn't have to do anything in it again in speaking to whomever stopping to pick up the apple (although it's dropped in conversation which Pete Debree seeks, enjoys), the devoted one is left (behind, having stooped to reach it) with it as a possibility or trap, anyway condition that may determine them (causal, or make them determined). He waits withdrawn watching them in their action - and not seeing the field, that one to grind in it the visible powdery white grass blown on the top of the high waves of grass flicking in color where one will be, he knows (meaning accepts).

So that's the mysterious thing. Accept the white field. Does he really comprehend? Yet he plays, there's this space open, stillness, though always with his background activity (that is worldly power) which he uses - mean finally, though playful and alert. She likes him. Or does she like him - it's not really expressed like that.

The expression doesn't mean anything - certainly not to him. Probably. And this is only an instant (of their first conversation).

He says that her way of seeing (personal, not what she's said or asked him) is insane (hers "is a state of insanity" - one being in a state of insanity embarking into or being in how she sees or the place seen/ 'imagined' by her). She doesn't answer that or speak. He's slipped that in (not related to the reason she's there). But she has the feeling he doesn't really think that, a ploy playful - but that he means it 'deeply,' systemic. So though one is to stoop to pick it up and gaze at it and be swept past - actually one perceives in him an alternate condition in which perception and all seeing is turned facing something else, other than one's view (seeing the two which can't exist at the same time).

The invading force, eating food killed at such an imperceptive level of cruelty (not noticed by them, the conquerors) that even their habits, their habits of eating disgust those conquered - who are turned anyway facing the white mown field, that it is there always. Whereas the commercial military, who'd mowed them down imprisoning and killing, are having the intent (the goal is) that one live a long time, have sumptuous food. Have commercial pleasure. Which to these others is impediment, is terror that is sloth of being inured (in attending wrongly, having no will to seek).

Yes, Detective Grace Abe concurs politely, but what kind of information does Inventions sell, what were the present jobs Jonah Winter was undertaking - with whom did he come in contact?

Pete Debree, enjoying her company, and presenting to her a portrait of their internet realms, swivels in his chair, lively slouched dainty hawk lighting here and there on the internet demonstrating access to distribution of mining machinery in Brazil, or in China, machinery for dam projects...So it's machinery? asks Grace. Well, yes but that's only one, we're coordinating many acquisitions and transfers of products...They're interrupted by a grey-whitened short man who enters without knocking pausing when he sees Grace with the manner of an old owl white soft creases everywhere like he's tiny rumpled or puffed feathers, she thinks.

The name is being emitted from his mouth (before he pauses), E (he refers to Pete Debree as Pete E), and his mouth and teeth seem to Grace to be the same tiny creases or white feathers as the rest of him, but with a pink opening which now hesitates irritated.

Phil, this is Detective Grace Abe. Detective Abe, this is Phil Wilson, our third partner. Pete E says, the lively dainty hawk's charm (someone who loves food and wine, but also plays a sport, tennis). She's here to investigate Jonah's terrible accident.