In Memory Wax a husband's unfaithfulness unleashes the quasi-mythic violence of his wife's bloodiest imaginings. Somewhere between her thoughts and her deeds the reader stands witness to the knowledge that doing justice to one's own experience entails the most grotesque transfigurations. Delta Tells, the eloquent protagonist of Singer's novel, testifies to this belief in a riveting succession of scenes which pit her against the intimidations of an intractable physical world: the sexual indifference of her husband, the physical jealousness and recalcitrant organs of the women to who she ministers as midwife, the gravity of her own troubled motherhood, and the authorities who suspect her of committing an unimaginable crime against Nature. Delta's telling of this crime is meant to be the unraveling of anyone who might believe it. And so the husband's desperation to test the truthfulness of his wife's vengeful tale beings to loom as a portentous question about how we gauge the limits of our experience—sexual, intellectual, emotional—or whether any such limits apply.
Written in a baroque prose that animates the most visceral knowledge of psychological extremis, Memory Wax is that rare thing, a philosophical novel sustained by sensuous excitements. It invites comparison with the novels of James and Faulkner. But no comparison can capture the quality of a reading experience which in the end challenges the reader's own security about the dangerous line dividing the body from the mind, the body from the book.
"Singer substitutes structure for plot and an intensely charged language for the convention of character, [yet] retains all of the mystery and psychological depth of the novels in the great tradition." —San Francisco Weekly Reader
"An arresting convolution of
strange rhythms…Alan Singer's prose has a…cadence and originality,
as though he were writing in a tongue he had just invented." —James Purdy
"…extraordinary…a continual exhibition of linguistic and technical pyrotechnics…a vision reminiscent of John Hawkes and Faulkner before him…hard work on the reader's part, which will pay him or her back with a wide, wondrous wealth." —Lance Olsen, American Book Review
"Shall I be the regurgitation of the meal you cannot stomach, husband of my life?
"Once the servant of your banquet, let me now be the ticklish feather at the bottom of your clenched throat. If, when you are gathered into the arms of strenuous convulsions, you do not feel the violet hear of my embrace, then I have failed my sacred vow.
"Or can I draw the tide of your sickness with the lunacy of your good faith in me, knowing as I do that my words, empty footprints of my deeds, will soon be watered with your tears? They will leave a bright trail that is also the reflection of your downcast eye, wet as glass, malleable as wax.
"Rather, let me pick your teeth of the crime.
"I scratch a scent off your breath. I breathe it back to you. It is as thick as brushed hair. I scrape a fingernail off your tongue. For you, it is the bubble that has burst and left its effervescent tingle at the back of your throat. A flew of blue iris sticks in the corner of your mouth like your own saliva. I hear the ache of your cracked tooth, the bone that is already crushed against your palate.
"Open your mouth to the fullest and I will name the colors painted with your appetite: pink of the fingertip poking your expanded waist. White of the eye in which your fright is congealed like a single roe from the chilly plate. Pale flush of the nose that is thrust against your larynx where you catch your breath. Yellow of the hairs that are stretched the unswallowable length of your throat. Pulling towards darkness, they are tuned against your feeble cough. These undying notes of sadness you have plucked with your own greedy fingers.
"Pink, white, pale flush, yellow and finally, red of the bellowing mouth that shivers your esophagus with the sound of the baby's last tantrum. If you could open your livid mouth any wider, the whole shape of the infant head might disgorge with eyes, nose, hair, mouth, all the perfect likenesses of your sated self, so that you could see what you have done.
"You have eaten your own."