A decorated veteran of the short story craft, Jarman’s latest is as much travelogue, novel in hiding and prose poem as it is a collection of stand-alone stories. In fact, many of the stories do not stand alone. Rather, they lean on each other, interweave and inform each other, sharing a narrator, point of view, main characters and setting. A Canadian family man falls for another woman who then leaves him. To recover, he spends a summer in Rome where he has an affair as hot as his host city with a cousin.
Plot lovers beware. While that’s the gist of the story, you’ll find no chronological telling of events and therefore little in the way of narrative tension. Rather, there’s a slow unravelling of a whole tapestry as if all the threads were being pulled at once in an effort to see what the parts are made of.
Knife Party is as much a prose poem built of sensuous, sometimes abrupt images, impressions, contemplations, memory, questions, a constructed geographic and emotional landscape as it is a collection of stories.
At their best, these stories dig deep into lived experience and shift the reader’s perspective in surprising ways so we see characters made of whole cloth. At times, the narration is like a self-indulgent, unedited travel journal or the stories unravel into random threads we have no chance of reassembling. But, this is a book that’s much more about the sum of its parts than about the components of its construction. The overall impression is one of startling images, honest confessions, a contemporary world scarred by history and war, deftly wielded prose that dissects the workings and secrets of the heart.
Knife Party at the Hotel Europa
by Mark Anthony Jarman
$19.95, hardcover, 288 pp.
Goose Lane Editions, March 2015
Darcy Rhyno is a widely published writer of non-fiction writer Darcy Rhyno is the author of two collections of short fiction – Conductor of Waves and Holidays –available at www.darcyrhyno.com.