David Hadbawnik


Taylor Brady
Krupskaya Press
$9 / 165 pages / ISBN 1-928650-09-0

The climate of a very limited area, possibly even a small urban environment, dependent largely on extremely localized influences of site, soil, vegetation, etc.
The Penguin Dictionary of Geography, 6th Edition

On the acknowledgments page on the inside flap of Microclimates, Taylor Brady cites a long list of friends and poets whose conversation and encouragement contributed to the shape and substance of the experimental narrative contained within. Specifically named are young poets and fellow travelers among the San Francisco Bay Area new narrative scene. In long epistles, in endless conversations—one can almost hear them unwinding here, see the twitches and gestures that make up Brady's remarkably rhapsodic style—this writer has slowly, but prolifically, enlarged and radiated outwards from the poignant sweetness of his own origins.

And origins are really what Microclimates is about. There is a constant tension between the past—haunted with the quirks and blunders and ecstasies of a childhood spent in the strange glades of Florida, with its mini-malls, its lower- to middle-class values, its suburbs, and its lush landscapes—and the present, which is resolved by Brady's fervent desire to communicate that past to friends with all of its fragmented meanings, its pilings and protuberances, intact. He has invented a marvelous language to do so.

Arriving at home as usual despite these flights of fancy, I asked Auntie Terrible about the proper response to such a difficult situation, and received for my trouble a troubling story about the sandspurs she stuffed into her socks, a few more each day, until the gradual diminution of her capacity for social action reached its zero point, but with the conviction that this stasis represented retirement and expensive relaxation.

One more name that leaps out from the acknowledgments page is that of avant-garde jazz musician Anthony Braxton. But before getting to him, I'd like to point out a key name that is not given here, but that nevertheless overshadows this work, and is in turn overshadowed or modified by that of Braxton. That name is Marcel Proust. Brady, who once mentioned having read Proust prior to or while working on some of the material in this book, has used the work of Proust as a jumping-off point or a parallel text in ways that no other writer of this generation has dared to do. Brady re-visions the rich pungency of Proust's "memory novels" with one of his own, yet in his text, while sensations still provide much of the impetus for the long ruminations that burst out in a thousand directions, the aim is not conventional narrative or even a mere re-membering of memory itself.

Because, Brady writes, "The musics of Anthony Braxton proposed with joy and clarity some of the possibilities for the overlap of multiple formal and performative logics that the book hopes to explore..." And explore he does. Open the novel almost anywhere, and you're bound to come upon something perplexing in construction, ecstatic in tone, and engaging in its unique and curious logic:

'Insect, discount merchandise, dismembered flower,' she rattled on and on, building homes for mockingbirds out of these possible names for what was loose inside her head. Everything was always happening at the same time, so we saw each other dead as often as alive, leaves blown to ash off trees blown down like shingles blasted from test-range houses in high-speed film studies...

What's happening here seems to be a playing out of memory in real time, day time, current time. That is to say, Brady does not transport himself back to that hour, that day, that blade of grass in Florida which he describes herein; he transports all of these hours, these people, these expressions and blades of grass, up to the Now from which he writes. He performs a truly daring feat of alchemy in the process—one in which the current "I" with all of its intelligence and hauntedness interacts with an ever-changing past through the body of an awkward pubescent boy. It's not quite past, present, or future, but a whole new tense that Brady invents, and if properly understood might be an important new contribution to experimental narrative prose.

Along the way, his language, with its super-agile leaps of logic that contort ordinary sentences into paragraph-length expectorations, takes its cue no less from Braxton than Proust, and arrives at no less surprising or impressive conclusions. Below it all, the particular rhythm and style is Brady's own, and that's perhaps the most impressive part of all. Here is an intelligence and voice that replies confidently to those of these two giants, without ceding any originality to them.

And it sounds just gorgeous, like a nerdy Robert Duncan getting off on long words but taking care nevertheless to move intuitively from sound to sound, as in

'I think my family imagines the overripe fruits, gone soft almost to the point of putrefaction and still suggestively tumescent, that you mash so gleefully into my dull and unexpectant face, as props in a ritual too otherworldly to script as the simple practice of a man who comes to dinner and then leaves...'

Did I mention that it's often quite hilarious, too?

One caveat I have with this book is the structural hi-jinks that begins with the text-as-image insert prior to the very first page, reaches its apogee in a "missing section" between pages 62 and 74, and filters throughout the novel in extremely long footnotes and asides that remind one annoyingly of David Foster Wallace. Others will no doubt find this aspect of the book delightful, but to me it got in the way of the linear reading that I clung to, perhaps mistakenly. I felt that the structure of the narrative was challenging enough to the linear, non-discursive reading that is the bad habit of many a reader, myself included, without the additional MacGuffin of the missing pages and all the rest. Yet, it will require many more reviews to begin to explain the complexity of the revolutionary prose style that Brady unveils here in his compact, dense Microclimates.


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