Renee Gladman
Berkeley: Kelsey St. Press, 2001

There is an unsettling drowsiness-reminiscent of water bugs and their skitterish movement-about Renee Gladman's latest book, Juice. The simple, poetic language and the enigmatic stories take the reader beneath the water's surface to question the individual's isolation within the collective, a society's relationship to the past, and existence itself. Each piece has a sense of both temporal and spatial displacement, which is reinforced by the prose. The disorienting leaps that disconnect one sentence from the next keep the reader engaged with their humor and sorrow simultaneously, "When my friends came by-they like to suddenly show up with all kinds of bread in their hands, thinking they knew what I needed and planning to force it on me-I had to tell them I was busy with my juice. Two weeks before the crisis, I had been writing some poems about it." The four stories are dreamlike in their telling, impermanent and illogical, and as a result the language and the narrative become destabilizing. This destabilizat
ion challenges the reader to become more actively involved in the reading process at both an intellectual and emotional level. The links and repetitions that loop through each piece and through the book as a whole create a framework for diving into understanding.

Gladman's prose is laden with ambiguity and contradictions of logic, causing us to question the narrator's validity and in a way existence itself,"But then, where is my sister? And if this woman is the directionalist whom everyone knows about, who is my sister?", when the narrator goes to find her sister, who has a show at the Modern Museum. Gladman subverts the paradigms of logic, "In a world where a person's tastes revolve around the kind of sleep she gets, I could not find four people who cared. I thought that if I could find those four people we could really do something." She has set up a completely illogical if/then relationship. This quirky, intelligent humor with its undertone of desperation runs through the whole book.

Juice is fertile with meanings and insights. Each story presents a poetic outlook on life through a vivid, unique perception of the world. The random, sometimes silly, quality of the stories deals poignantly with absence and change, isolation and belonging. Gladman has the ability to heighten an inconvenience to a calamity that resonates with challenge and introspection, which makes for an incredible read.

--Nikki Thompson