Roxanne Carter is bedecked with an MFA from Brown and a PhD from the University of Denver, but the reason I invoke these qualifications is because it is she who brings the dazzle to what she touches. Her words are their own rhythm. When she starts she does not stop. When she stops you can hear her breath from wherever you are, even if you have put the book down, even if you are holding the book to your chest and your ears are busy with the fury of your own pumping blood.
The book that deserves your breath, blood and embrace is Glamorous Freak, out now from Jaded Ibis Press in a lavish color edition replete with photographs all by and of Carter. Those photographs, one to a chapter are a sensuous trap lain to make you feel as if you have completed the cycle. The book itself is divided into three parts: “Beauty is Quite Strange,” “Film Studies,” and “How to Make a Mermaid Tail so You Can Wear it Around the House.” The first meditates on longing, watching, wishing, and the second on the object of longing – that is, cinematic scenes, ensconced in the gaze as if in amber – and the articulation of what it is one wants, and the last on how, in the context of that beauty, the real, mundane and domestic is dramatized.
If the prose has a form its form is the gasp. This is a masterpiece of the gasp and the sidelong glance, the extinguished wish that rolls along, still burning despite your dismissal to smolder the hem of a skirt.
He says Now, menacing. Now now now, a long way to go. Now somebody is sending me roses! He doesn’t need to be marked by beauty. I really like him. I stood on my toes, the better to see him above the bodies all gathered at the foot of the stage. Never let him out of my sight.
He’s so small I could’ve easily slipped him in my pocket and snuck him upstairs. His favorite way: alone. To be alone, slipping easily in and out. To please my mother I might have introduced him if I hadn’t wanted him all to myself. Little Lord Fauntleroy on a Japanese motorbike. I’m the one with the eyes. With the yes. I’d call in late. We could have worn each other’s clothes, although his high heels probably won’t fit me. If only I wasn’t so tall, so awkward, so hard to recognize among all these other girls. Whom I happen to resemble.
All the looking and seeing and frustration with words might look to the photographs for a sense of cohesion, for a secret key, placating the coruscating whispers, but they entice in an all together different way. Perhaps this is one for the perceptive readers but I feel knowing Carter took all the photographs in addition to starring in them, removing herself from the gaze, thus, the photos I feel radiate self-interrogation, frustration, of another but similarly ecstatic sort as the kind found in the text. This text of becoming is too good. Let it burn up in your hands.
Publisher: Jaded Ibis Press
[Feature image from Persephassa.]
Kari Larsen is an assistant editor of Anobium. Her chapbook, Say you’re a fiction, is forthcoming in the summer of 2012 from Dancing Girl Press. Updates on other publications can be found at Cold Rubies.