Third Place Books welcomes Janice Lee, novelist and founder of Entropy magazine, and Jennifer Calkins, writer and attorney, for a reading of their latest books, Imagine A Death: A Novel and Fugitive Assemblage, a "lyric noir."
A depiction of the cycles of abuse and trauma in a prolonged end-time, Imagine a Death examines the ways in which our pasts envelop us, the ways in which we justify horrible things in the name of survival, all of the horrible and beautiful things we are capable of when we are hurt and broken, and the animal (and plant) companions that ground us.
In the face of a slow but impending apocalypse, what binds three seemingly divergent lives (a writer, a photographer, an old man), isn’t the commonality of a perceived future death, but the layered and complex fabric of how loss, abuse, trauma, and death have shaped their pasts, and how these pasts continue to haunt their present moments, a moment in which time seems to be running out. The writer, traumatized by the violent death of her mother when she was a child, lives alone with her dog and struggles to finish her book. The photographer, stunted by the death of his grandmother and caretaker, struggles to take a single picture and enters into a complicated relationship with the writer. The old man, facing his past in small doses, spends his time watching television and reorganizing the objects in his apartment to stay distracted from the deterioration around him. A depiction of the cycles of abuse and trauma in a prolonged end-time, Imagine a Death examines the ways in which our pasts envelop us, the ways in which we justify horrible things in the name of survival, all of the horrible and beautiful things we are capable of when we are hurt and broken, and the animal (and plant) companions that ground us.
“In Janice Lee’s newest work, Imagine a Death, her methodical, dedicated attention illuminates the otherwise impenetrable depths of grief. She invites us to bear witness to The Writer, The Photographer, and The Old Man—each having survived the death of a beloved—as they engage in pathetic but ultimately deeply resonant efforts to shape to their lives. We can recognize a bit of our collective (and increasingly daily) realities in the miasma of their city, plagued by ongoing, impending ecological disasters and regular, arbitrary violences. Through a panoply of animal interpellators, Lee invokes a world that is audaciously savage and catastrophically familiar, and offers an astonishing take on the saga—sung in a Beckettian key. To truly imagine a death requires attending to how we persist after.”
—Juliette Lee, author of Aerial Concave Without Cloud
Fiction. Poetry. California Interest. It's California in 1983. A woman pulls an IV out of her arm, walks out of the hospital and starts driving north. She is bleeding and nauseous. There is something in the trunk of her Datsun and it's rotting. Fugitive Assemblage is lyric noir pieced together from remnant words and the blind turns of Highway 1. This haunted and haunting novel renders sensation through images and evokes grief in a dis/harmony of ghostly voices conjured from geology texts, poetry, family history, personal trauma and from women's diaries of the westward journey.
"Fugitive Assemblage is mysterious, restless, searching, flat out beautiful, and finally, heartbreaking. I don’t think I’ve ever read grief in a way that feels so true. And then there is just this absolute pleasure in the language, the atmosphere, the constant move forward through the Southern California landscape and through history. Joan Didion meets Bhanu Kapil meets the films of Kelly Reichardt. It’s like a long, hot day that turns into a harrowing night, and yet at the end, somehow, there is a sense of peace."
—Amina Cain, author of Indelicacy
Janice Lee (she/her) is a Korean-American writer, editor, teacher, and shamanic healer. She is the author of 7 books of fiction, creative nonfiction & poetry, most recently: The Sky Isn’t Blue (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016), Imagine a Death (Texas Review Press, 2021), and Separation Anxiety (CLASH Books, 2022). She writes about interspecies communication, plants & personhood, the filmic long take, slowness, the apocalypse, architectural spaces, inherited trauma, and the concept of han in Korean culture, and asks the question, how do we hold space open while maintaining intimacy? She is Founder & Executive Editor of Entropy, Co-Founder of The Accomplices LLC, and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Portland State University.
Jennifer Calkins is a writer, attorney and evolutionary biologist. She is the author of Fugitive Assemblage (The 3rd Thing, 2020), A Story of Witchery (Les Figues Press) and the chapbook Devil Card (Beard of Bees Press). Between 2010 and 2015 she produced The Quail Diaries, an interdisciplinary project melding science and lyric essay. Other recent creative works have been published in The Offing, Snail Trail Press, The Fanzine, Entropy, Queen Mob’s Teahouse and Quarterly West. She lives in Seattle with humans and other creatures.
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