A review of
by Danielle Dutton
Danielle Dutton’s S P R A W L reads as if Gertrude Stein channeled Alice B. Toklas writing an Arcades Project set in contemporary suburbia. Dutton’s unnamed housewife roams sidewalks and manicured lawns like one of Benjamin’s flaneurs, reminiscent of the contemporary urban walkers of Renee Gladman’s stories or Gail Scott’s My Paris. But this novel is like other works, and it is not—it is both unabashedly voracious in terms of literary sources and an extraordinarily original text.
While in her first book, the remarkable collection Attempts at a Life, Dutton lifted language from other literary works as collage, in S P R A W L other texts pop up as allusion or inspiration, in the names of books or characters. Sources include Gertrude Stein novels; Lyn Hejinian in “Two Stein Talks”; an article on “Tupperware: Suburbia, sociality and mass consumption”; Laura Riding in Anarchism Is Not Enough; Roland Barthes in “The World as Object”; and A Pictorial Encyclopedia of Modern Cake Decorating. As in Attempts at a Life, Dutton pays homage to female literary characters, particularly wives, from Woolf’s Clarissa D. to Emma and Alice B.
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