A Beach In Maine

by Suzanne Jacob
53 pages,
ISBN: 0920717772

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Brief Reviews
by David Homel

ONTHE FIRST page of Suzanne Jacob`s A Beachin Maine (Guernica, 53 pages, $ 10 paper), translated by Susanna Finnell, anexceedingly handsome young man confides his problem to us: he is simply toohandsome. He feels desperately visible, and to relieve that anguish, he turnsto compulsive stealing. How does kleptomania work to lessen the pain of beingtoo beautiful? The author doesn`t tell us. This ambiguity is one of the many thatrun through this small book by one of Quebec`s long-time avant-gardists. Jacobgoes for atmosphere, and the wellaged theme of the double. This young man`sdouble is his sister, and when their mother dies, they get into theirinheritance (a red Plymouth) and drive to a beach in Maine. There, in a hotelchosen for their retreat, they reminisce about their past lives, whileabsorbing generous amounts of sake. This is a classic situation in muchrecent fiction: after a trauma (the mother`s death), the characters go intoretreat to attempt to understand their past. Yet in Jacob`s writing, there isno worm at the heart of the apple -that would be too conventional - only washesof meaning that cover the page. The handsome young man steals a chain from achild; the parents then insist that he keep the jewelry~ The hotel managerobjects to the conduct of this odd brother-sister couple. But in general, theresult is vintage Jacob: dreamlike, impressionistic, and quite effective in itsclaustrophobic atmosphere. Much has been said about translationbeing a transparent channel through which the original passes. Finnell`stranslation is more like a bugsmeared windshield, in which the characters"harbour reproaches," "impose" cups on one another, andcommit other such indignities against the English language.

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