John Madera: The Last Book I Loved, Fog & Car


picture-48I have a problem with fidelity. But don’t call me a book slut as I prefer the term “promiscuous bibliophile.” When so many seductive stories vie for my attention, how can I settle for just one? Wasn’t it like a month ago when The Thing around Your Neck glistened from that nebulous place, that soft urgent place, silently saying, pick me, pick me, I’m the one. When I brought it closer it told stories with machine-crafted sentences and struggled to bring me to climax. They had all the right arcs and necessary dips turns and twists but were ultimately stories I’d heard before and again and then some. While undeniably proficient and accomplished, its flirtation failed and, what’s worse, left me yearning for something else, some “otherwordly” sound to fill my ears. When Love and Obstacles knocked I was certain that its glistening wordplay and anarchic flair would quickly seduce me. But sparkling flights of language without much to anchor them is like frosting without the cake. And while a spoonful of sweet is a delight, I found its spatula-sized smears too much. After facing this obstacle to love I began my affair with Waste. It was sordid. It was creepy. It was dirty. I still feel soiled. But no regrets here. It was love, true love, so it was easy to surrender to it. My heart has a special stain now. Although my affair with Waste ended as soon as I’d met Fog & Car I still thought of it (flashes of its chiseled face came to mind even in the midst of courting). I didn’t dare admit this to Fog & Car, although I suspected it wouldn’t have minded. It was love at first read. And yes, it’s filled with sad stories, but I’ve always been a sucker for them. It’s built from sentences like bark-stripped branches, like beached bleached shells. Though I never bothered, I suspect that much of its lines would scan like blank verse. And blank is an appropriate word as it’s the vacant spaces where its eye ear and heart travels. Its surgical handling of prickly emotions, its soulful examination of people falling apart, its meditation on how love is a kaleidoscope—which is just another way of saying love is a mosaic of broken glass—its use of white space as a metaphor for loneliness, and its digressive, interruptive, and seemingly discontinuous plot elements paradoxically harmonize rather than drift into a heady kind of formlessness. Fog & Car pricked me like Norwegian Wood. It’s the last book I loved, but The Other City has been leaving me cryptic notes, A.M./P.M. has been calling me for weeks, and Fugue State has been hiding in dark corners waiting to creep me out. And did you see the way Light Boxes looked at me? Shameless.

John Madera is published widely, and his work has recently appeared in Conjunctions, The Believer, Opium Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, and The Review of Contemporary Fiction. More from this author →