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Alma, or The Dead Women Paperback – September 15, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The prolific Notley's newest book, following this year's career-spanning selected poems, Grave of Light, is a surreal, genre-bending novel written in verse and prose poems, or an epic narrative poem written mostly in prose. Divided into six section, each of which comprises many individually titled short pieces, the book follows Alma, a contemporary American goddess afflicted with a "fatal disease... called... pain perhaps," who is also a junkie (she shoots up through her forehead) and at times takes the form of an owl. She hangs out with, and sometimes is one of, "the dead women," a cast of undead feminists. Over the course of this difficult, lyrical narrative, Notley responds to 9/11, the Bush administration ("we pronounce Bush Cheney Rumsfeld Ashcroft Rice et al dead") and the war in Iraq. Notley's prose pieces (which often turn into verse midway) can be extremely dense, making this a slow read. Nonetheless, her writing is rife with crystal-clear moments: "what does the earth want me to sing/ to it?" Notley's impossible-to-categorize book-length work portrays the confusion, angst and sadness of our troubled times. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Granary Books (September 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1887123725
  • ISBN-13: 978-1887123723
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 7.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,167,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Magie on December 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a very remarkable piece of work by Alice Notley, in a way the culmination of the project of rebellion and defiance and liberation in and through her poems on which she embarked some years ago -- although her war against the traditions of male dominance and of the imperialistic logos is not one that can ever be exactly won, at least not out in the world those traditions formed. Still, a book -- or a poem, since it's really all of a piece through its nearly 350 pages -- that begins and for many pages persists with rage and utter hostility to the merely real world that surrounds it, screaming at that world, defying it heatedly, gradually modulates into something resembling a calm inner triumph, the fitful yet ultimately assured arrival at what she calls a new species free of the emprisonment of being: "we are ghosts many of us the dead women but we have all become the new species without essence and therefore definition". And despite the intense hostility toward men that dominates the first half, eventually Notley finds a way of making an opening for men, or some of us: "the men and boys who come with us are full of our emptiness" -- a slightly sardonic generosity marked by that fine paradox of being full of emptiness.

Readers who have not encountered Notley's work before, or have not engaged with her recent books, should be warned that this book requires patience in the reading, and an openness to connections and sequences of movements that do not add up to a plot and do not declare themselves, but are only gradually, sometimes chaotically disclosed. If you are patient, however, you can expect to arrive at great pleasure and satisfaction as the book completes its trajectory.
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