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Dra- (New American Fiction) Paperback – November 1, 2000

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Paperback, November 1, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Dra-, the incompletely named anti-heroine of this brilliant novel, is trying to get a job. She isn't sure what kind of job, or where, or what its purpose is, she only knows she must find one. Dra- wanders through the bleak, labyrinthine corridors of some great unnamed workplace getting unsolicited advice, which sounds more like seduction or therapy than career counseling, from characters with names such as Manager and Administrator and Nurse. The quirkiness and clarity of Stacey Levine's language, the comedy and darkness of her vision, mark her as a worthy heir of Jane Bowles.

From Kirkus Reviews

Kafkaesque first novel, the 39th entry in Sun & Moon's experimental New American Fiction series, from the author of My Horse (stories, not reviewed). One might almost say that Levine is slavishly Kafkaesque, down to her use of the tired device of incompletely spelling her protagonist's name: ``Dra--.'' Nonetheless, she takes on an important theme, focusing on the modern American obsession with jobs and careers. Poor Dra-- is a confused young woman, shy, indecisive, and paranoid. As the story begins, she's out of money and powerless, and proceeds to a nameless employment agency with the vague feeling that only a job can give her an identity. At first, Dra-- is afraid even to enter the agency because of her irrational fear of a man who works there. Once inside, she must endure a mockingly upbeat lecture on the virtues of holding a job, as well as a sort of group support session for those who have not ``succeeded.'' Finally, she's offered a choice: a job at a ``remote encampment'' researching and classifying dust, and one ``monitoring and maintaining a small water pump.'' Dra--, who seems always near mental collapse, can't choose between these equally meaningless alternatives. Even her employment counselor allows that ``jobs are tedious and death-making,'' and thus it may be that Dra-- is one of the saner inmates of this mad world. As she cringes and hesitates, postponing the inevitable, she eavesdrops on the conversations of working people, all of whom have adapted to that world, and seem truly and completely insane. Work is madness, Levine suggests, and anyone who has not had a ``career'' but has suffered instead through a succession of mind-numbingly banal jobs, is likely to agree. Levine's variations on Kafka wear thin, but her satire of work is clever, unsettling, and timely. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Series: New American Fiction
  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Sun & Moon Press (November 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557132887
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557132888
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,198,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stacey Levine is the author of The Girl with Brown Fur (Finalist, Washington State Book Award), Dra--, Frances Johnson (Finalist, Washington State Book Award), and My Horse and Other Stories (PEN/West Fiction Award). A twice-Puschcart Prize nominee, her fiction has appeared in Fence, Tin House, The Fairy Tale Review, Seattle Magazine, Quarterly West, Yeti, and other venues. Her fiction has been translated in Danish and Japanese. www.staceylevine.com

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Dra___, the nondescript heroine of this grim, hilarious fiction, might have fallen through the same hole as Lewis Carrol's Alice, only now, 130 years later, there's no time for frivolity, just the pressing need to get a job. In a sealed, modern Wonderland of "small stifled work centers, basements and sub-basements, night niches, and training hutches connected by hallways just inches across," Dra___ seeks employment. Her concerns are modest and practical. She wanders the "dim empty hallways with their lingering odor of toilets and chalk" looking for the Employment Manager.
Dra___ is powered by Stacey Levine's keen ear for the oddities of everyday speech. In her short fiction (collected in the award-winning My Horse and Other Stories) as in her day-to-day life (I've known her both as a columnist for this paper and as a close friend over the last five years) Levine delights in the peculiar logic of "normal conversation." Minor concerns such as plot, characterization, even practical discussions, get undermined by the pleasure she takes in phrases like "in the name of living hell" or "for the love of nonsense," and by her fascination with the sink-hole of sudden intimacy that swallows up so many casual exchanges. In Dra___, the imperatives of plot and thematic resolution have been displaced by the demanding logic of everyday conversation.
As a consequence, this Wonderland has none of the arch word-play or punning that afflicted Alice. Instead, people speak as directly as they know how. Like Miss Goering and Miss Gamelon in Jane Bowles' comic masterpiece Two Serious Ladies, the figures in Dra___ burden one another with very plain declarations of their real concerns.
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Format: Paperback
I thought this book was a great example of "post-Kafka" visions: the bureaucracy's still there, but the fixations that drove it have been abandoned, so all you're left with is a bunch of people trying to find their way around these cavernous spaces, and importing their own personal proclivities into it to fill the gaps. At one point, the protagonist tries to do some work; it's futile, because nothing has any purpose. (Even *trying* is bound to fail -- starting, as it was, from "less than zero.")

None of this describes the reading experience of plowing through this long-novella length work; it's a joy to read, and so prose-poetic, you could probably break parts out and call them poems.

Never mind about that. Settle in, and let Ms. Levine show you a post-modern, modern World! You'll be glad you did.
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Format: Paperback
This is my favorite book of all time. It turns Kafka inside out and often shifts among 5 or 6 conflicting emotions in a single sentence. It does things with language, tone, metaphor, imagery, and characterization that have never ever been done before. And it's hilariously funny! In short, it is absolutely amazing and you must read it as though commanded by God. Seriously.
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