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The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis (Little House on the Bowery) Paperback – January 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Gluth probes the effects of death in his creepily enchanting debut, a delicate narrative consisting of a chain of lives connected by deaths. The first death concerns an elderly writer named Margaret Kroftis living alone with her dog; a fire starts in her house while she's out for a walk, and she is devastated to learn that her dog, trapped in the house, has perished. Months later, completing the last scrap she will write (My Watery Death), Margaret dies in her bed. Margaret returns in the next section, involving a group of high school students: Beth is composing a script about Margaret in her first foray as a writer; however, she is distracted by her feverish attraction to Peter, a musician in a band whose singer, J, kills himself. Later, Beth and Peter, older and living together, befriend a waiflike neighbor and amateur photographer, Mira, who is killed in a car accident. The dead move among these meandering vignettes like ghosts with the lack of cohesiveness ably compensated by Gluth's impressionistic and dreamy prose. (Jan.)
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In this debut novel, Margaret is a writer leading a solitary existence, with only her dog as companion. One day, when she goes out for a walk, her house burns down with her dog inside. Margaret thus begins to reflect on death in all of its permutations, even as she finishes up the last writing she will ever do. This reverie continues in surrealistic, daydreaming fashion throughout Gluth's slim novel, which relates other tales of loss. High school student Beth, who is writing about Margaret, falls for Peter, whose band mate commits suicide; later, when Beth and Peter are a couple, a young neighbor who aspires to be a photographer dies in an accident. VERDICT There is not much plot in this evocative, emotional work, and it is not needed. In short, impressionistic sentences that soon become hypnotic, Gluth captures the atmosphere brilliantly and leaves the reader in awe of his ability. Readers looking for something different will appreciate this work--and, given his writing style, might wish that he also applied his talents to poetry in the future.--Lisa Rohrbaugh, National Coll., Youngstown, OH --Library Journal, March 1, 2010
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As in life the events that occur in The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis are driven by chance, have little meaning behind their causation: tragedy occurs, words are said, life goes on. Events happen, many without reason, but which have far reaching effects. Gluth is masterful at writing the main events of the novel off the page, this keeps the narrative's focus away from unnecessary distraction and on the emotions of the characters.This simultaneously shows great restraint on his part and maintains a detached feeling throughout. The events that occur to the characters are sad, insidiously and hopelessly sad and the only force that holds the characters together are the love which they share with each other. Young couples, old couples, humans with each other and humans with animal companions. Love is the quiet central theme of the work and by hiding it beneath layers of tragedy Gluth makes love appear that much more beautiful. Gluth shows that love is fleeting, mortal and insulates us from entropy.
Much of Late Work is a study in the connections between dreams, art, love and death. Every character whose profession is mentioned is an artist: sketcher, writer, photographer, playwright. Some are more talented than others but art is universally portrayed as a source of freedom and a way to connect with love after death. Many of the character's works are referred to or written out in full in the novella. Late Work bridges an all to common chasm in literature between pathos and intellect, Gluth combines them remarkably well.There are steady but understated threads of Borgesian recursion and metarecursion which overlap enough (but not too much) and provide the novel with satisfying verisimilitude along with an air of the supernatural. I found that the novel takes on extra dimensions when the nested layers of works described in the novel are mapped out.
Late Work can be read in one (intense) sitting and yet packs force greater than, say, one of Marquez's tomes. I can think of one other work for me that has had the same effect per page as Late Work but the intense overwhelming sadness of this novel places it light years beyond.