What Begins With Bird

What Begins With BirdNoy Holland (MFA, 1994)

Fiction Collective Two, 2005
ISBN: 1573661252

What Begins with Bird is both an investigation of family relationships and a sophisticated study of language and rhythm. Holland creates an exhilarating tension between the satisfactions of meaning and the attenuated beauty of lyric, making her fiction felt as deeply as it is understood. An unstable sister whose misconceived pregnancy replays the endless nightmare of childhood siblings and a wrecked marriage occasioning the misery of a horse: these are the frozen events around which Holland’s words congeal. The poetry of her images, powerful but immediately absorbed, can bring consciousness to a standstill: “By then I’ve reached her: Sister spluttering, spitting out the plug of snow. Her mouth is bleeding. Her face is the grotesque of a face, a soul in flames, some rung of hell, and she is sobbing, spit puddling under her tongue.” The Faulknerian echoes of Holland’s prose invoke a dreamscape, a panorama enclosing barns and men and guns and Mother, as she trudges the cold hills in her nightgown. This writing is exquisite, a gorgeousness as unforgettable as a stabbing pain or the after-image of a howl in the pitch of night.