Spectacle of the Body

Spectacle of the BodyNoy Holland (MFA, 1994)

Knopf, 1994
ISBN: 0679404813

There was a time when the longest story in this book was known by the title of this book – for in a certain sense that story concerns the fabulous costume nature can construe from us when it has made up its mind to unravel us down to the last stitch of thread. But whenever Noy Holland went to read aloud from her work, there was an audience who heard her begin, “At night, we kept watch for turtles,” and who, as if transfixed by an enchantress, would not leave their seats until – seventy-nine pages later! – they had heard Holland say, crooning in the manner of one who must give herself to song to keep herself from weeping, “We sat for the men with our hands in our laps with all that was ours in the parlor.” To these ravished audiences, and to those to whom they hurried to send word of the amazement they had had the great good luck to be present for, it was “Orbit” – the name of one of the children whose mother’s fantastic dying is central to the story’s dreamy, rapturous motion – that came to identify for these persons an event unique, and inexpressibly strange, in their experience of literature. For literature, very literature, the heart’s inmost speech in all its unexampled difference, is the thing this new young writer has been making, and, along with it, well before the publication of her first book, a name for herself as a force – indeed, as a divergenceto be given every close notice. Nine adventures in the magic of narration, including the audience-retitled “Orbit,” The Spectacle of the Body enacts a debut of the first importance and an invitation to feelings not felt in the absence of art.