Review of Anne Serre’s The Fool (and Other Moral Tales).
Among the linty cling of rumors and backwashed gossip spread around the barrooms and laundromats of the universe, circulates this mortuary nugget: Hey, did you know that Ego, when it dies, would love nothing more than to attend its own funeral? Ego, in brazenly counterpointing Woody Allen’s proclamation — “I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens” — would happily play the role of phantom witness while enjoying the privileged position of being able to float above its own death. It could view itself through the ceremony of mirrored eyes, and gauge its impact upon the audience gathered in its name. Ego, or the I-self, aspires to dream itself into a permanent narrative, to secure tenancy in a time-loop — it longs to know its movements are in accord with something lasting. This fretful existential dilemma, as it relates to writing, to functioning as a writer, and to the amorphic realm of stories and narrative, finds itself swaddled in the gallows’ silk of Love and Death, in Anne Serre’s new book, The Fool (and Other Moral Tales).
Translated from the French by Mark Hutchinson, Serre’s book comprises three novellas, each one a fragile and cryptic shard reflecting the shattered stained-glass window from which they exploded. “The Fool,” the tale with which the collection shares its name, speaks to the narrator’s uneasy relationship with the arcana of the Tarot, specifically THE FOOL. As someone who is fond of, or rather depends upon order and the rigors of symmetry, the narrator distrusts what THE FOOL stands for, or doesn’t stand for. A numberless orphan, THE FOOL’S acts belong to lightning-strikes and cliff-dives, with his mysticism rooted in the magnetic unknown. He is the Orphic vagabond primed to take a chance on the infinite, to teethe and gnaw on the moon’s pulpy nipples. He is also, in a sense, the ambassador to Keats’s anthem of negative capability — “when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason” — and therein lies the tension and dilemma for Serre’s narrator, as she slowly, haltingly, bravely learns to dance in a house of mirrors with THE FOOL. Reflected everywhere, he is “protean, forever changing shape and appearance, and has a variety of functions … If terror, love, friendship, death and madness, referred to the same figure each time, we would know about that … and they would be less of a burden to us. What’s marvelous is to be able to approach this protean, unsettling body, these sudden transformations of countenance and purpose, without getting so badly burned that you lose your powers of speech.” Silence, imposed from without, is a death-knell that the narrator wishes to avoid through the hallowed amulets of story and poetry.
Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, spoken word performer, and playwright, John Biscello now lives in Taos, New Mexico. He is the author of three novels: Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, and Nocturne Variations, and a collection of stories, Freeze Tag.
His fiction and poetry has appeared in: Art Times, nthposition, The Wanderlust Review, Ophelia Street, Caper, Polyphony, Dilate, Militant Roger, Chokecherries, Farmhouse, BENT, The 555 Collective, Instigator, Brass Sopaipilla, The Iconoclast, Adobe Walls, Kansas City Voices, and the Tishman Review. His blog--Notes of an Urban Stray--can be read at johnbiscello.blogspot.com. Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale was named Underground Book Reviews 2014 Book of the Year.