Newcomer maybe Can't Swim, but in this much-anticipated new work by Renee Gladman, "Newcomer," her friends, and lovers, know how to cross estranged cities with the allegoric gravity of figures on a Tarkovskian set. These are cities where water falls everywhere (or there is none). Where a woman lies smashed on the pavement. Where two women make love in a restaurant restroom (and are invited to leave). Where chairs cruise hotly toward each other across rooms. Where a beloved dog bespeaks its mistress, and a musician and a fish are both out of water. On the beach "the person you're with has a hard time focusing on you because you appear to be between forms." In precisely the same way, these installations, as Gladman calls them, shift through spaces normally reserved for poetry: beside the lines, under them, are more stories, not always sweet. By combining the tension of story with the thinking spaces of the poem, Gladman resolves the interstice between prose and poetry, demonstrating once more that she is a leading practitioner of the "new prose" of her-or any-generation.
In Newcomer Can't Swim, Renee Gladman invites us to accompany her protagonists on their treks into, through and across variegated, mysterious soul-spaces and dreamscapes, troubling the surfaces and boundaries of story and genre. Her figures touch down, chapter by chapter, on beaches, city streets, and unmarked territories, in which echoes, shadows, and parallel presences delineate borders of the cannily strange. As the narrative flickers before us, gathering into an enthralling flow, we find ourselves recording with unmediated exhilaration that Gladman once again is mapping one of the most original and vital courses in contemporary literature.
Imagine yourself in a world in which you have to know who you are to know where you are-or is it the other way around? Welcome to Renee Gladman's Newcomer Can't Swim, a textural world that configures issues of personal agency and social relations in geographical terms. Gladman confronts us with a landscape that is constantly shifts and morphs, sometimes within the space of a sentence. Brilliantly astute witty challenging, Newcomer Can't Swim reenvisions the dangers of living, as Stevie Wonder would say, "just enough for the city."