Tom Williams

Another novella you should know

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2012 at 7:41 pm

If the name Jessica Treat is not familiar to you, you’re probably not going to come to my blog anyway. But if it is only familiar and you haven’t read anything by this most cunning and crafty deviser of fictions–and all around swell Canadian-American writer–then what better way to introduce yourself to her work than through her incredible novella, “Honda,” which appears in the collection of sterling short-shorts, frantic forms and unclassifiably good narratives (goddamn, is “His Sweater” one of the best stories I know), Not a Chance.

What “Honda” has is one of the best unreliable narrators I know. Not the usual Poe-like scoundrels who should know what they’re doing is wrong, but a young woman whose innocence might be too pure, whose accidents seem evidence more of a fate guiding her toward calamity rather than willed wrongs. Treat manages to evoke our sympathy with her narrator while keeping us cringing at every misstep: and boy are there a lot of them. She drives home in the wrong car, smokes a “cigarette of a 1972 vintage,” mistakes people for a hated former teacher. And yet there is something charming about all these miscalculations, and the character’s made even more unique through her incredibly acute observations. My favorite:

Still, it is my philosophy that there is a finite number of individuals. If you look at people, really study faces, you begin to see how similar everyone looks to each other.

Did I mention Treat’s poetically nimble treatment of language, too?

Moreover, what I think Treat has uncovered with reliability in fiction is that one’s first person narrator has to believe everything she says is true. We, the creators of the narrator, might be the biggest liars in the world, but our narrators have to believe every word they say, else the reader is left cold.

Additionally, what intrigues me further about “Honda” is that it seems like its a novella by accretion. Several of the stories can stand alone; they have stood alone in journals. Together, though, they are exquisite. But Treat’s assemblage of this novella points out to me the fluidity of the form, as it is both the baby novel, the long story, and the extended sequence of related scenes. Or all at once and not at all.

Anyway. Go find this book: it’s from my old friends at Fiction Collective Two and is, in a word, unforgettable.

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