Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review of A Peepshow

--> Read the whole review in The Winnipeg Review at: 

A Peepshow with Views of the Interior: Paratexts, Aislinn Hunter (Palimpsest Press, 2009)

"I’m reading in my backyard, nearing the end of Aislinn Hunter’s A Peepshow with Views of the Interior. I’ve read this book of essays (or paratexts, as Hunter names them) three times since last November, each time delighted, watching my mind go spinning off in its own several directions as I read. Now, to pull myself together, I’ve put the book down. A power saw whines fretfully somewhere down the block, and somewhere in the yard a young robin practices a squeaky note over and over using varying intonations. The garden is dappled summer green, light shifting and falling through the tree boughs overhead.

Reading Peepshow today I’m getting hold of something beyond the pure pleasure of being carried by Hunter’s thinking and language, her willingness to follow thought and imagination as they roam among books and among things. Now I can almost say what this lovely mix of lyric essay and elegant prose is about … resonance, the shifty quality of experience, engagement with the material world of human-made objects, reading, writing, seeing and illusion, longing, how to use objects in fiction, the thinning sense (and knowledge) of language among her students, lyric thinking, nineteenth-century fiction by women… The list could go on, but taken as a whole Peepshow is a phenomenology of the imagination.

Dedicated “To the Unmoored Imagination,” the book continues overleaf with “and to being cast about by books.” Consider paratexts: Hunter acknowledges Gerard Genette’s thinking about those things—title page, contents list, acknowledgements, dedication, preface, appendices, and so on—that accompany the main text of a book. She is engaged by his notion of the paratext as a threshold, that space between. Peepshow is full of thresholds, things about to happen, spaces about to open, ideas about to flower—and the imagination heads straight for them. What a treat for a reader, these invitations to enter what is unfolding. But Hunter herself puts it this way, and ups the ante: “Paratexts are the edges of the road rutted from summer rain. They are the small stone cairns incised with numbers that sit between villages. They tell travellers how far they’ve come, how far they might be going. … The paratext is what lies outside (para-) the thing we are trying to say.” With the imagination we often get somewhere else than where we thought we were heading—or write/speak something other than what we thought to say.

The robin has given up its voice practice and sits quietly on the fence. The saw has paused its whining and I’ve finished the book. Once again I’ve been thoroughly cast about by a book. I couldn’t ask for any better reading experience."

—Maureen Scott