Danielle Dutton’s SPRAWL reads as if Gertrude Stein channeled Alice B. Toklas writing an Arcades Project set in contemporary suburbia.
Borrowing techniques from both fiction, poetry, and visual art (particularly photography), the book not only infuses each object, be it a juice glass or a paper napkin, with a Vermeeresque glow but arranges it into part of a verbal still life. The result? A fresh take on suburbia, one of reverence and skepticism . . . . The beauty of SPRAWL resides in its fierce, careful composition, which changes the ordinary into the wonderful and odd. SPRAWL in fact does not sprawl at all; rather, it radiates with control and fresh, strange reflection.
—LEIGH NEWMAN, Bookforum
An absurdly comic and decidely digressive novel, S P R A W L chronicles the mercurial inner life of one suburban woman. With vertiginous energy and a deadpan eye, the narrator constructs surprising taxonomies out of a seemingly uniform world. As the abundance, banalities, small wonders, accouterments, and debris of suburban life accumulate, the sameness gives way to enthralling strangeness.
Inspired by a series of domestic still lifes by photographer Laura Letinsky, Dutton creates her own trenchant series of tableaux, attentive to the surfaces of the suburbs and the ways in which life there is willfully, almost desperately, on display. In locating the language of sprawl itself—engrossing, unremitting, ever expansive—Dutton has written an astonishing work of fiction that takes us deep into the familiar and to its very edge: nothing is ever the same under such close inspection.
DANIELLE DUTTON is the author of the short story collection Attempts at a Life (Tarpaulin Sky) and editor of Dorothy, a publishing project. Her work has appeared in Bomb, Harper’s, Fence, The Brooklyn Rail, Noon, jubilat, among other journals and magazines. She holds degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of California-Santa Cruz, and the University of Denver where she was Associate Editor of the Denver Quarterly. She is currently a professor in the English Department at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri where she lives with her husband and son.
Dutton’s groundbreaking S P R A W L . . . jams Lisa Robertson’s intelligence and music into a Jane Austen-ish scrutiny of the manner of being in those new landscapes we continue to call “suburbs.”
Dutton’s mini-masterpiece—a womanly treatise on suburban decay and fatigued love—is a triumph! Each sentence should be celebrated for its hilarity, rigor, eccentricity, and passion. S P R A W L is the work of a brilliant mind.
—DEB OLIN UNFERTH
Just when it appeared that suburbia was going to be strangled in its own entrails, a victim of peak oil, collapsing infrastructure, and credit card debt, here comes Danielle Dutton to show us how magical that sprawl is after all. The magic is in the oddities of the particular, the cat that “doesn’t matter so much as the feelings its tiny feet feel.” Dutton’s S P R A W L is a different kind of sprawling: it reaches forth, takes up, and redeems. Here, the same old is something else again. As she writes, “Prepare to Merge!”