S P R A W L
paperback, 144 pages
6 × 7.75 in.
Published in 2010
Out of print
The Believer Book Award finalist 2010
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.
Wave Books reissued S P R A W L in 2018.
about the author
Danielle Dutton is the author of the novel Margaret the First (Catapult), the essay chapbook The Picture Held Us Captive (iTi), and the short story collection Attempts at a Life (Tarpaulin Sky) and a collaboration with Richard Kraft Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera. She is also the copublisher and editor of Dorothy, a publishing project. Her work has appeared in Bomb, Harper’s, Fence, The Brooklyn Rail, Noon, jubilat, among many 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.
Danielle Dutton’s S P R A W L reads as if Gertrude Stein channeled Alice B. Toklas writing an Arcades Project set in contemporary suburbia. Dutton’s unnamed housewife roams sidewalks and manicured lawns like one of Benjamin’s flaneurs, reminiscent of the contemporary urban walkers of Renee Gladman’s stories or Gail Scott’s My Paris. But this novel is like other works, and it is not—it is both unabashedly voracious in terms of literary sources and an extraordinarily original text.
—Kate Zambreno, The Believer
Every percussive sentence of Danielle Dutton’s witty debut, Sprawl, a novel riffing, among other things, on “domestic still life” photographs by Laura Letinsky, is an autonomous detail. These details, these sentences, do not so much accumulate or build as, well, sprawl, while story eddies underneath, a current under a surface littered with bobbing disposables, pictures of a life’s objects, be they material or psychic.
—Miranda Mellis, Brooklyn Rail
Imagine literally unpacking et cetera. This is what Dutton’s experimental novel, S P R A W L , aspires to do. Sprawl is a double entendre—written in single sentences with no paragraph breaks whatsoever, its prose affects a sprawling internal monologue of a female protagonist; the title also locates the novel in the suburbs, which, like et cetera, could go on forever.
—Cora Fisher, The Rumpus
“The truth is that I operate as a writer and in some ways as an editor very much inside a space of instinct. There’s a kind of silence there …” —Danielle Dutton, from her interview with Karla Kelsey in Feminist Poetics of the Archive at Tupelo Quarterly[...]