We at Quaint were thrilled to be given the chance to review Kat Dixon’s new book, “Here/Other” (Artistically Declined, 2014). Dixon has previously published two poetry collections: “Temporary Yes” and “Black Racket Ocean” – “Here/Other” is her first novella, and what an impact it makes!
In “Here/Other”, we’re dropped head-first, rabbit-hole down, into the lives of Pigeon, Zanzibar, Wednesday, and the oft-addressed but ambiguously unidentified “My Dearest”. Don’t expect these characters to take you by the hand and tell you what they are about: “Here/Other” is listening at key-holes. It’s peeping at windows. What you find in its pages is not pre-translated by tired literary devices. Its structure is dislocated; linked vignettes that move from one to the other in a non-linear, highly associative way. Scenes seem to double back on themselves, to try and re-write, re-discover, re-frame what has come before. Reading “Here/Other” is like struggling to recall a dream that’s threatening to slip out of your mind: there’s a sense that you’re gaining ground, circling something, making your way to a deep emotional truth. But Dixon deliberately denies you access – at least direct access. If you want the truth, she seems to be saying, you have to look for it. You have to do the work.
Dixon’s prose style is dreamy and lyrical, and “Here/Other” could easily be framed as an extended prose-poem or hybrid novella. In it are letters and lists, as well as paragraph-style prose, and every passage vibrates with Dixon’s controlled yet elegant voice. It’s as if Dixon has invited you to come explore an old house with her, and in the darkness, the flashlight beam only illuminates so much – but what it does light up is rendered in stark, beautiful detail.
“Fuck all stories. There is no story. Just these People, barely anything. Barely anything more than faces. Disconnected, discontinued. Busts–bare down to the shoulders and eyeless in some places. There had been too much attention to detail, that was it. It was something at least–yes, that was it. It was something.”
It’s rare to find a book – a writer – who is comfortable to leave you in the dark. Dixon pays her readers the greatest respect by giving them the opportunity to discover the narrative of “Here/Other” for themselves. There is no hand-holding. There is no spoon-feeding. “Here/Other” can disorient, but the disorientation is rather wonderful. Despite its slippery, dream-like feel, “Here/Other” is in many ways hyper realistic: these characters really truly exist on the pages of this book. Their lives are chaotic, moments strung together by breaths, by page-turns, some building toward a kind of arc, others just existing in that space, that time. Is there a plot? Yes, but not in the traditional sense. Dixon is giving you clues, laying the evidence out before you, asking what you see there.
What did I see? Something strange. Something beautiful. Every word deliberate, every word in its right place.
—Kia Groom, Founding Editor, Quaint Magazine