Thomas Heise is what scholars call “a writer’s writer”. He is the author of two books, a collection of poetry entitled Horror Vacui (2006) and the recent MOTH; or how i came to be with you again. MOTH is a startlingly experimental novel of run-on sentences and no paragraph breaks whatsoever. It is dense as a brick and binding as the bricklayer’s cement.
What is the plot of MOTH? Memory, childhood, consciousness itself. The paragraphless text is kin to the denseness of our very own thoughts, an unending shower of retrospection through words, a ceaseless question about our most uncertain certainty: the past, memory.
The book is accentuated with scholarly references: Mayakovsky, Goya, Turner, and Khlebnikov pepper the text with a metaphoric depth intended for the initiated, the literati level reader. The devotee of art, especially slightly out of date and fashion art, will delight over this book and find it, perhaps, suited to the interior of their own internal dialogues.
Heise’s style is reminiscent of so much that one can only surmise that it is unique. Readers of John Hawkes’ New Directions years or the early works in English of Vladimir Nabokov will find this book irresistible. It is a book without linear structure. A book that attempts, like memory, to defy time itself by parceling moments into fragments and viewing them through a kaleidoscope. Time, memory, and the narrator are MOTH’s central figures. Other reoccurring characters are few and far between: the narrator’s mother and father are ghostly and mostly guessed at apparitions; a love interest or two is denoted simply with S., M., and other assorted initials.
MOTH is a dream that suffers from the clarity and haze of dreams. It sticks in one’s mind like the brief moments of a pre-impact car crash. Time slides, the surroundings spin, and there is something strangely, unearthly slow in the space between recognition and outcome. The narrator may have nowhere to go, but where he is going is so vastly interesting, he wonders in his thoughts throughout a Europe of his past as one might imagine an explorer wondering into the dense and uncharted Brazilian rainforest Heise’s jungle, however, has for its flora and fauna pipes, zoos, dilapidated buildings, ghostly women, cafes and antique furniture. It reminds one of the bizarre urban environments of French Symbolist poets like Baudelaire and LaForgue and, later on, a young T.S. Eliot.
Heise is a talent to watch. It will be interesting to see what he, as a writer, grows into throughout the years. MOTH is a huge change from the earlier collection of poetry. Like John Hawkes of William Faulkner, Heise is making a major transition as an author between mediums, but still under full influence of earlier, highly poetic roots. Heise will be known, but it is a little early to tell exactly in what ilk. Be assured it’ll be haunting and glorious.
Christopher J. Johnson