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The unnamed narrator of this debut novel is an artist. This facet of her identity, the fact that she is an artist, is indisputable to her in spite of the fact that her art—its subject, its premise, and its form—is, as of yet, inscrutable both to others and to herself. The question of what exactly is her work is one that consumes her, occupying her near total attention as she walks the streets of her city, slots answers into the “completed” column at her absurdist job, eats unsatisfying, overpriced sandwiches, or moves items from place to place inside her tiny studio, aka apartment. It seems possible that the permutations of the question “what is my work?” could occupy the narrator’s thoughts more or less endlessly, especially in a time when, in the narrator’s words, it is acceptable “to make art from anything, with anything, about anything, the world constituting the art world in my time being undelimited in a liberating or terrifying manner”; however, a deadline of sorts has been superimposed on this question because the artist has a meeting. This meeting, set up by a well-known artist friend of the narrator’s whose artistic endeavor consists of “setting up situations,” is with a gallerist whose attention may just help the narrator place her work in the public eye, if only she knew what that work was. In recursive prose—mirroring the art-world use of deliberately abstracted language with an expert’s ear—the narrator circles the question of her identity, her interiority, her agency, and her originality, even as she circles the location of her long-anticipated meeting through familiar streets that have become defamiliarized by the intensity of her observation. Surreal, heady, and elliptical, this book reads like a Seinfeld episode if it were co-written by Beckett and Derrida. Unfortunately, much of the wit, trenchant observation, and insight are occluded by the density of the language. This clearly intentional, even integral, stylistic choice is at the heart of the novel’s attempt to elevate even the most utterly banal elements of modern life to the level of “the work,” and yet it will prove a barrier to all but the most dedicated of readers.

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