Monday, November 23, 2009

Elynia by David Michael Belczyk - 173 pages

Written as a mix of prose and vignette, Elynia takes the reader on a journey through the lives of four generations of people who are struggling with various heartbreaks, disappointments and struggles. The characters are examined both in the way they react to their situations and in the way they connect to each other, crossing social, economic and familial divides in a heady mixture of poetry and narrative. Each character except Elynia (who is only referred to in the second person) remains unnamed and, by extension, somewhat anonymous; but all embody the diverse aspects of need, desire and fulfillment that are common to us all. Both unconventional and evocative, Elynia seeks to elucidate the struggles for identity and clarity that face each of us during the various stages of our lives.

I'll admit that I was at first baffled by this book. I hadn't an idea about the way in which to read it, and the first couple of sections really threw me. I wasn't sure if it was the book for me, and I wasn't sure how I was going to review it. But as I gradually waded into the story, I began to read it with a much more open mind, and stopped trying to impose my expectations of the story upon what I was reading. As I got further and further into the book, I was able to better appreciate and understand what the author was trying to do with the book, and my comfort level with it increased.

The thrust of this book is told as a set of loosely intertwined character studies, bridged together by snatches of poetry. Now, I am not really one to have had a lot of luck or experience with poetry and have shied away from reading it for quite sometime. I think this is because I tend to have a hard time visualizing and interpreting what poetry is trying to tell me. Knowing that in advance, I think I was mostly worried about being able to really grasp the poetry sections of the book, and felt that at least during the beginning sections, the vignettes reached me more straightforwardly. But curiously, when I began to really get into the story, I began to anticipate the poetry and search it out on the page. Here's what I discovered: Belcyck has a real gift for making his readers feel strong emotion through the use of his verse. There were several sections where I stopped and read a section two, maybe even three times and got an intense understanding of the emotions and situations he was attempting to portray, and his use of emotion laden and heartfelt descriptors was something that I truly came to relish.

Another thing I discovered was that the story in this book, and especially the poetry, had more to do with loss and dreams that had dissolved into bitterness than it had to do with any other emotion. I think that was also a bit of a surprise to me because while on the one hand the story had the flavor of hope, in reality, it dealt more strongly with the opposite. I did find that some of the ideas that were put forth were a bit advanced, and I have to say that this is the first book that had me reaching for a dictionary so consistently. As I delved deeper into the book and gradually came to understand more and more, it became more obvious to me that what Belczyk was doing in this book was not only unconventional, it was also rhythmically adept. I feel that the book worked on multiple levels, but that reading it with an open mind is critical to the understanding and enjoyment of what the book has to offer. In fact, after closing the book and thinking over the story I had just read, I felt that the lyricism of the poetry sections were the parts of the book that I remember most vividly and clearly. Rarely have I had the experience of reading a book that defies expectations in mid-read, and rarely have I ever truly experienced poetry in such an innovative way. Reading through this book supplied my mind with a lot of fodder about what really constitutes a work of fiction and enlarged the repertoire of writing styles that I am familiar and comfortable with.

While I know that this book won't work for everyone, I think that it would be a very enjoyable excursion for those who are new to, or already enjoy the pleasures of exploratory and unconventional fiction. I think it very clearly and adroitly manages to capture the emotions and longing of it's characters in way that is fundamentally different than most fiction or poetry treatments of the same themes and I am really pleased that it enabled me to break some of my preconceived notions about the structure and relevancy of poetry and lyricism. A very interesting and different reading experience.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.


Aarti said...

Ooh, THIS is the book you were talking about before. Hmm, not sure if it's one I'll read, though I am trying to get more into poetry, so maybe this would be a good one to read for that purpose.

bermudaonion said...

I just don't do well with poetry so this probably isn't the book for me. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Suko said...

Interesting review! I've not heard of this book before. It does sound quite unconventional.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I have this book but I'm not sure it's for me --at least right now??

Marie Cloutier said...

I love the sound of this book- sounds unique and different. I"m going to have to look around for it. Thanks for your great comments yesterday! I really appreciate how much time you spend on my blog! :-)

Elizabeth said...

I have this book in my pile - I'm looking forward to it, although I think it will probably be a challenge.

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