Loop

At one point in the English language debut of Mexican novelist Brenda Lozano, Loop, (translated by Annie McDermott), she speculates:

“I wonder if stories can be classified like rivers, from biggest to smallest. I also wonder if, in that case, stories could be part of the same book. Passages placed impossibly side by side. So they make another story.”

It’s a paragraph which gives the reader some sense of Lozano’s novel. Superficially it tells only one story, that of a woman whose boyfriend, Jonas, goes with his family to Spain after the death of his mother, yet the narrator’s state of waiting opens her life to many new stories, each tangential to the ‘plot’ but central to a novel which rejects the straight line. Reflecting on advice that you can escape drowning by swimming diagonally, she wonders:

“How do you swim diagonally in life?”

She applies this to her own life, suggesting, “I thought I was swimming forwards but I’m getting further away,” asking, of Jonas:

“Is this glass of water the dwarf-scale sea between us?”

A preoccupation with scale is evident throughout the novel. The opening line immediately introduces the idea: “Today a dwarf smiled at me,” and the dwarf, a neighbour, continues to feature, “so elegant, and the bigger stories badly dressed.” She identifies with living a life that does not easily fit into the ‘norm’ (“Why the fervent desire to be part of the norm?”):

“I felt a lot like the dwarf, on another scale of life and needing to lean on a tiny cane.”

Later, she expands on this idea, describing “People who don’t fit. People who live on another scale.”

Yes, things happen. A writer, like Lozano, the narrator flies to the Oaxaca Book Fair, which allows for a wonderful description of a bad poet: “His words were like a long trail of slime.” She meets with friends, and worries about her relationship – “Why is your mother’s death pushing us apart, Jonas?” Yet, so much of the narrative is internalised that her abstract thoughts sit alongside concrete events with equal weight – on the same scale, as Lozano might say. These include a number of riffs, not only on the aforementioned dwarf, but also on the song, ‘Wild is the Wind,’ which, in turn, feeds into the idea of transformation into a bird:

“If Jonas turned into a bird I could ask him to let me fly by his side, like in ‘Wild is the Wind’.”

This transformation is then linked to the act of writing:

“One way of turning into a swallow is by writing.”

Writing, unsurprisingly, is another topic to which Lozano comes back to again and again. “I think telling stories,” she tells us, “is a way of putting a scar into words.” And, returning to the idea of scale:

“All stories are a deep ocean and a puddle at the same time.”

This may make Loop seem like a rather abstruse literary game, but nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, it is fragmented, but it is a friendly fragmentation, echoing the way we think rather than some abstract plan. It is also endlessly questioning, perhaps its most likeable characteristic, and, again, a very human one. Lozano, however, is taking us somewhere; as she says of her own experience, “His journey to Spain has taken me on another journey.” That journey takes place in the text. Midway, considering Ovid’s Metamorphosis, she wonders, “If writing and reading transform us into something we have yet to discover.” By the end, she has concluded:

“…however profound or superficial the journey may be, what’s transformed is the way we recount it. If that’s transformed, then everything is transformed.”

In the end, Loop is a glorious reaffirmation of the power of words and the stories they create.

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7 Responses to “Loop”

  1. winstonsdad Says:

    Yes this u I s one I really loved a clever style

  2. Radz Pandit Says:

    I enjoyed this book immensely too. The author has an irreverent writing style that was very engaging!

  3. Max Cairnduff Says:

    It sounds fun, and I have it so I shall read it. I am wary though of novels about writing. It seems so inward looking. Perhaps not here though.

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