First Fiction Friday: LOTE
While the end of summer draws ever nearer, our summer reading list does not. You'll dive into Shola Van Reinhold’s debut novel, LOTE (Metonymy Press), this summer, and it'll stay on your mind through the rest of the seasons. Through extensive research on an overlooked Black modernist poet, the narrator creates a queer historical scene and succumbs to the barrenness of the art world.See more details below
Shola von Reinhold’s novel LOTE isn’t exactly a beach read, but I still think it’s perfect for summer. It plumbs, it excavates, it expands and elevates, bringing multiple fictional volumes into one intricate one, blossoming and overflowing and pollinating ideas and scenes for readers in ways that will simmer and sift in their consciousness throughout the rest of the year.
The settings are largely cuspal or shadowed: basement archives, small bedrooms with the curtains drawn, the rooms above the ostensible top floors of buildings, nighttime, squats. “They gathered in the late afternoon, curtains drawn, electric chandelier off, fire dampened so not a seed of light betrayed them.” (295) When our protagonist Mathilda is forced to contend with the outdoors or mainstream, it’s painful: “Finally outside, I was so stunned by the force of light that I wandered around lost, trying to read the map, which was really quite simple. Flashes through side streets overwhelmed me; I had to avert my eyes” (81).
From within these spaces, excess and abundance blooms. One of the alternate texts within the text has a redacted title, but recounts the party lifestyle of the relatively unrecorded life of one of the Lote-Os, a likely hedonistic informal society of the 1920s: “Hermia acquired a cordial glass and a slim-necked bottle of Eiswein that was bobbing in the fountain” (285). And the characters within the central text also celebrate luxury, rejecting the dull world that tries to push its way in, largely in relation to an uptight art residency: “Sensing all this, I sat down with a rococo flourish. I started speaking about gauche, unResidency-ish things. I spoke about Beauty. He frowned and began to fidget. I pretended not to notice his irritation” (152).
It’s a strange, opaque book that works on you slowly, but it also jokes with and pleases the reader, offering warmth and connection between unlikely characters, rejecting uniformity, hegemony, and life-crushing structures: Black erasure, capitalism, drabness. Eventually, the threads come together, dreamily: “She floated down the milk vein of a river, in a boat, feeling askew and delicious” (415). What more could you ask for in the summer, or anytime.
X plus Y:
Possession (A.S. Byatt) + Confessions of the Fox (Jordy Rosenberg)* = LOTE
*special thanks to Ana Quiring in full-stop for the helpful reminders! https://www.full-stop.net/2021/01/08/reviews/ana-quiring/lote-shola-von-reinhold/
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Shola von Reinhold is a writer based in Glasgow, Scotland.
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