Friday, September 02, 2016

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony

As the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Every page of Jessica Anthony's Chopsticks is a picture, and while many spreads feature words, they are only meant to guide the reader through the visual story. Look closely, or you might miss it.

On the surface, Chopsticks tells the story of a girl named Glory who is an extremely talented pianist, and her romance with Frank, a talented artist who moves in next door. Very early on in the story, we find that Glory is a girl who lives a life that is scheduled to the hour and under immense pressure to perform.She is one of the greatest young pianists in the world, but things are not as controlled as they seem. In the end, all of her performances devolve into "Chopsticks," the famous piece composed by 16-year-old Euphemia Allen in 1877.

If readers pay very close attention, they'll find the various inconsistencies and odd repetitions that add layers upon layers to this abstract novel. (Not to mention the Usher Avenue address, as in the "Fall of the House...") I'll leave it to the reader to filter through the ambiguity and decide what it all means. Discover what's real, and what is make believe.

The story is told through pictures, notes, postcards, official letters, artwork, playlists, texts, YouTube videos.

Readers of Chopsticks will likely enjoy Daniel Handler's Why We Broke Up, another teen novel with a similar fixation on objects. For more adult readers, House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski might be a better fit. With more text than imagery, Danielewski's typographical marvel will likely keep you just as on your toes.

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