Charco Press, the publisher, describes Loop as a love story. @ab_reads, the Durham-based bookstagram account where I first saw this book, describes Loop as a story about longing – narrated by a girlfriend awaiting a boyfriend’s return.
Both descriptions imply that the novel is one of girlish romance. Indeed, both descriptions imply that there is a story. Both assumptions are wrong.
Firstly, Loop is plotless and anticlimactic. It repeatedly winds away from and towards the same recurring themes. Paragraphs are often four or five lines long. Three sentences. One thought. Loop could better be described as an anti-novel. The narrator tells us early on that this is simply her notebook. What we read, then, is not a story. It is not even a chronology of events. It is, supposedly, nothing more than a collection of observations and ideas. But the paragraphs, sentences and thoughts are much more deliberate than the average assemblage of things-I-must-remember.
If only the notes in my own notebook were so shrewd.
One line of thought that the narrator cannot shake off is the purpose of writing. She feels compelled to read and to write – in bed, on the bus, standing up and sitting down – but she can’t pin down the reason why. The writing she ponders spans Proust to Bowie to Pessoa. Perhaps I’d have better understood her musings if I better understood the literature about which she muses. If nothing else, this book urges us to appreciate the written word, in all its many configurations and styles.
“The more useless an object, the more of a triumph I think it is.”
The narrator’s explanation of this is, she believes, that it is more important for an object to bring joy than to serve a purpose. But surely bringing joy is serving a purpose?
Loop is a book made up of lots of short quote-able phrases. They are easy to read, but hard to interpret. It is clear that the narrator – or indeed, Brenda Lozano – knows she is clever, and relishes her cleverness. Her tone is both pensive and smug. She likes playing with words, twisting imagery, turning ideas upside down.
“The genre people call self-help seems tautological to me. I read all literature as self-help.”
For those who like a structured story – with a beginning, a middle, a climax and a conclusion – this book will make you scream with frustration. For those who wish to ponder on the thoughts of cats and the power of distance, this book is an invitation to view the inside of a writer’s mind.
“The ideal is always bigger or smaller than reality. The ideal is on a different scale.”
Lozano favours the chaff over the wheat, giving a voice to common things and finding meaning in the everyday. Sometimes flippant but always perceptive, this is the first of Mexican writer Brenda Lozano’s works to be translated into English. I hope there are many more to come.
Image: Hannah Olinger via Unsplash