The Connoisseur of Alleys, front cover photograph by Advaita Patel
The Connoisseur of Alleys
Eileen R. Tabios
Marsh Hawk Press, 2016
This review of Eileen R. Tabios’ extraordinary The Connoisseur of Alleys, is a microcosm. Our focus is the chapter entitled “Nota Bene Eiswein” , P.59. By isolating one section, the intention of our review is to illuminate the grand ellipse that is The Connoisseur of Alleys.
“I forgot we were swollen underground with rain as certain elements erased their absence:
I forgot the moving prop of clouds can fall to soften the edges of dark architecture….”
Tabios burrows through the past. Her elliptical remembrances of forgetting evolve as the rarefied dance of an orthodox means to keep traditions alive for good or to the detriment of a given history. History’s relentless descent as depicted, for example, by Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase (1912), is an abstract Cubist detail in movement which renders the Nude as indescribable. She’s a naked woman who is always pulled or scratched apart like, “a silver platter on the beach.”
The sand immediately covers any image rendered by a person, and presents spam as words-flow escape their capture by context or by the luxury of forgetting “fingers poking through holes burnt by epistemology.” The bride as a nude is metamorphosed into the archetype of the woman as a Dada cube.
“I forgot we agreed to toss away the blindfold so that our ears can become more than holes for burning stones tossed our way by a cruel race….Or stones tossed our way by an incompetent health care system….”
One may surmise that these Tabios “stones” serve as a kind of proxy room from which, say a Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, could have been written as a concrete vault for throwing stones into a pit. The stone thrower, via the Proust analogy, is Tabios herself or Tabios ourselves—we, her and us who live during an age of flower wallpaper comfort. The injury is our leisure, our right of return to the “blindfold.” We are forgotten and justified in our broken rooms, in our “cruel race.”
“Or stones tossed our way by a passive bureaucrat wielding power over the education of the child we will never have….Or stones tossed our way by that obscene combination of trust fund baby and hedge fund billionaire….”
The frame of import is born a “trust fund baby” within the “hedge” of a silver mirror. Reflection is an open landscape. A beach is full of stones. We forget the accumulation. We forget to collect. We forget that stones push the tide forward, that stones rattle like snakes in high wind. Tabios reminds us that history is often exclusive in meter.
“I forgot a mirrored face only partially owns its reflection….I forgot a long-haired woman exists, but outside the frame as has been reality for centuries.”
In this small excerpt, Eileen R. Tabios explores the objectification of women as the historian’s intrepid cliché. Who will see past the body, past the skin, past the allure modeling itself for the pleasure of others? Of course, “outside the frame” we are reminded, “a mirrored face only partially owns its reflection.” The rest is owned by the strong poesis of voice, a voice tuned to the spirit of the ellipse. It contains a multitude of how we forget to remember, and in so doing fill forgetting with absence.
In “Nota Bene Eiswein” , P.59 of The Connoisseur of Alleys, Eileen R. Tabios creates a terminus for the infinity of recall. We read her the way we read our fading memory, half-chimerical in the distance like a faint semaphore, but never completely dark. We are summoned to continue reading and become connoisseurs of ourselves.
Reviewed by Daniel Y. Harris & Irene Koronas