Synopses & Reviews
This groundbreaking, transgenre work--part detective story, part literary memoir, part imagined past--is intensely autobiographical and confessional. Proceeding sentence by sentence, city by city, and backwards in time, poet and essayist Kazim Ali details the struggle of coming of age between cultures, overcoming personal and family strictures to talk about private affairs and secrets long held. The text is comprised of sentences that alternate in time, ranging from discursive essay to memoir to prose poetry. Art, history, politics, geography, love, sexuality, writing, and religion, and the role silence plays in each, are its interwoven themes. Bright Felon is literally autobiography because the text itself becomes a form of writing the life, revealing secrets, and then, amid the shards and fragments of experience, dealing with the aftermath of such revelations. Bright Felon offers a new and active form of autobiography alongside such texts as Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictee, Lyn Hejinian's My Life, and Etel Adnan's In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country.
"'What do I really want to share with people? Not of my methods but of myself?' asks Ali in his third collection, a captivating song of himself that passionately excavates the interdependence between geography and identity. Ali, who is also a novelist, presents a candid history of his wandering life 'I have lived in six cities in five years' which has perpetually taken place by a river (the Hudson, Nile or Seine), always carrying with him a desire to uncover the hidden aspects of a city and, in turn, his multitudinous self ('Under any city other cities exist. Under any body other bodies'). Ali recounts his journey backward in lists of images and thoughts, and the book's 15 sections are each devoted to a particular city, maintaining a strong narrative arc throughout, crossing genre lines to read as a kind of literary-journalistic, autobiographical text. Ali knows the power of facts; he writes of his time in New York City: 'I was in exile, living out of a suitcase in a completely empty apartment in the deserted money district.' This is a fascinating work, brimming with bold meditations on religion, sexuality and what it means to live the life of an artist. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)