Synopses & Reviews
Girl Imagined by Chance
is a critifictional novel about a couple, who, in an unguarded moment, find themselves having created a make-believe daughter (and soon a make-believe life to accompany her) in order to appease their friends, family, and ultimately, the culture of reproduction. Structured around twelve photographs, a single roll of film, Girl
explores the nature of photography and the questions that nature raises about the notions of the simulated and the real, the media-ization of consciouness, originality, self construction, and the way we all continually fashion our faces into masks for the next shot. At its heart, Girl Imagined by Chance
investigates the mystery of self-knowledge. Its prevailing metaphor and structural device, the photograpy, examines the way images, in their magical ability to mimic memory, ultimately mock and eradicate it. The individual past, seemigly stable and fixed, turns out to be as protean and unknowable as the future, and the body becomes strangely dispensable, perpetually adrift in a cybernetic world of hyperlinks and interfaces.
"Each 'chapter' of the novel begins with a photograph, followed immediately by a meditation on the nature of representation and reproduction....While the novel uses familial relationships as a major thematic device, Girl isnt another bourgeois moral tale about equally bourgeois concerns. Here family is a construct to be reconstructed, and lies are the highest form of flattery." The Portland Mercury
"Somehow, neither the untruth, the visual element, the unusual point of view, nor any of Olsen's other lyrical and narratives idiosyncrasies come off as a gimmick. Olsen's wry, sensitive story feels overwhelmingly true...."Seattle Weekly
"[A]n absorbing and meditative work that explores modern identity and media-driven social customs
.For all its philosophical musings, the book is truly driven by the couple's daily interactions, the small moments and epiphanic outbursts that expose delicate layers of love. The rhythmic beauty of Olsen's voice brings Girl to life with tenderness and humanity." Tiffany Lee Brown, Willamette Weekly
"Olsen is among the finest writers of social critique and speculative fiction today." American Book Review
A critifictional novel about a couple who create a make-believe daughter
Lance Olsen's sixth novel, Girl Imagined by Chance,
is a formally innovative, intensely lyrical novel about the way fictions can take over our lives. It tells the story of an unnamed cyber-journalist and his photographer-wife, Reyla, who, childless and approaching middle age, abruptly move to a small Idaho town, abandoning Reyla's eighty-nine year old grandmother. Reeling from loneliness and shock, Grannam uses her remaining strength to pressure Reyla into bearing children, an option Reyla surgically eliminated years before. The phone calls become more persistent until Reyla, desperate with guilt, tells Grannam she's pregnant. Thus, Genia enters the world, a baby girl conceived only in imagination. However, to her creators' surprise, Genia proves as needy as every child. Soon they are scrambling to nurture and feed and protect their fiction and facing serious questions about the existential anxieties that compelled them to flee to Idaho in the first place.
At its heart, Girl Imagined by Chance investigates the mystery of self-knowledge. Its prevailing metaphor and structural device, the photograph, examines the way images, in their magical ability to mimic memory, ultimately mock and eradicate it. The individual past, seemingly stable and fixed, turns out to be as protean and unknowable as the future, and the body becomes strangely dispensable, perpetually adrift in a cybernetic world of hyperlinks and interfaces. If Jean Baudrilard, Hélène Cixous, and Clarice Lispector had collaborated on a novel, Girl Imagined by Chance would be the result.
About the Author
Lance Olsen is author of more than a dozen works of and about innovative fiction, including the speculative fiction, Tonguing the Zeitgeist(Permeable Press, 1994), finalist for the Philip K. Dick award, the short story collection Sewing Shut My Eyes (FC2, 2000) and, most recently, the novel Freaknest (Wordcraft, 2000). A Pushcart Prize recipient, he has published over 150 short stories, essays, and reviews in various journals and anthologies including Fiction International, The Iowa Review, Mississippi Review, Hudson Review, and Village Voice. He lives corporeally in central Idaho and digitally at www.cafezeitgeist.com