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Graywolf Press

Time of the Doves

July 31, 2010

time_of_the_dovesI read this book for the Spotlight Series (which puts the spotlight on small press publishers by having bloggers read and review a book by a small press that they have chosen to feature for that month. The current spotlight is on Graywolf Press).

Time of the Doves
by Mercè Rodoreda

“And as he was talking he’d run his fingernail along the crack in the table and dig out breadcrumbs that had gotten stuck there, and it seemed strange to me that he’d do something I did sometimes but that he’d never seen me do.”

This book is about the experience of something big in the body of something small, small as a woman named Natalia. Because all big experiences, even marriage, even children, even war, even despair—because all of these big things are also little things, or it comes one little thing at a time—doves and eggs and the name Colometta or the smell of hydrochloric acid.

And though something big can be forgotten, can be silenced, can be inside deep like termites going from inside out instead of outside in, something small like blue lights or a cork or a picture of some lobsters, they stay with you in tiny shards just quiet-like. This book is about how to forget them.

“I’d learned to read and write and my mother’d gotten me used to wearing white clothes. I’d learned to read and write and I sold pastries and candy and chocolates and bonbons filled with liqueurs. And I could walk through the streets like a human being surrounded by other human beings. I’d learned to read and write and waited on people and helped them…”

All these small things are like a cork to stop up the big things but the big things get through anyway. The things not said, because it’s too painful, or simply because our narrator is not very eloquent. She’s in-eloquent not because she’s stupid but because she’s not totally aware of her feelings, at least through most of the novel. But that doesn’t mean she’s not able to move you, the reader, all the more for it.

So that’s what this book felt like—just tiny experiences that slowly build up, with a whirlwind of characters and things and thoughts all written in a style that seems slightly dizzying because the sentences are long but not complicated, they are long in the way a Frank O’Hara poem is long, where you run out of breath by the end of the sentence with that inexplicable breathless urgency.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was glad that Spotlight on Small Presses gave me the extra nudge in the rear-end to finally read this wonderful Graywolf Press book (since it was already on my “to read” list).