Shelf Space - The Art of Violent Forces

If you're at all into ceramics, you've at some point encountered a "crazed" glaze: anarchic crackled lines that look (not coincidentally) like a piece of glass in the midst of a slow-motion shatter. You see it more often in antique pieces, but sometimes potters craze the glaze on purpose. Admiring the finished work, it's easy to forget the violent forces that created it: the intense heat of the kiln, the molten minerals, then, as the piece cools, the grip of the glaze as it shrinks around the clay, clutching too tightly until it shatters.

Kassten Alonso has translated the same technique to literature in Core: A Romance, a gorgeous, fractured novel about a homicidal sculptor of stone and ceramics. The unnamed narrator (even he forgets his name, and we never learn it) holds within him contrary forces that would tear most mortals in two.

At 17, he is a pious, Revelations-quoting boy who burns churches, rolls in broken glass and cuts himself with razors. At 27, he is a painfully shy and quiet artist-hermit with a mainlined connection to the intense pagan forces of the swamps and fields around his remote studio. He is loyal to his only friend: the blond, silver-eyed Cam, to whom everything seems to come without effort. But when Cam starts dating the one woman who actually seems to "get" the narrator, he betrays Cam for a primal affair so hot that this reader was squirming as he read the details of it.

There's nothing too disturbing about enjoying the story of a good, naked rutting in the mud, but Alonso writes just as lyrically about the narrator's killings (three of them before he's through). "Everyone needs love yes but no one told me how and the cop turned with obsidian face and flashbulbs for eyes big hairy paw emerging from the luminous sport coat a missionary with his cross/ and Cupid carved his bow/ and the cop's black crow smile of pain/ burst wide an O shaped lantern. ..."

As you can see, as the narrator's life falls apart, so goes the language, dropping punctuation, fragmenting as the story moves toward its conclusion, though never becoming unreadable. Same goes for the narrator, who never breaks or shatters as he cools to a beautiful craze.


Core: A Romance by Kassten Alonso. $12.95. Hawthorne Books. 208 pages.??

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