>Christine Schutt’s Florida is an impressive work. It is a deep, but impressionistic, portrait of a complex family, with extraordinary glimpses into the mind of one woman as she first struggles through her childhood and stumbles into life. Alice, daughter of disturbed Alice, is fragmented as she shuttles from Uncle to Aunt to Grandmother, and the narrative is also fragmented. It consists of many small scenes from different parts of Alice’s life, and like a pointillist painting it is best viewed from a distance. It isn’t clear to the reader at first what is being shown on the page but eventually the picture takes shape.
Which is brilliant, but not always pleasant for the reader. The language, though, is incredible.
“Mother, I remember, in the Rapunzel shirt. Late May and the breeze made the garden blowzy—this way, that way—enthusiastic, and I could see straight-ahead to the pleasure of July, the cut-grass green days of dewy midsummer. My mother could see it, too, days of it, from where we were sitting on the stoop together, she ruffled up in the Rapunzel shirt and the breeze that was blowing along Main, Lawn, School, White—our streets in the leafy splatter of late May noon light. I was happy, and it seemed to me that Mother was happy, too, in a purely quiet way—no talking.”
I heard Schutt read from her new book last month and it seems to me the style—the fragmentation, the choppy narrative—is the same.