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October 05, 1988 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-10-05

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The Michigon Daily

Wednesday, October 5, 1988

Page 5

Show to serve
ska, Silo stew -

By Kathlyn Davis
Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux
"Children are interested in the
deaths of other children: they hold
those deaths up to the light and then
align the contours of their own lives
against them, looking for sim-
ilarities. That's why the part of
Little Women that gets reread is
Beth's death; maybe that's why we
decide that too much goodness is a
dangerous thing."
-Kathlyn Davis in Labrador
Some parts of us never grow up.
Maybe that's why we curiously
identify with what pops out of
Binkley's anxiety closet in the
panels of Bloom County. But in
Labrador, Kathlyn Davis' first novel,
if you stand too close to Kitty's
anxiety closet you may be buried
alive. Too much goodness is a
dangerous thing.
Beautiful, clear and luscious in a
macabre way, Davis conjures up two
sisters, Willie and Kitty - short for
Kathleen (come on, couldn't you
have made up a different name than
your own?) - are bound by blood,
spells, and secrets that only sisters
can share. Readers who did not grow
up with an older brother or sister
will have a hard time navigating the
unfamiliar labyrinths of sibling
hierarchical relationships: "Your hair
was the color of fire and it flickered
in my face as I tugged along behind

you, so that I made the usual
mistake, assigning you the role of
source, as if all of my experiences
had their first expression in your
body- your eyes, your mouth, your
immaculate shrug."
Davis depicts incredibly sen-
sitively and accurately the sexual and
emotional evolution that takes place
within adolescence, between sisters.
In technicolor and 3-D, Kitty (one of
several narrators) delivers parental
favoritism, filial betrayal, am-
bivalent lies, jealous admiration, and
protective defence mechanisms -
and mainly love, which Willie and
Kitty communicate in an unspoken
language more clear and illustrative
than any conversation could. In
contrast, the dialogue reduces adults
- and children other than the sisters
- with Schultzian skill, to filler,
like a Charlie Brown special where
all the adults can only produce words
as necessary and meaningful as
There is one exception: Kitty's
grandfather, who lives in Labrador,
and allows her to be her own person,
not a biological; emotional reaction
to Willie. This guy kicks ass on
Hobson, the Butler in Arthur. Real-
ly. A strong-willed eccentric hardy
enough to survive in the open tundra
without becoming frigid, he melts
Kitty's inhibitions. The psych-
ological photographic negative of
home, Labrador represents the re-
flective space necessary for Kitty to
take a breath and look inward.

But eventually, Kitty must return
from Labrador to home... and Willie,
about whom she realizes, "I thought
you were mine, as if I were the one
asleep, and you were the dream
sister, the one whose love was
uncomplicated and durable."
The actual story, however, is
anything but uncomplicated and/or
durable. For example, the Nurse-of-
Becoming and Rogni, a Mother
Goose witch and a guardian angel
respectively, appear and disappear as
quickly and frequently the book's
narrators. The pair, Id and Superego
personified, confuse both Kitty and
the reader.
As a professional poet, Davis
knows the craft of defying the gram-
matical laws of time, space, and
tense unfortunately this doesn't
always work in the confines of a no-
vel. Bewitchingly, Kathleen draws
us across the stages of her past
complete with trap doors and
impeccably gorgeous'scenery but -
oops! - no play bill. It's not nice
to fool the reader!
But the absolutely stunning
acrobatic prose (see above) allows
Davis to get away with lapses of
lucidity and direction. Lewis Carroll
was tripping 'his face off on mor-
phine and I couldffollow Alice in
Wonderland just fine; whatever this
woman is on, I want some. Turning
each page, I wonder whether Kitty
will be big or small; in the present,
past or future; the protagonist,:
antagonist or narrator.

At times, reading Labrador is
committing sensual suicide; in-
undating all five senses at once,
while simultaneously demanding the
reader to think and interpret, is a
little much to ask. Ask a wired,
person, who just got high, con-
tentedly concentrating on eating a
perfect Taco Bell burrito, how they
interpret the manner in which they
relate to the world and their burrito
and what it all means (while
chewing) and see what you come up
Dressing her childhood memories
and adult interpretations in a con-
stantly changing wardrobe, Davis
creates a metaphorical masquerade as
enchanting and scary as Halloween.
Her prose is so layered with paint-
erly themes and honest insights so
hidden in myth, metaphor and make-
believe connected by hiatus that only
Davis can describe it best...
"In Labrador, there is always too
much of something or nothing at
- Margie Heinlen
A pint of beer at the
price of a glass!
8 Different Choices
of Draft Beer
The perfect
338 S. State
10:00 pm-close

BOSTON-based Bim Skala Bim treks into town tonight for a night
of ska and reggae along with the sans Silo sound of Walter Salas-
Bim,like other American ska bands, including Ann Arbor's own
Street Light Knights (RIP), grew out of the English ska movement,
primarily the "Two-Tone" label, which included such bands as
Madness, the Specials, the Selector, the English Beat, and Bad Man-
ners. Although its popularity is generally associated with this British.
movement, ska actually originated in Jamaica, as a precursor to
reggae. Ska quickly made its way to Britain in the early '80s where
English bands were quick to snatch it up, tie it into their already
interesting post-punk influences, and tighten the sound into a melodic,
peppy, and all-around more operational "dancefloor delight." Bim has
adopted both the reggae and ska sounds for their music, creating for
themselves a sound they classified in a recent Boston Globe interview
as "urban gumbo." To date, the band has released one, very well
received, self-entitled album which, according to radio play lists, has
been getting an enormous amount of air time not only along the east
coast, but well across the bible-belt and into the west coast.
If Bim's sound is "urban gumbo," then Walter Salas-Humara's
solos are "down-home paella." He throws in some Latin sounds to add
some spice to his otherwise bland, Indiana-cornfed rock. His first solo
album, Lagartija, is disappointingly weak compared with the sturdy-
as-steel sounds of the Silos. No word on how the solo Salas-Humara
is live, but he successfully plowed through the Pig with the Silos last

-Thursday, Oct. 6:
Auditions for young-looking (16
yrs. old) male and female actors for a
16 mm student film; 7 p.m., Frieze
Bldg. Room 2035. Call 426-5235
for further information.
---Saturday & Sunday, Oct.
15 & 16:
34th annual Metropolitan Opera
National Auditions at Detroit's
Rackham Auditorium, 100 Farns-
worth St., across from the Detroit
Institute of Arts. Three awards will

be presented: a $1200 first prize, a
$1000 second prize, and a $500 third.
Preliminary auditions will take
place from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, with concluding pre-
liminary auditions Sunday morning.
Final auditions begin at 2 p.m.
Sunday. Auditioners must be within
the following age ranges: Sopranos,
mezzosopranos and contraltos 19 to

33; tenors, baritones and basses 20
t0 33. Students interested should call
(313) 477-8629.
Michigan Daily

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is $4.

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