By Danielle Dutton
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
ISBN# 9781940696775 (5.75 x 8, 144pp, trade paper)
When Danielle Dutton’s SPRAWL first broke upon the world in 2010, critics likened it to collage, a poetics of the suburbs, a literal unpacking of et cetera. This updated edition, with a new afterword by Renee Gladman, reopens the space of SPRAWL’s “fierce, careful composition”—as Bookforum wrote—“which changes the ordinary into the wonderful and odd.”
Danielle Dutton’s unnamed narrator stalks through yards, streets, and her own house with such sharp perception that everything she encounters—cake trays, the doorbell’s ring, a dead body—becomes an object in her vast and impeccable still-life. Dutton’s sentences are as taut and controlled as her narrator’s mind, and a hint at what compels both ("I locate my body by grounding it against the bodies of others") betrays a fierce and feral searching. SPRAWL makes suburban landscapes thrilling again.
The Believer Book Award, Editors’ Shortlist
Sprawl is not an essay but feels like essay—spreading out one’s thinking on the page, on many pages, to feel the accumulation of thought, motion of consciousness, its emotional mixtures and fresh perceptions, how it knows and un-knows at once, at twice, at thrice, O the rise and fall of one’s thoughts speeding towards the slow, slow drip, into blank page spaces. I’m talking about the variety of human consciousness, cogitation as action, contradictory thought tissues as plot with emotional, dramatic, and thematic resonances. On the page of essay, we encounter not ourselves but a voluminous representation of something like ourselves that makes us feel visible to ourselves and to others and connected to something totally other that may or may not be sentient. It’s wanting to not be left behind. Our ancestors we never knew who suffered and who felt pleasure, alone and with others. Of course we are left behind, but in the moment of composition—and perhaps replicated when we read the work of others—we feel something other, the touch of another. Thank you, Ms. Dutton, for making this book, Sprawl. I am alone but not feeling lonely.
Jay Ponteri, Essay Daily
It’s a cousin of Woolf’s stream of consciousness, focused almost entirely outward, and constructs, in the mundane setting of an unnamed suburb, a world of unexpected intensity. . . . One of the novel’s many successes is that its narrator never succumbs to the malaise baked into the trope of the suburban housewife. Although she is often affectless, she is always keenly aware of her project. . . . This novel is a captivating exercise of language as a medium, a still life in just over a hundred pages.
Lauren Kane, Paris Review
Dutton is not the first writer to explore the paradoxical nature of contemporary suburbia . . . yet Dutton has found her own perspective on the subject, and a formal balance between experiment and simplicity, critique and appreciation. Yes, SPRAWL heaps volumes of satire on suburbia. Here, however, suburbia is in on the joke, and returns our gaze.
Erin Becker, Make Magazine
At the heart of Danielle Dutton's SPRAWL is a lavish, endless list of domestic objects: water pitchers, sweaters, cakes on cake stands, petunias in a terra-cotta pot. Borrowing techniques from both fiction, poetry, and visual art (particularly photography), the book not only infuses each object, be it a juice glass or a paper napkin, with a Vermeeresque glow but arranges it into part of a verbal still life. The result? A fresh take on suburbia, one of reverence and skepticism.
Leigh Newman, Bookforum
Dutton’s unnamed housewife roams sidewalks and manicured lawns like one of Benjamin’s flaneurs, reminiscent of the contemporary urban walkers of Renee Gladman’s stories or Gail Scott’s My Paris. But this novel is like other works, and it is not—it is both unabashedly voracious in terms of literary sources and an extraordinarily original text.
SPRAWL feels like walking around the neighborhood at night, spying through lit living room windows... Dutton makes the domestic feel forbidden with how lusciously she renders each scene.
Nathan Scott McNamara, Lithub
This experimental novel is best read in a single sitting and, like the photographs that inspired it, can be viewed in any number of ways, with a different effect each time.
In this reissue by Wave Books, poet and fiction writer Danielle Dutton observes the suburban. She walks along sprawling suburbs and considers the eeriness of its normalcy, the stillness of its imagination, with wry graceful attention.
Imagine literally unpacking et cetera. This is what Dutton’s experimental novel, SPRAWL, aspires to do. SPRAWL is a double entendre—written in single sentences with no paragraph breaks whatsoever, its prose affects a sprawling internal monologue of a female protagonist; the title also locates the novel in the suburbs, which, like et cetera, could go on forever. . . . It is an original approach to a conventional subject, a challenge to the basic ingredients of novels (setting, character development, point of view), and a reinvestigation of Victorian fascination with the inner lives of distraught, socially confined women. Dutton’s rendition, because of its strict commitment to continuous run-on feels strange and new, even while echoing Molly Bloom’s exasperated soliloquy at the end of Joyce’s Ulysses.”
Cora Fisher, The Rumpus
Danielle Dutton is the author of SPRAWL (Wave Books, 2018), Margaret the First, and Attempts at a Life. Her writing has also appeared or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, Harper’s, The White Review, Fence, BOMB, and others. She is on the faculty of the writing program at Washington University in St. Louis and is co-founder and editor of the feminist press Dorothy, a publishing project.
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