Harriet “Harry” Burden was an obscurely known artist for much of her life, and also a wife, mother, and scholar. She was criticized for her small architectural works that consisted of too much busyness–cluttered with figures and text that didn’t fit into any schema. Her husband, Felix Lord, was an influential, successful art collector, but who couldn’t help his wife for alleged fear of nepotism. After Felix died, Harriet came back with a vengeance, and under three male artist’s pseudonyms (artists that she sought out), she created a combination art (part performance, if you consider the pseudonyms as part of the process) a trilogy which was successful, and even more lauded posthumously. They were shown individually under the names of “The History of Western Art, ” “The Suffocation Rooms,” and “Beneath.” Later, when unmasked (so to speak), they were identified as Maskings. I am reluctant to reduce and categorize Harriet–although labels such as “feminist” may apply.
Every so often, a novel is published that is so inventive, so rich that it transports its readers deep into its fictional world and wonâ€™t let go until the end. Dexter Palmerâ€™s steampunk THE DREAM OF PERPETUAL MOTION is that kind of book. Set at the beginning of the twentieth century, after â€śthe age of miracles,â€ť this eloquent and often playful tale, stuffed full of allusions and sly commentary, is narrated by Harold, a man imprisoned aboard the zeppelin Chrysalis, a failing â€śperpetual motion machine.â€ť He is alone except for the voice of his beloved Miranda and a crew of mechanical men. As he tells of his evolution from a shy, awkward boy who wants nothing more than to ride the Tornado at the carnival to the murderer of Prospero Taligent, the father of Miranda and one of the most celebrated inventors of his day, Harold spins a mesmerizing story of how he attained his â€śheartâ€™s desire,â€ť even though that was not what he wanted.
The first several pages of this Spanish gothic melodrama might be enough to discourage even the most intrepid readerâ€”overblown prose, trite imagery, clichĂ©s, self-conscious attempts to play on the readerâ€™s heartstrings, and an undeniable straining for â€śeffect.â€ť Then in a twist, the reader discovers that this excerpt is merely the beginning of a manuscript about a child murder written by Luisa Davila, the main character in the larger novel. And as the reader is saying â€śWhew,â€ť at the thought of having escaped three hundred pages of such writing…
When I picked up this book, written by a popular Iranian author, my only expectation was that it would be an interesting view of life in Iran today, and, in particular, the life of a writer trying to avoid the â€śthought police.â€ť What I never expected is that the book is so funny! Witty, cleverly constructed, satiric, and full of the absurdities that always underlie great satire, CENSORING AN IRANIAN LOVE STORY is a unique metafiction that draws in the reader, sits him down in the company of an immensely talented and very charming author, and completely enthralls him.