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Dzanc Books is nonprofit press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. In addition to publishing activities, Dzanc Books also supports the Disquiet International Literary Program.

The Body in Four Parts, by Janet Kauffman

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The Body in Four Parts, by Janet Kauffman


The Body in Four Parts, by Janet Kauffman

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A non-linear passion play; an eloquent demand for a return to the roots of our being, our most ancient and elemental nature—air, earth, fire, water.


From Library Journal

This strange little novel is narrated by the body in the persona of the element, earth. Each of the four elements is an aspect of the narrator and is independent of, but a part of, the whole. Earth's sister, "water," is named Dorothea (she inexplicably calls herself "S."). "I turn to mud when I am Dorothea," says earth; and she has the same symbiotic relationship with brothers Jack (air), who is "a juggler" who "assumed the spaces between the bodies of things," and Jean-Paul (fire), who "fuses." With her friend Margaretta, a fishmonger who gets her hair done once a week, the narrator heads East in a Plymouth Horizon in search of watercress for Dorothea who, meanwhile, remains (in) water and writes (in cursive script) sketches involving Jonasine and the whale, God's lips, and a balloonist named Andalusia. The watercress gathered, Margaretta and Jean-Paul, whose hair burns underwater, plant it in a muddy section of "the channel" in a small cove. This eloquently written failure is needlessly abstruse. Not recommended.
- Ron Antonucci, Hudson Lib. & Historical Soc. , Ohio
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Kauffman (Obscene Gestures for Women, etc.) has a mage's weakness for mysterious utterance, the goddess-persona, and a tendency to approach each of her slender, poetic but usually freighted works as though she's revising Ovid along feminist lines. Here, she plays with the conceit of multiple personalities to extend and simultaneously concentrate her mythologizing. Broken into the thematic elements of Water, Earth, Fire, and Air, Kauffman's ``story'' concerns a woman with an aquatic alter-ego named Dorothea (as well as a sub-alter-ego named Jonasine, adventuring femininely in the belly of the whale); two male counterpart-elements named Jean-Paul and Jack; and a fishmongeress best friend named Margaretta--with whom the narrator takes a car trip east. The trip makes up the only trail-able narrative element in this swoony mash of metamorphosis and stylistic self-indulgence, and hardly seems worth the effort: tepidly comic, recounted in secondhand flashback. Gender wisdom rather than narrative generosity seems the goal. Pretentious deluxe. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


Janet Kauffman is an American novelist, poet, and mixed media artist, and the author of nine titles.