About the Book
Fugitive Assemblage is lyric noir. It takes place in California in 1983. A woman pulls an IV out of her arm, walks out of the hospital and starts driving north. She is bleeding and nauseous and ever aware that there is something in the trunk of her car that is rotting. It is only after she makes her way through Big Sur and Monterey, over the mountains and into the Central Valley, that she discovers where to bury the body, so to speak. Fugitive Assemblage is rigorously loyal to human emotion. Rather than allow the stricture of narrative to manipulate and drive emotion, emotion emerges in Fugitive Assemblage through form and language. In it, the California highway is a skeleton and its flesh is the voices of ghosts. Fugitive Assemblage renders sensation, because emotion is tied with physical experience. It incorporates images. It uses the harmony (or, more often disharmony) of numerous ghostly voices, from women’s diaries of the “westward journey,” to geology texts, Ingeborg Bachman’s poetry, to Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. It draws on science, on family history and on personal trauma to evoke the experience of grief.
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About the Author
Fugitive Assemblage is mysterious, restless, searching, flat out beautiful, and finally, heartbreaking. I don’t think I’ve ever read grief in a way that feels so true. And then there is just this absolute pleasure in the language, the atmosphere, the constant move forward through the Southern California landscape and through history. Joan Didion meets Bhanu Kapil meets the films of Kelly Reichardt. It’s like a long, hot day that turns into a harrowing night, and yet at the end, somehow, there is a sense of peace. – Amina Cain
Tracing and butting up: blood lines, boundary lines, familial lineages, the lines on maps. Calkins reveals the unresolved, the lost, the inaccessible, and the lingering of the fugitive assemblage which is grief and journey and rupture and self. Oh, dear reader, how do I even attempt to describe the breathlessness and devastation felt while navigating this heartbreaking and tender text? “If it is love that injures, how can we heal,” the text asks, and all I can do is plumb the inescapable depths of my own meanderings, a preposterous weight that crawls up my spine and splits my bowels. Fugitive Assemblage is piercing and marvelous. Autumn approaches and I sit at my desk alone, weeping. Indeed, “all of this is story.” – Janice Lee
Jennifer Calkins is a scientist /poet / teacher /parent and environmental lawyer. She is also blessed with the wisdom and clarity that depression instills. She paints bleak and beautiful landscapes in our brains with all of the grace and horror of Cormac McCarthy. Fugitive Assemblage is a road story, a darkly funny odyssey in a Datsun careening thru a desert apocalyptic California haunted by ancestral demons. This is Jennifer’s best work to date. Get in the Datsun. – Thor Harris