Much thanks to Ryo Yamaguchi for a considerate and beautifully written review of Diana Hamilton's The Awful Truth over at Michigan Quarterly Review. You should take a few minutes to read the whole thing, but here is a short excerpt:
Okay but so I want to make of this moment — as it completes a kind of triangulation — a special effort of focus and attention. It should be clear now that dreams and cinema are sort of polar horizons on either side of Hamilton’s theory of composition. The brilliance of her engagement with this simple structure is an honesty as to composition’s value, or at least, the ways we ordinarily conceive of its value. As I hope these few examples have demonstrated, composition as a practice is not automatically sanctified. It won’t necessarily free you. It is, in fact, a promise that maybe never delivers, a haunting, an obsession, indeed, a bondage. It seems to be the case that composition — via dreams and cinema — is both meaningless and over-meaning; it both gives us nothing and let’s us have nothing of our own. It is a form of nihilism.
But maybe there is a way to transcend through, as it were. This is the distinct takeaway I take from The Awful Truth. These repeating dream and cinema structures are a kind of hard fact of our psychic and social existence, but as such they are ours, and with them we make an effort toward something, maybe, toward mastery, self-sovereignty. And we do that by being good. I’m not exactly sure — this point might happily be a joke of impossibility — but I will be a believer. All throughout this book there is an orientation of care. It is in Hamilton’s own precise writing and effort toward the true (even if it is awful), but also her care for others and a powerful discipline that no matter our confusions about ourselves or the world, it is never unclear that we should always try to treat each other right. This “treating” is a kind of attentiveness, and one gathers a cumulative sense of attention — dreams and cinema both as forms of attention. The earnestness of this become apparent as one progresses, and so it seems that the author must develop this play of syncretic intertexts toward some ultimate exertion of attention, a composition that is finally allowed.
See the entire review [here]