March 2006

Angela Stubbs

fiction

The Levitationist by Brandon Hobson

This short book takes on some of the characteristics of a short-story but explores more territory than that form allows. Echoing the style of essayist and poet Lyn Hejinian and author Jane Unrue, The Levitationist examines dreams, happiness, death, heaven, the devil, suicide and music. Even animals and God play a part in this prose poetry that author Brandon Hobson has so fastidiously thought out.  Pages are populated with few words and often comprised of only one or two staccato-like sentences.  

Initially, this work seems to be filled with surreal moments interspersed with everyday life of a family, their reality. But upon further examination it becomes clear that the work here is multi-faceted. The human body is a fitting road map for character transformation and the illusions that are projected onto it, often in a fairy tale like fashion. The rhythm of the work dictates the change of events and even shifts in points of view. The Levitationist keeps us in perpetual limbo between the mind and body. Hobson gives intricate quirks to the flawed, human mind that play out in moments of fear, joy and even sorrow. Little boys levitate, mistresses are had and angels and demons take on various forms. Here, characters curiously approach surreal scenarios and confront them as do objects with minds of their own.

The meticulous attention to language takes over as the navigation guide in The Levitationist. In the absence of character names and chapters, the reader is captured by numerous speakers about various insanities and ominous prophecies. In a place where apple trees have little ears sprouting; little Chinese women live in our character’s freezer and cities multiply right underneath our bathroom tub drains, you wonder what’s truly an active object and what’s chimera. But objects reappear and the devil is always in disguise in these character’s lives. Hobson brilliant disguises reality and fantasy and fuses them together allowing a literary synergy to take place.

While hardly cavalier in his prose, Hobson confronts intimacy, suicide and death in a style that renders respect. Dissonant parts of the book that require the reader to go headlong into dark and uncomfortable places are far from esoteric. Although the piece doesn’t have a concrete beginning or end, Hobson keeps us alert and aware of the surroundings.  

She left parts of herself around the house for her promiscuous husband to find. It became sort of a game. When he came home early in the mornings, after staying out all night, he would often find a mouth, a hand or a tongue, a breast, at times even a finger. She never once left her vagina for him. She kept it hidden, as always, in the one place she knew he would never look.

Hobson dissects the institution of marriage and what happens when it falls apart. He reproduces some of the places we visit in our minds but would never discuss out loud with anyone. Meditation becomes a mental vacation and little women tunnel into the mind of the disturbed via lighted match. Feeling isolated tends to irritate our character’s coping mechanisms. This results in further isolation, causing one to “build an enormous wooden box so he could crawl in it and find himself.”

It seems that in Hobson’s The Levitationist, isolation becomes a predominant part of one's life, whether it is due to a crumbling marriage, painful memories or the death of a family member. The gift of being able to reside outside of our own minds and bodies and live inside the living room walls or bathroom drains becomes a way to deal with the mystery and horrors that abound in this work. Cursed with inner demons and unfulfilled desire is what keeps the characters in this book unified. Brandon Hobson has created a place where you can turn into smoke and levitate above oneself; a world where insecurities manifest as physical flaws, evil is ever-present and suicide can take an exceptionally creepy turn.

It is in finishing The Levitationist we are able to digest the all the characteristics of this prose poetry. Hobson’s work conjures up images of the obscure and the insane. Lacking a traditional end and beginning adds only to the creativity that lies within The Levitationist. “Imaginative affinity is the truest ability to take risks.” And taking risks is something that Brandon Hobson has done here. Unpredictable with each turn of the page, Hobson creates the perpetual spiritual journey, where we can mix the real with the surreal, the human with the non-human.

The Levitationist by Brandon Hobson
Triple Press
ISBN: 0977616223
110 pages