May 2010

Erin McKnight


Drenched: Stories of Love and Other Deliriums by Marisa Matarazzo

To suggest that Marisa Matarazzo’s collection of stories beats a steady pulse is akin to committing an indiscretion, for Drenched: Stories of Love and Other Deliriums is an organ that pounds a flow of blood so forceful that even if the language of love is rendered thready and the pulse of passion slows, the work’s resonance is positively arterial.  

If the heart is responsible for the rhythmic circulation of a body’s blood supply, which is in turn nourished by oxygen, it is the author’s textured narrative that composes the actual muscular fiber, and the reader’s breath -- intermittently held, and then released in spurting exhalations -- that makes for a system at once functioning in spirited vigor and affective decline. 

Rived into dual story groupings of six and four, Matarazzo connects characters through genetics and affection, her linking vessels superseding any conventional representation of kinship -- either thematic or physical -- as located in fellow omnium-gatherum short fiction collections. Every astonishing departure is interpreted on a cellular level, each story a structural unit wherein a distinctive voice and rendering of character function as independent embodiments of a wildly original, intricate, and energetic form. 

Embedded within fantastical writing that dazzles, it is the guiding trope of heat and the dominant motif of heart that allow for a level of accessibility perhaps unanticipated by the reader unfamiliar with (or intimidated by) leading-edge literature. The author, however, proves adept at subsuming the rarely achieved balance of astonishing and relatable, as although her paramours are startling in depiction and boast names like “Whaler,” “Little Sis,” “The Girlfriend,” and “Honky Sticky,” her obvious affection for the lives she animates is intoxicating.  

Like “The Floodgates of Love,” intended to “Take a body by surprise” and described by their character-creator as “[making] every receptor cell swim to the surface of the water you feel like you’ve become,” the potion concocted in Drenched is invigorating -- “like you are that small town in Hawaii in the 1940s and the feeling is like the tsunami that swallowed the town whole. People got lost in that tsunami. They were sucked into the middle of the ocean with pieces of homes and stores and vegetation. But you are alive and in love.”  

And when it comes to the affable eccentrics who conduct their lives with a vigor that burns “hot spots” into the pages of Drenched, the reader hungers for the unexpected actions of people like the acrobat who takes her lover onto the balcony and fires her bent body -- “a folded person like a bundle of firewood in her arms” -- like a human machine gun; Rose Quartz, whose teeth are “polished and pink and flecked with minerals” and have callused the inside of his mouth, and cause the same hot damage to The Girlfriend who must “kiss [him] in bursts”; and the inventor who constructs a tree home composed of water, due simply to “ions.” 

The beads of “Floodgates” that are created by an unconventional sweetheart pairing in “Sunder,” the first story in a sub-interconnected series, from a sheet of red Jell-O and a vial of perfume oil, are responsible for “burning away the two-bodiedness of lovers” much in the way that the text and its reader are fused as amorous entities reliant on the other for a rush of emotion capable of coloring cheeks.  

Despite its repackaging by sexually ambiguous villain Kelly Green in order to allow the buyer to “select the love that they are in and purchase the respective color flavor accordingly,” the “Floodgates of Love” ingestor is presented with “categories to choose from: madly in, obsessive, lusty, long-term, puppy, codependent, [and] desperate.” Matarazzo’s collection, however, is an “only red” product -- consumed in order to create an indefinable fusion of heat and hue that leaves this reviewer positively giddy, head over heels for its writer and her progeny. 

The story of any relationship that doesn’t face obstacles interpreted as unconvincing, the notion of love against all odds frames the collection’s most dramatic accomplishment: Matarazzo douses her lovers with water that cools and refreshes, yet also ripples and swirls the gushy essence of their devotion. Meeting and morphing as solid heat and aqueous coolness, then, the depicted floodgate functions as both regulator and regulated substance. 

“Like soup in a sack,” Marisa Matarazzo’s Drenched: Stories of Love and Other Deliriums beats a reassuringly constant circulation of fluid through physical pathways forever at risk of emotional interruption or rupture. Whether existing as blood or water, the collection rushes as an ocean of heart -- its throbbing current engulfing characters and readers in an emotional stream which is monitored by a phenomenal language engineer who is capable of regulating its flow with celebration and imagination. 

Drenched: Stories of Love and Other Deliriums by Marisa Matarazzo
Soft Skull Press
ISBN: 1593762712
256 Pages