This arresting little chapbook by Judson Hamilton is full of promise. I don’t just mean that in the sense of the anticipation one gets from judging a book good by its cover, but rather, promise and potential are the subjects of these few pages.
Every element of the book is a work of framing. It not only has that Saki-style sense of satire about it (although, I don’t think this is satire) but has any number of formal and narrative “frames”. From the form of the scene preface to the nature of the scenes themselves being almost staged, theatrical.
Each section is prefaced with a short description of the actors and place, and maybe a slight overreach to say what they might be discussing — even if, you might feel, they don’t quite discuss what the preface has promised from the section.
The work is a series of vignettes of the interactions of a family of small children and teenagers, and their keeper — a traditional governess of sorts: Miss de Mo. Each only offers a little glimpse at the social structures, period and relationships between each character, and you can only pick up the truth of their lives between those part of the work which seem archly-reported. That is to say that sometimes you can feel the director yanking a few puppet-string, as if some of the actors aren’t willing.
And yet, No Rainbows itself feels like the opening of a novel. Something really only just stretching out its roots before the heavy work of a few hundred pages begins. Intentionally so, I believe, it lays out the huge space of potential, and then denies it from the reader to highlight the sense that all is not well in the future.
A key feature of the last act is the Miss de Mo telling the group of children a story, each of them presenting a kind of reaction to it in its telling. The story itself is one cut short, without a satisfactory punchline — despite it, itself, having that well-establish shape of a fairytale. Much like the story that contains it, the fairytale ends in frustration. But that is in the conclusion of the story, where we understand the children are not entirely safe, and may indeed be homeless as their parents have sent for them without the ability to pay. Dire straights await them, wherever it is that they might find themselves exposed to. The chapbook is an expression of it’s meaning in its form, a playing with your expectations as to what comes next.
No Rainbow by Judson Hamilton is published by Greying Ghost, and you can buy it with your money here.
Horse Music by Matthew Sweeney is a bit magic:
Someone tweeted a transcript of Allen Ginsberg’s lectures of Pound’s Pisan Cantos. Clearly, they know their audience.
Thanks for reading Etch To Their Own #14 — it’s a bank holiday here, which means I will be ritually submitting myself to the sun in the form of sitting in pub gardens and drinking cold American Style IPAs. I might do a bonus email, if that won’t upset you, and I get time. As always, Etch To Their Own was composed by @CJEggett on a variety of typing devices using a number of different bodily appendages. If you spot a typo, want to say hi, or have something for me to read — please feel free to send me electronic mail, tweet mail, or chain mail. If your publisher would like this, please forward it on. If you want to tweet a link, tweet this one.