Carla Harryman describes Garderner of Stars as “an experimental novel that explores the paradise and wastelands of utopian desire.” The book offers a mythic history of a post-historical city situated in a garden landscape whose inhabitants are engaged in perpetual tending, limitless generation. Their generatings and tendings take place in speculation and dream, practical and impractical invention, desire and copious sex – all facets of a politicized eros and an erotic politics.
The utopia in question (“the unruly utopia of the senses that is not in conflict with the world’s current”) must be understood first not in terms of place but in terms of personage. M, Serena, Gardener (the eponymous heroine of the novel) are themselves utopias (as distinct from utopians) surviving in a painfully fraught (though sometimes beautiful) milieu. Negotiating this milieu, the various characters come into contact (or, more precisely, throw themselves into contact) with events that are in a ceaseless process of coming into being and falling into ruin.But this utopia must be understood too as the very language, the prose, that invents it. No contemporary writer has done more than Carla Harryman to tend and generate the possibilities of prose writing in English. Haunted by the future, Gardener of Stars is an extraordinarily moving, brilliantly visionary work.
Other works by Harryman include two volumes of selected writing, There Never Was a Rose Without a Thorn (City Lights, 1995) and Animal Instincts: poetry, prose, and plays(This, 1989); a hybrid novel, The Words after Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories and Jean Paul Sartre (O Books, 1999); and a book-lenght dramatic work, Memory Play (O Books, 1994).
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