Quiet Creature on the Corner by João Gilberto Noll, translated by Adam Morris (Two Lines Press, 120 pages, May 10)
This slim volume asks to be read in a single sitting, which is precisely what I did. And that's a good thing, because only in that way could I fully experience the dizzying and unsettling "plot."
The first of Noll's works to be translated into English, Quiet Creature is ostensibly about a young, poverty-stricken poet who, after being sent to jail for rape, is released into the custody of a mysterious older man who cares for him on an unidentified estate. Throughout the story, time seems to skip ahead without any warning, the narrator and the few other characters aging in fits and starts.
Often, the narrator will describe his actions as if viewing them from a distance. To him, things just "happen," despite his initiation. People come and go in his life without any explanation, and he often seems on the verge of realizing who his benefactor is and why he has earned the man's protection. But this insight never fully materializes.
Instability and uncertainty seem to be what Noll was going for- his refusal to give the reader a clear, straightforward story is an invitation to readers to think about our own lives and the ways in which we explain them to ourselves. We each have a narrative in our heads that we are constantly updating and tweaking. Noll amplifies this in Quiet Creature, compressing a single life into relatively few pages, asking us to think about our relationships and sense of responsibility. I haven't read too many other books like it.