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Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan is the author of the novel Harmless Like You (Sceptre, 2016), winner of The Authors’ Club First Novel Award and a Betty Trask AwardHer short work has appeared in GrantaGuernica, The Guardian, The Atlanticand NPR's Selected Shorts

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The White Book feels as if it is being whispered: each paragraph seems to come from some deep and interior place Han Kang wrote it whilst living in Warsaw, though in the book the city is never named explicitly Instead it is only a white city, white for its snow and white for its stone ruins In an interview with Granta, Kang said that when writing this book, she imagined her prematurely dead sister had lived and visited the city ‘in my place’   Photographs are interspersed throughout In some, a woman appears, her face obscured by shadow In others, only her hands are visible She holds a child’s gown She holds a pebble-like object covered in salt The photographs are of white objects, but in contrast to the white pages, they are startlingly grey The specks and splashes of whiteness are surrounded by shadow The woman seems trapped in darkness Who is this woman supposed to represent? The narrator? The ghost of the sister? The novelist Kang? All or none of the above?  The literal answer is that they are photographs of a performance by Kang, shot by the photographer Choi Jinhyuk But within the pages, they seem to carry the spirit of characters — and the novelist herself   The text is a loose collection of thoughts, scenes, and images Few are longer than a page They are gathered into three sections — ‘I’, ‘She’, and ‘All Whiteness’ ‘I’ follows the narrator considering the colour white and describes her sister’s passing ‘She’ imagines the sister’s life Some subsections describe what the sister might have done—having an X-ray, finding a pebble, attempting to befriend a dog Others contemplate white things—seagulls, a dead butterfly, a lace curtain   Both ‘I’ and ‘She’ are pensive and slightly sorrowful At first, this similarity is disorienting: it is hard to see where one perspective ends and the other begins Slowly, the reader realises that this muddling is the point The concern of the narrator is not whether the sister would have been a vastly different person, but what it means to replace one life with another Her mother would not have
Han Kang’s ‘The White Book’

Book Review

November 2017

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

fiction

December 2016

The Giving Up Game

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

fiction

December 2016

The peculiar thing was that Astrid appeared exactly as she did on screen. She was neither taller nor shorter....

‘We are poor passing facts / warned by that to give / each figure in the photograph / his living name,’ writes Robert Lowell His poem ‘Epilogue’ is a lament at its writer’s inability ‘to make something imagined, not recalled’ Lowell desires the rich lucidity of a painter’s vision and instead finds himself armed only with a crude lens:   But sometimes everything I write with the threadbare art of my eye seems a snapshot, lurid, rapid, garish, grouped, heightened from life, yet paralysed by fact   Writing as painting, writing as photography — neither simile entirely fitting or true ‘Books are not mirrors, and life doesn’t go onto the page like life, but like writing,’ wrote Lynne Tillman in her essay ‘The Last Words Are Andy Warhol’, collected in What Would Lynne Tillman Do? In her new novel, Men and Apparitions, something similar is suggested of photography: photographs do not reflect life, they reflect photography — the medium and its mediations, both imagined and recalled What this means is one of the central preoccupations of the book’s narrator, Ezekiel (Zeke) Stark, a 38-year-old East Coast American academic (or as he might say, ‘acadoomic’) ethnographer who studies ‘society through images, in words and pix, in how individuals see themselves, in past and present tenses, and with what they identify, which are also images’   Zeke’s professional speciality is the family photograph album, and Men and Apparitions is both the story of Zeke’s own family and of the family, told through an album-like collage of portraits and snapshots, posed and impromptu, at once public and private, that move in and out of focus, collapse in stories shared and divergent: a twenty-first-century revision, perhaps, of Edward Steichen’s 1955 photography exhibition The Family of Man, one in which images are inherently self-conscious, complex and contradictory — just like the lives of those they depict, or in many cases, leave undeveloped There is Zeke, the middle child of a middle-class suburban family, raised outside Boston (‘John Updike Territory Nice Family place, if you didn’t know the family Kidding’) There is Mother, an accomplished editor; Father, an alcoholic; Bro Hart, aggressive and disdainful older brother,

Contributor

June 2016

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Contributor

June 2016

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan is the author of the novel Harmless Like You (Sceptre, 2016), winner of The Authors’ Club First Novel Award...

Harmless Like You

fiction

Issue No. 17

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

fiction

Issue No. 17

Interstate 95, September 2016   Celeste sat on the front seat wearing her black turtleneck sweater. She had three sweaters: black, blue, and festive....

READ NEXT

fiction

January 2015

One Out of Two

Daniel Sada

TR. Katherine Silver

fiction

January 2015

Now, how to say it? One out of two, or two in one, or what? The Gamal sisters were...

Art

December 2011

James Richards: Not Blacking Out...

Chris Newlove Horton

Art

December 2011

Artist James Richards appropriates audio-visual material gathered from a range of sources, which he then edits into elaborate, fragmented...

Prize Entry

April 2017

/gosha rubchinskiy/

Christopher Burkham

Prize Entry

April 2017

1. APARTMENT INTERIOR/MORNING/BELYAYEVO, MOCKBA, ROSSIJSKAJA FEDERACIJA…   There is a T-shirt on the desk in front of him.  ...

 

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