Two markedly disparate books, one a memoir, one a novel, explore in their fashions the theme of selfness, who one is in place and time, and what maps the perspectives one uses to chart one’s journey; guides that constitute the process of change that creates and recreates us, willy-nilly, throughout our lives.
Barrie Jean Borich
University of Nebraska Press
Borich, who literally has the skylines of Chicago and Minneapolis tattooed on her back, uses geography as metaphor to structure this intriguing memoir. The two cities are coordinates within whose parameters she ranges back and forth in time and space, from her ancestors’ passage from Bohemia to America to her own American storyline melding family, gender, and perceived loyalties.
An emotional, personal cartography, Body Geographic is an exploration of the author’s life. She ranges between her young, often out-of-control, sexually exploring self, to her past twenty years with Linnea, subject of Borich’s earlier, award-winning book, “My Lesbian Husband“. Superimposed on her own map are those of her relatives; immigrant great-grandfather, Big Petar, indomitable Gram Rose, and the myriad others who forged their own maps of a new and sometimes incomprehensible land. As Borich notes, “A map is only accurate in conjunction with the land it means to represent; if the land changes, so must the map.”
We each and every one of us have our own maps. As Borich writes of the maps that made her, distances between the what was, what is, what might be, she ventures beyond the mapped boundaries of her book (Beyond be monsters!) to urge the reader to consider his or her own geography. “What is the map that made you?” she asks, and welcomes a concrete, visual answer to this question, “made any way you please” that can be sent to her. To learn how, visit http://barriejeamborich.com.
Flying Leap: A Novel in Perspective
Ralf W. Oliver
Two Harbors Press
As its subtitle states, Flying Leap is, in the final analysis, a lesson in perspective. While Oliver offers the lesson to us all, this particular course is taught to an unnamed man by a pigeon. An urban tale–it takes place in midtown Manhattan–a pigeon is the ideal vehicle, to be viewed by the reader as a city dweller, feathered rat, or holy spirit, as he chooses.
Leap opens with the nameless man poised on the roof edge of a tall building. He was a successful business owner in his mid-thirties (sold his first company at twenty-three), drives a $65,000 VW Phaeton, is a first-class wheeler-dealer and manipulator of business scenarios and people–is now ready to leap to his death after finding his accountant has skipped to the Caymans with his cash.
Enter the bird, that, as it explains, communicates, not talks. The bulk of the novel is a dialogue between the two in which the bird leads the man through a close examination of his life to this point, how he has gone astray leading with his will and ego. He has charted his map, as it were, using flawed coordinates, viewed from perspectives that have resulted in this current dire situation. It comes down, communicates the bird, to “creation expressed through choice.” As the man begins to realize the difference between “living with your ego opposed to as your ego,” he becomes able to take a flying leap, transforming his fall into flight.