Water, by J.A. Tyler. Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2012. 148 pages. $13.95, paper.
J.A. Tyler’s Water is not a dream. It is two dreams. A dream of rain and a dream of fire. A prayer for land and a hunt for water. It is a dozen children gathered together, telling stories, finding worlds within one another, waiting for the rain to stop if only for a moment. It is a boy wandering the skies and lands, and a girl hiding from the herds of people who will take her apart for the dream she carries inside. It is the sound of silence, the music of the world, the chaos of rain and calamity of fire.
This is the sixth book by Tyler I’ve read and it may be my favorite, one I will keep coming back to for days and months and years. Tyler is certainly one of the most interesting writers around, publishing with a wide variety of presses in different genres, but always unmistakably himself. His prose is poetic without being indulgent, experimental without being difficult, and he uses repetition to great effect. He challenges our conception of narrative, of character, of reality, of what a story can be, of what it means to have one, to live one. He writes fairytales for the new world, myths for the future we are constantly building. Girl with Oars & Man Dying is a prayer, a meditation, and I thought he could not improve until I fell into No one told me I was going to disappear and then the other night when I picked up Water. I had planned on just dipping my toes, reading for a few pages, maybe twenty minutes, but instead found myself awake way too late, reading that last line over and over.
Water is perfect. There is not a wasted page, a wasted sentence, or even a word out of place. For its brevity, it carries great weight. The worlds of Water play with reality, with death, with love, with our concepts of god and time and humanity. Of a boy, of a girl, of sky, of mountain, of ocean, of the sound of the earth, of humanity, of everyone and everything. This dream in zzzzzzzzzzzzz, this heartbreak in zzzzzzzzzzzz, this love in the impossible music of zzzzzzzzzzz.
Postacpoaclyptic stories have been in vogue for a while, but never has there been one like this. Never has there been one so beautiful, so full of vision and sensation, so full of love and life. So if the world must end, I hope whatever comes next reads this book, and we can all live in a reality dancing chaotically with Tyler’s dreams of a world beyond this, of a life past water and fire.
Water is a book you need to read and J.A. Tyler is a writer you should be embarrassed to not read.
edward j rathke is the author of Ash Cinema published by KUBOA Press (2012) as well as various short stories online and in print. He writes criticism and cultural essays for Manarchy Magazine, and edits and contributes to The Lit Pub. More of his work may be found here.