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In the face of a slow but impending apocalypse, what binds three seemingly divergent lives (a writer, a photographer, an old man), isn’t the commonality of a perceived future death, but the layered and complex fabric of how loss, abuse, trauma, and death have shaped their pasts, and how these pasts continue to haunt their present moments, a moment in which time seems to be running out. The writer, traumatized by the violent death of her mother when she was a child, lives alone with her dog and struggles to finish her book. The photographer, stunted by the death of his grandmother and caretaker, struggles to take a single picture and enters into a complicated relationship with the writer. The old man, facing his past in small doses, spends his time watching television and reorganizing the objects in his apartment to stay distracted from the deterioration around him. A depiction of the cycles of abuse and trauma in a prolonged end-time, Imagine a Death examines the ways in which our pasts envelop us, the ways in which we justify horrible things in the name of survival, all of the horrible and beautiful things we are capable of when we are hurt and broken, and the animal (and plant) companions that ground us.
About the Author
JANICE LEE is a Korean-American writer, editor, publisher, and shamanic healer. She is the author of seven books of fiction, creative nonfiction & poetry. She is Founder & Executive Editor of Entropy, Co-Publisher at Civil Coping Mechanisms, Contributing Editor at Fanzine, and Co-Founder of The Accomplices LLC. She currently lives in Portland, OR where she is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Portland State University.
“In Janice Lee’s newest work, Imagine a Death, her methodical, dedicated attention illuminates the otherwise impenetrable depths of grief. She invites us to bear witness to The Writer, The Photographer, and The Old Man—each having survived the death of a beloved—as they engage in pathetic but ultimately deeply resonant efforts to shape to their lives. We can recognize a bit of our collective (and increasingly daily) realities in the miasma of their city, plagued by ongoing, impending ecological disasters and regular, arbitrary violences. Through a panoply of animal interpellators, Lee invokes a world that is audaciously savage and catastrophically familiar, and offers an astonishing take on the saga—sung in a Beckettian key. To truly imagine a death requires attending to how we persist after.” —Juliette Lee, author of Aerial Concave Without Cloud
“Like a funereal mask studded with gemstones on its inside, Imagine a Death embodies a vast, preternatural and intensely intimate terrain, slipping headfirst into the impossible expanses between suffering and mourning, seeking and failing, spiral and flame. For Janice Lee is not the sort to turn her back where others duck and cover; sentence by sentence, her rhapsodic fearlessness and tender logic not only reflects and withstands, it listens back; it redefines as it rewires what’s gone missing; it refuses to give in to its regrets. The result is the greatest work to-date of one of America’s most elemental voices and death-defiers, a kind of lamp that breaks the dark.” —Blake Butler, author of Alice Knott: A Novel
“If I could swim inside the language of Janice Lee’s Imagine a Death I’d never come out. Just like the ocean, which is just like language and the subconscious, the passages open up from death outward into life and desire, eros and thanatos creating wave after wave of unending being and unbeing, strange undulations of beauty. When pain and loss travel they inhabit us over many different times and places, locate on a single body and then release like energy into a thousand starshot particles. To enter the realm of Imagine a Death is to enter both particle and wave, species and botany, a heart beating toward its own end which is of course all beginnings. Breathtaking.” —Lidia Yuknavitch, author of Verge
"Imagine a Death [...] participate[s] in “the flail” by demonstrating, affectively, the experience of awkwardness in awkwardness, disorientation in disorientation. Innovation cannot simply revel in its newness or associations with progress, but must, by necessity, embrace the clumsy, the awkward, the maladaptive, the intractable." —Vidhu Aggarwal, The Georgia Review — Vidhu Aggarwal