Friday, October 22, 2010

Watching the Windows Sleep, by Tantra Bensko Review

Watching the Windows Sleep, by Tantra Bensko
Reviewed by Kyle Muntz

Watching the Windows Sleep isn’t simply about dreams—it’s an exploration of the unconscious and its integration with the things we perceive, utilizing language in gentle, elaborate waves, like a series of momentary imprints, one replacing another as they wash against the shore. Reality (if such a thing can even be said to exist in the text) becomes a point of departure, around which Bensko weaves a tapestry of images, until the distinction between what is and is not becomes meaningless, and all that remains is a sense of “having experienced”, in an almost blissful sense.

For the most part, these stories are difficult, if not possible to summarize. All feature fantastic, surreal elements that very interesting and unique in themselves; these narratives run through the interior of the pieces without ever rising to the surface, so the reading experience itself remains quintessentially nonlinear. Each sentence makes us realize that the possibilities are limitless—and we begin to wonder, after a while, why we ever thought they weren’t.

Here’s an especially nice paragraph, taken from “The Boy Who’s a Floating Flower”.

In one event, the boy is singing to you, in many worlds. He looks a bit different in some. He’s barely recognizable in others, certainly not a human form. Yet, though he may exist there as a flower floating in the air, hovering, changing your future, or as a twisting of enveloping patterns of some game with rules encoded on angles of movement, you know it is him. You wonder how you could have forgotten him from your future.

The text has a lush sense of peaceful ambience that I really like as well, a striving towards something nameless, abstract, and beautiful. The text is also accompanied by a series of images, which do an excellent job accenting the stories; the overall sense is of a vision coalescing, always taking different shapes, but never settling on one entirely.

The different shapes mean much on their own, but when they are intertwined in these steps, the patterns of the green exchanging with each other, they make more sense to each other… When the ancestors fly over, if they ever do, they may not understand it. But it is not for them. It is for the shapes themselves…The shapes of dying, the shapes of living. They weave together like singers on a boat. The shapes of water itself, the shapes of shattering oneself forever. The shapes of going out through a window and never coming back through it, but walking through a door instead, incomprehensibly.

Altogether, this brief collection is made up of a handful of short stories with one poem at the beginning and end. Each piece, though, is rich enough to be read over many times, and taken together they form a kind of mind-space, unfamiliar, deeply textured, and on occasion a little erotic as well. This is the kind of work, of course, that seeks to expand our understanding of narrative, or perhaps renovate it entirely.

Who is that person standing in front of the yellow rocks, in this very life? You go closer. He seems lit up better now, in the deepening sunset, almost as if flames were highlighting his features. He turns to you and nothing in your life makes sense.

…Perhaps each moment is a meeting place as powerful as this. Each spot of space. Perhaps this is each moment, each spot. Time, perhaps, to lie down.

The windows are sleeping.

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