Review of Eugen Bacon’s fiction

By Roanna Gonsalves

41beXNSWWLLEugen Bacon writes with cheekiness and a fierce intelligence that shines through every page of her work. Right from the first sentence, the voices of each of her narrators grab the reader with their lucidity, their panache, and their uncompromising observational rigour. This rigour manifests itself in the freshness of Bacon’s prose, making the reader reconsider all manner of expectations related to genre, identity, and gender stereotypes, and opening up new possibilities with every turn of phrase. Her work may be rooted in the conventions of sci-fi, yet its speculative nature is grounded in the most surprising realistic details that serve to blur the boundaries between literary genres and suggest a more fecund apprehension of what literature might be.

In her novella, ‘Playback / Jury of the Heart’, written under the pseudonym Ivory Snow, the narrator begins with a seductive rhythm that suggests the pleasures of the text to come.

“Up the hill, they come. Ancient lovers old as sunset, younger than dew. Nothing is weathered about them, everything is new. They walk close knit, fingers clasped. They know the land as distinctly as they understand their love, and theirs is a love of an unusual kind. Away to the right, past the hills towards an emerald stream below, white cedars sway. Their leaves hum, a lowly grove song much filled with wonderment. The year is 5019.”

This combination of the freshness of voice, flirtatious literary provocations, and intellectual precision is so compelling as it draws the reader in with a mastery of rhythm and further engages the reader with nuanced explorations of longing, loss, and also of glorious imaginative potential. 51C7BQMea1L._SY300_

In ‘Bates’ Invention’, the first part of a short story duo, Bacon’s interrogation of science and the scientific method is never didactic and has no hint of affectation. Rather it is concerned with the socialised apprehension of the scientific endeavour, the human follies that undergird scientific progress. The specificity with which Bacon renders the scientific ruminations of her characters serves to present an assured narrative voice that’s thankfully unconcerned with proving one’s credentials or hitting the reader on the head with the reams of research that undoubtedly went into the construction of every line. Instead, Bacon focusses on the skillful telling of layered stories and is fearless in her mobilisation of multiple ontologies in pursuit of this task.

The second of the short story duo, ‘Arrivals’, is a considered meditation on the end of love, as it intersects with new beginnings, while holding the contradictions of parenthood in balance.

“You want to talk about missing Cocky but the night is sultry, and Jordan’s looking bored. Gazes with disinterest at the neighbouring table, at this guy with a polo shirt, army shorts and rugged crocs. His partner’s cool and pert face little compares with the guy’s washed out lugubrious face. She is calm as a sock and just as dull. Neither looks like a joke will squeeze out a laugh. She takes baby sips of sparkling wine, he downs a pint. You remember how you and George toward the end sat together yet alone, just like that, even when Cocky was between you, and you each clasped a hand or a foot, anything to lay claim on the child.”

Bacon’s narration sometimes borders on the erotic, sometimes on the raw truth of human frailty, but is always delightfully subversive and unapologetically transgressive. When Ursula K. le Guin said that fiction, poetry, drama “cleanse the doors of perception”, perhaps she was talking about this invigorating quality present in the work of Eugen Bacon. If Bacon’s shorter works are any indication of her handling of longer narrative arcs, then readers of her forthcoming novel are in for a delicious and satisfying treat.




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