Rob Turner

Melba Alone

Dan

By

Dorothy: A Publishing Project 149pp £10.99 order from our bookshop

The plot of Joanna Ruocco’s dazzling new novel can be captured in two short sentences. Melba Zuzzo, one of the few remaining women in the small town of Dan, cycles to work at her local bakery. Later that day, she loses her job and her landlord tells her that she has been evicted. In outline, then, Dan is a fairly straightforward melodrama. ‘So this was what it is like to be unemployed,’ muses Melba towards the end of the novel, ‘navigating a man’s couch, poaching in the thick unclean daylight, as the man bustles about, hosting.’ Take a closer look at Melba’s words, however, and the picture begins to blur. The tense is unstable (‘was what it is’), and the verbs are as borrowed and ill-fitting as those in a poem by John Ashbery (‘navigating’, perhaps, but ‘poaching’?). What seemed to be a timely tale of redundancy and tenants’ rights in contemporary America is revealed, through these ongoing peculiarities of expression, as something odd and uncanny.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The lack of evidence ... of any definitive brain pathology in cases of schizophrenia and the absence of any reliab… ,
    • 'Since Dylan’s commercial and ideological heyday, the intrusion of sociology, semiology and post-structuralist thou… ,
    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,