Reviews of She and I: A Fugue
An obsessive metaphysical Internet romance between May and December is loaded with long-distance yearning, self-actualization, Zen aphorisms and idiosyncratic punctuation.
Beginning with his early memories of life as the child of a single mother in the mid-'60s and ending with a meditation on what he learned, She and I recounts the author's lifelong journey toward understanding himself in light of the Eternal Feminine. But his relatively chaste intimate history with various ladies, as described in this debut novel, reads more like George Bernard Shaw's Don Juan in Hell than the Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Bedroom, since there's much more talk than there is actual physical contact - especially with Mira, the 18-year-old ballet student the 35-year-old Brown meets online in 2000. The usual giddy rush of infatuation ensues, progressing steadily from e-mails and instant messages to long-distance phone calls to the ultimate challenge - face time. Brown travels from the West Coast to Boston and it's all music, fire and poetry when they meet. They see themselves in each other - and envision some sort of future together ... Literate and engaging in a low-key, contemplative way, the author's prose will appeal to romantics of a certain stripe and those who see great meaning in the smallest gesture or the word unspoken. For those who like their prose more substantial and standard in form, Brown's chat-room style of condensed syntax and inelegant contractions ("When her breathing'd gone regular, I turned. Again moon'd come - again I'd watch, think, drift.") may seem a bit precious.
A slightly steamy philosophical tome for the online community.
- Kirkus Discoveries
Foreword CLARION Reviews
Four Stars (out of Five)
A fugue is a musical term for a style of composition written in a fixed number of parts, or "voices." Here in Michael Brown's She and I: A Fugue, the author employs a multitude of lyrical techniques, such as line breaks, rhythm, and figurative speech, to create a memoir that reads like verse, but has all the narrative elements of creative nonfiction. The result is that each of his experiences is told in its own voice.
This is a memoir centered on one man's life experiences with women, beginning with his mother and grandmother and continuing to the romantic relationships of his adult life; each relationship has importance and significance, and he says in the early pages, "women were big presences. They raised me." Told in episodes of varying length, the memoir is divided into five parts, with each part further divided into chapters with their own segmented narratives. The writing, at the sentence level, is devoid of any unnecessary language, and sentences often omit articles, modifiers, and pronouns. In a simple description of a young girl nursing her fingers which had just been smashed in a window, the author says: "She had them to lips."
Additionally, Brown uses other poetic elements, such as line breaks and regular patterns of rhythm, to describe his experiences and breathe life into them. In chapter two, he writes: "A shock. / The lights grew brighter. / I stopped walking without realizing. / I did not move or breathe." Such stripped down syntax and the lyrical employment of speech makes for a complexly intricate composition which enhances the memoir's theme of moving away from convention and toward a unique life.
Of course, such stylized writing and poetic language may make the writing somewhat inaccessible for some readers; and at times, Brown seems to intentionally structure his narrative with abstractions and deviations from convention, and the reader may feel lost or left out of the story. However, such intricacy with language is ultimately artful and moving, and the effect of such lyrical writing will not be lost on most readers. This is a memoir that is able to draw from both poetic and narrative elements, blending language and metaphor with story into a tapestry that reads with the clarity of a story but with the lyricism of a poem. The effect is musical.
- Jessica Higgins
"... a unique blend: novels with comparable character interactions are common, but they're fictional, and thus fantastical. Conversely, memoirs are never as personal ... perhaps that's why I found She and I so emotionally gripping." - Bernie Horowitz
"I really don't cry easily, but this had me weeping." - Lindsay Woodcox
"A glimpse into a relationship's heart." - Susan Hymas
"... quite unusual, and quite gripping ... juicy and full of emotional events as he pursues love where it takes him ... he does not aim to titillate; rather he means to inspire." - John J. Enright
"Tonight I finished - tears falling, drying then welling up again. I feel grateful." - Kathleen Glass
"Rich, breathtaking ... each scene a story unto itself. Love the texture." - Stefanie Harvey
"Powerfully written ... very poetic ... poignant ... an amazing accomplishment." - Carol Fiore
"I couldn't put it down. I sat in my chair all night and read it all. It's inspired me to start writing - to chronicle some of the really good stuff of my life." - Chris Crawford