One of the most fascinating traits of Beilin’s prose is the way that words tumble into each other, dissolving their distinctions into portmanteaus: “‘Just drive,’ Olivia told her mother, and Mrs Knox — who was usually too frail, sick, and tired, to drive, or love — drove.” Elsewhere repetition and assonance causes clotting: “Beth kneels, devout to it, devout to kneeling, but needing reasons.” Descriptions of female anatomy in particular are characterised by a constant drift towards the figurative: Olivia’s hand is “a small splayed bouquet of bones”; a breast is “the weight of bread forgetting itself”; the clitoris is “a rooster’s drip of throat,” “a rodent’s red liver,” “the flower of guts,” “the bedraggled lung of something waterous, a barracuda’s ripped reason for breathing, hanging in the open, with rancid coral hueing.” Like Antigone as a child, rolling around in a park, flashing her underwear, The University of Pennsylvania seems to speak “in a language parallel to language.”

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