Boxing the Compass
This novella of compressed, accreting, hungry paragraphs is full of sparkling diction and pinching rhythms; mysteriously, it silhouettes its interlocking motifs. Geography, family sadness, facts about the Old and New Worlds come into play. A real pleasure of a book.
Sandy Florian’s gorgeous meditation, Boxing the Compass, begins with kinds of unfolding, a sort of anti-origami of intention and desire: like love letters or lovers’ bodies, exposing and withholding simultaneously. Any reader who opens herself, himself to this book is risking a special kind of pleasure. But the presiding engagement is not pleasure itself, but experience of unfolding, which can also be violent—an earthquake is a cosmic origami, and an accurate account of the mind awakening in this extraordinary book.
Of Colombian and Puerto Rican descent, Sandy Florian was born in New York and raised in Latin America. She is the author of five books of hybrid prose: Telescope, 32 Pedals & 47 Stops, The Tree of No, Prelude to Air From Water, and On Wonderland & Waste. She has been awarded a residency at Caldera Arts and a writer’s grant supported residency at the Vermont Studio Center, as well as literary prizes from Elixir Press, New Voices, and Brown University. She lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, where she is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Non-Western Literature and Creative Writing at West Virginia University. She also serves as one of the “other” editors for Tarpaulin Sky Journal.
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Sandy Florian’s Boxing the Compass defies categorization, subverts genre, and reframes our ideas of what story and language can do—all the while remaining intensely readable. In fact, upon “finishing” the book, this reader had to read it again. Perhaps a reader doesn’t ever “finish” a book like this, preferring to keep it at hand so that he or she can pick it up on a whim and reread random passages, such as: “she // unfolds her body the same way some people unfold letters from their lovers who’ve set sail, slowly, with caution, minding the curled edges of the cracked pages, that fading blue ink of time,” or “[she] steps onto the // sidewalk turning northeast on that landmass, concrete composite of well and of shell, of hole and of bowl, of buds from that ever budding past, so buckled by history and crumpled by memory, so embedded with remnants of crocodile eyes crying crocodile tears on these crocodile days . . .”
At HTML Giant, Robert Savino Oventile reviews Sandy Florian’s Boxing the Compass
Imagine a novella catching intimations of the oceans in their terrible fragility as sustainers of life by narrating a daughter in mourning for her mother. Imagine that, through the daughter’s grief, this novella allows the mourning climate change solicits in language to find articulation. With these imaginings, we arrive at Sandy Florian’s uncanny work of mourning, Boxing the Compass.