thechapbookreview

Charlotte’s Way, by Norman Fischer

charlotte's wayCharlotte’s Way
By Norman Fischer
20 pages
accordion style
2008
$12
Design by Terri Wada

Reviewed by Andrew Borgstrom

This book is spineless. No shit. No spine. This book looks like something the think-tank at McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern could have invented. You can open every page of this book at the same time. Like a doped up circus lion, you can jump through the center of this book like it’s a ring on fire. This book is a feat. This book is twenty feet.

Questions I would like to ask Norman Fischer:
Is Charlotte’s Way a portmanteau of Charlotte’s Web and Carlito’s Way?
If Charlotte’s Web and Carlito’s Way had a child, what would the child’s first word be?
Have you listened to the audio book of Charlotte’s Web while watching Carlito’s Way on mute?
Does the book line up with the film like Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz?
Have you listened to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon while watching The Wizard of Oz on mute?
Did you start the CD on the lion’s third roar?
Do you think the MGM lion could jump through your book without getting burnt?

A possible tongue twister found in Charlotte’s Way:
“The priceless paintings are priceless but more priceless is the precious person / puzzling over them.”

A possible allusion found in Charlotte’s Way to the title of a book by Dave Eggers:
“WHAT / is what.”

A possible Billy Collins-esque line found in Charlotte’s Way:
“As I write this line a leaf blows by.”

I read Fischer’s book in a hotel in Forks, Wa, with Twilight posters in every shop window. I could have got a Twilight room, the marquee claimed. The extent of my experience with Stephanie Meyer’s series involves picking up one of her books in a checkout stand at a grocery store, reading three lines, exclaiming “Oh my Fuck!” and putting the book back on the shelf, but upside down, and backwards.

Questions Norman Fischer might like to ask me:
When are you going to review my book?
Why exactly were you in Forks, Wa?
“Is there a state possible in which we can be / Without watching and judging simply awake?
Have you read Meyer’s book while watching the adapted film on mute?
“Why doesn’t this sound like / A Presidential campaign speech, newspaper article, or a poem?”
Did you know Charlotte’s Way is a house on the California coast?
“Of magnificent awareness, is this concrete enough?”
“How does the floor feel now?”
“And where is the world without you?”

Fischer’s text wants you to see the growth a day makes, a poem creates (tape measure provided). It wants to be pressed against the wall—careful to keep its feet flat—and measured. Fischer’s text keeps standing on its toes. The words want to be taller than they are. The last line of each stanza returns as the first line of the following stanza until the last line, which is “going nowhere,” instead of connecting back to the first line to cycle within like the chapbook’s construction does without. But maybe this is Charlotte’s way, maybe this is where she’s going, maybe nowhere leads to where we’ve been.

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  1. what were you doing in forks, washington? fyi, many of the words you quoted from the poem were actually unattributed quotations from charlotte selver, for years the owner of the house on charlotte’s way, who taught what she called “sensory awareness” a sort of spiritual technique. charlotte died at 102 in 2003. she developed her work as a young girl in germany, from which she fled, in the late 1930’s, when hitler came to power (she was part jewish, from the wittgenstein family, distant relative of Ludwig). the poem is a tribute to her and to the house – and an exploration of being in a place, whatever that means to any of us. not sure from your review whether you liked the book or not. maybe that’s good!

  2. Hi, Norman. Thanks for the comments. That’s the kind of stuff that should be in a review. You should review your book. I’ve kind of developed a persona here at TCR for not reviewing chapbooks, or almost reviewing them. I’m not sure if that’s good or not, but that’s what it’s come to. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a stand-up comedian when I grew up, but I didn’t really like standing all that much. Someone told me if I became a writer, I’d never have to stand up again. I did enjoy your book, and I stayed in Forks because it was the closest hotel to the rain forest. I definitely felt the sense of place in your book, and, at the same time, felt out of place due to my surroundings (at least the town’s obsession with genre fiction, not the rain forest part). I tried to capture that in a round about way, which to me echoed the cyclical nature of Charlotte’s way.

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