SILK EGG: Collected Novels 2009-2009
Shearsman Books, U.K.
Release Date: 2011
Publisher’s Book Page
No. of Pages: 132
Price: 9.95 Euros; $U.S.$17.00
Distributors: Amazon.co.uk, The Book Depository, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Small Press Distribution
Author’s Book Description:
Last century, I temporarily borrowed Jorge Luis Borges’ chatelaine. I slipped off a certain key and made a copy before I returned it to its chains and the old man (OMG — can he ever snore!). Since then, I’ve been able to slip into Jorgie’s Library of Babel whenever I wished — that permanent stain on the 7th floor’s limestone windowsill was from the d’Yquem I’d carelessly spilled from my treasured wine glass (stolen previously from Vermeer). About a year after I wrote all of the novels that comprise SILK EGG, I returned to the Library of Babel’s 7th floor with a bottle of Ajax cleanser (“stronger than dirt!”) that I’d hoped would work this time in erasing proof of my unpermitted visitations — that hardened pool of “nectar of the gods” ever winking out a small sun from the bibliophilic dimness. It was during this yet again failed attempt at the domestic arts that I also stumbled across a book whose spine mirrored the color of the sweet liquid I’d spilled; I do love this wine’s color—an apt symbol of enlightenment among Buddhists. I pulled out the book from the shelf, blew off the dust, opened it, and discovered there the same words that comprise SILK EGG. However, the novels were contextualized by the book’s title — INEVITABLE GIBBERISH. I dispute the Library of Babel’s context—but there’s no need to take my word for it — I’ve decided to release SILK EGG to the public and have readers judge whether these novels are more than the leavings from more acceptable narratives as authors strive to use every letter, space and punctuation mark in every possible combination.
—Eileen R. Tabios
“The genius of Eileen R. Tabios is as generous as it is manifold. Reading Silk Egg, I suddenly feel myself becoming more perceptive, fantastical, mordant, impassioned, and artful. Just like the book itself. Read it, and the same can happen to you.”
The Title Novel:
“Silk Egg,” is available online from its first publisher, Cerise Press: A Journal of Literature, Arts & Culture. “Silk Egg” was nominated by Cerise Press for the Best American Short Stories anthology.
Jürgen Köller’s mathematics website gives some advice for creating egg-shaped curves: [From the Oval to the Egg Shape:] You can develop the shape of a hen egg if you change the equation of an oval a little. You multiply y or y² by a suitable term t(x), so that y becomes larger on the right side of the y-axis and smaller on the left side. y(x=0) must not be changed. The equation of the ellipse e.g. x²/9+y²/4=1 change to x²/9+y²/4*t(x)=1. Here you multiply y² with t(x). // But to do such a thing in language? That would require the expertise of Eileen Tabios.
—Michael Leong, Big Other Review (Full review HERE)
The twelve novels in Silk Egg provide a respite from intricate elaboration of plot. We have the pleasure of speedy actions mixed with metacommentary. While the often fractured narratives of Eileen R. Tabios’ poetry and prose-poetry offer similar benefits, I believe that the use of chapters is not merely a caesura, but a new way of indicating pacing. The reader can pause or slow down and then speed up again. And one with a desire to write a novel of the usual length can regard such examples of “shrinklit” as remarkably concise blueprints for long projects. Tabios would like that; she has longed championed the idea that the reader becomes the writer once the latter’s job is done.
—Thomas Fink, Press 1 (Full review HERE)
Ms. Tabios’ “slap” didn’t start with the title, it began when I opened the book of “novels.” Each chapter is a self contained novel and novels making up what I would call the total novel. In other words the sum is as great as the parts, the parts necessary for the sum. I personally had not seen this before, though Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke employs a similar concept, though not as creative or unique as Ms. Tabios.
—Zvi A. Sesling, Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene (Full review HERE)
Silk Egg: Collected Novels is another work extremely illustrative of Tabios’s willingness to push the boundaries. Having read many traditional novels, typically focused on the life of one character in more or less a realist form, Tabios stretches the boundaries of how a novel might be defined. Indeed, each “novel” is extremely short to the extent that one novel might consist of a handful of brief sections. Each section operates with prose poetic blocks that often do not directly engage the previous or following section. Nevertheless, Tabios’s work with all of its formal inventiveness always is undergirded by an attention to social contexts, however elliptically they may be represented. Take the “novel” entitled Cambodia, which seems to unfold over a dinner date in which consumption takes place within a Vietnamese restaurant. Given the interconnected histories of Vietnam and Cambodia, Tabios uses this “novel” as an opportunity to move beyond touristic consumption of ethnic foods.
—Stephen Hong Sohn, Asian American Literature Fans (Full review HERE)
In Silk Egg, the thing not there delivers the firm yet encouraging blow to the solar plexus. I mean that more in the sense of collecting your attention than tussling with Bob Fitzsimmons (wikipediate the name: he was a boxer of yore). The details that Eileen does present furnish thingness, and I mean thingness in just that complex wallop that Heidegger saucily served us. Leave it to a philosopher to make a mess out of words.
And leave it to a poet to trust partial notes, glimmers, and glimpses. Negative Capability. Context is what we know right now, via physics, via Buddha, via Jung, via our subjective cases. Poetry is the engine that directs us thru these partial causalities, fever, and fret. It is the poets who freed the novel, returned it to the Imagination. I am glad to see Eileen Tabios in that space, reckoning the possibilities of our words.
—Allen Bramhall, Tributary (Full review HERE)
Another recurring source of inspiration for Tabios is Jorge Luis Borges’s “Library of Babel” (which also inspired Umberto Ecco’s Name of the Rose), a geometric wonder of a library wherein is contained all the possible combinations of words for every book ever written, or yet to be. Picturing this wondrous place one cannot help but to also imagine the weathered librarians, hunch-backed monks, rebellious demons, be-spectacled book collectors, and half-mad writers searching for new inspirations in its leaf-laden passages…
It is here, in this chamber, this mansion of the mind, that one best sits while reading Silk Egg…
—Joey Madia, New Mystics Reviews (Full review HERE)
…these images rouse the tenderest of sentiments over the impermanence of structures. That is to say, the perception of impermanence as directed by experience (or is it the other way around?). Architectural paradoxes aside, the significance of these novels is to present a new way of texturizing orthographical symbols and their meanings using as few combinations as possible. As Tabios puts it, “Look where the window view finally stops…” and/or see the world with words. That is again to say, dare to perceive, represent, truthfully.
—Aileen Ibardaloza-Cassinetto, Goodreads (Full review HERE)
In Silk Egg there is the most-modern notion of appropriating the contemporary realist novel, and the element of parody; but what ultimately appeals about this book is the delicate lyricism.
—Alan Baker, LITTERBUG (Full review HERE)
Through her inventive narrative concision and figurative eloquence, Eileen R. Tabios’ Silk Egg captures the quintessence of the miracle of love, the tragic misfortune of abuse and neglect, the painful disappointment of love loss and the enduring, resilient and determined nature of the human spirit.
—Nicholas T. Spatafora, Our Own Voice
Eileen R. Tabios continues to startle us with every publication she creates. Her mind must work like a finely turned kaleidoscope, every movement she makes results in something new, something we hadn’t expected, something that starts our brains working in different ways.
—Grady Harp, Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer
A dialogue between a man and woman. A slice of breath released on the canvas. Wine swiveled in a decanter which light reflects on frescoes. An assortment of velvet red ribbons. There’s a lot more of these “beautiful mysteries” in reading Silk Egg, a compilation of novels that defy measures established by scribes incognizant of the beauty of brevity and the freedom in responding to art. If her poetry reverberates pulchritude in rhythm and restrictiveness, Tabios’s fiction challenges a novel’s typical length, proving that every line, space, and punctuation can speak of a narrative some writers’ unapologetic verbosity cannot provide in clarity and grandeur.
—Aloysiusi Polintan, Renaissance of a Notebook, Feb. 19, 2017 (Full review HERE)
The last time I saw kaleidoscopes in the air was after reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. It takes just one lightning, one thunderclap, for words to arrange and rearrange like pieces in a twirling mandala. An “easing from the landscape” is how you resist into silence.
You can read starting with the last sentence, ending with the first. You can take any sentence, any phrase, any word, and discover a self-sufficient world. This book of novels is a kaleidoscope – no definite shape, ever shape-shifting, ever recalibrating its beauty, retooling your heart as the instrument of its alchemy.
—Jonel Abellanosa, The Halo-Halo Review, December 2017 (Full review HERE)