Kiss Painting by Sandra Jeppesen (Gutter), 230 pages, $17.95 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Sandra Jeppesen's debut novel is a lyrical, dizzying collage that has the intimacy of a street kid's scribbled poetry. Alex, Kodie and Oliver are Kiss Painting's primary colours. Activist anarchist punks, they squat in Berlin, live in a Montreal warehouse and a Vancouver collective, shamble through Paris, roam in and out of cities and jails, seeking only each other in every locale.
Jeppesen's dense style avoids all the "I'm a fucked-up teenage runaway and this world sucks" clichés. The book breaks conventions of storytelling and grammar the way its characters' parents break promises.
The writing is beautifully poignant, avoiding the cynicism you expect from angry anarchists and the poesy anarchists might expect from a book about longing. Purple is not a colour on Jeppesen's prose palette.
Like forlorn punk ballads, Kiss Painting's characters fearlessly express needs and desires regardless of who's listening. Sometimes a simile like one where the feeling of holding hands is compared to hot chocolate is so sublimely perfect that it seems too simple to be original.
But reading Kiss Painting can give you the disorienting sensation of being in the middle of an anti-globalization riot. The multiple narrators don't stitch together beginning, middle and end, and getting pulled along by their stream of consciousness means being willing to lose your footing. Linear storytelling this ain't.
If you're looking for simple narrative, you'll risk getting lost in literary brush strokes. But stand back and Jeppesen's novel is a painting made of words.
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