Olsen's fascinating experiment achieves heft by the accumulation of personal and collective loss, which makes the nightmarish coda feel eerily plausible. Together, the elegant and heartbreaking set pieces prompt deep reflection on the connections between minds and bodies, and on where both are ultimately headed." --Publishers Weekly (starred)
Skin Elegies uses the metaphor of mind-upload technologies to explore questions about the relationship of the cellular brain to the bytes-entity to which it gives rise; memory and our connection to the idea of pastness; refugeeism (geographical, somatic, temporal, aesthetic); and where the human might end and something else begin.
At the center stands an American couple who have fled their increasingly repressive country, now under the authoritarian rule of the Reformation Government, by transferring to a quantum computer housed in North Africa. The novel's structure mimics a constellation of firing neurons--a sparking collage of many tiny narraticules flickering through the brain of one of the refugees as it is digitized. Those narraticules comprise nine larger stories over the course of the novel: the Fukushima disaster; the day the Internet was turned on; the final hours of the Battle of Berlin; John Lennon's murder; an assisted suicide in Switzerland; the Columbine massacre; a woman killed by a domestic abuser; a Syrian boy making his way to Berlin; and the Challenger disaster.
With his characteristic brilliance and unrivaled uniqueness, Lance Olsen delivers an innovative, speculative, literary novel in the key of Margaret Atwood, Stanislaw Lem, and J.G. Ballard.
About the Author
LANCE OLSEN is author of more than 25 books of and about innovative writing, including, most recently, the novels My Red Heaven (Dzanc, 2020) and Dreamlives of Debris (Dzanc, 2017). His short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies, such as Conjunctions, Black Warrior Review, Fiction International, Village Voice, BOMB, McSweeney's, and Best American Non-Required Reading. A Guggenheim, Berlin Prize, D.A.A.D. Artist-in-Berlin Residency, two-time N.E.A. Fellowship, and Pushcart Prize recipient, as well as a Fulbright Scholar, he teaches experimental narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah.