BathHouse reading series welcomed Miranda Mellis this fall, and Aaron Smith (a current graduate student) wrote a wonderful introduction to her reading. I thought I’d share it here!
“Today we welcome Miranda Mellis, a powerfully surreal mind & voice in a world that cannot slow down or re-trace its steps. Our cultures have carved a heavy path through time, have created & shaped what we imagine as history, and Mellis works intensely to decode our collective views of both history & time, past, present, future, and other realities. She asks a continuous array of questions that guide her readers & characters through fictional realities that further question what is happening to us & them as individuals, and question how we perceive ourselves & our world.
Lucia, the narrator of The Spokes, at one point offers a direct analysis of past & present: “We’ve been this kind of human […] for two hundred thousand years […] If we don’t know ourselves, how can we know the ancestors?” Our vision of history is blurry at best, and the ways in which our knowledge of the past is commonly obscured cause us to un-learn countless ways of living that have much to teach us about collaboration & communication. Mellis’s vivid imagery opens doors to the past & versions of the present that we might otherwise overlook forever. In a 2012 interview with Green Apple bookstore, she explains: “our everyday lives are outrageously pressurized in ways that we become habituated to, that become invisible, and then rear up in all sorts of painful intensifications, symptoms & so forth. Forms of magic – magical thinking, magical transformations, and magical actions – represent reachable, alternative forms of agency & knowledge in lieu of political power for the disenfranchised, abandoned, and oppressed.”
In another 2012 interview with City Lights bookstore, she alternately describes fiction as “an organ for detecting what otherwise goes unregistered.” By utilizing these “alternative forms of agency,” Mellis is able to both openly ridicule & rigorously analyze “what otherwise goes unregistered” for many people: the ways in which our cultures & histories push themselves forward at maddening speeds, inevitably crash & collapse, then slowly repeat the long, determined climb back to some epic climax. In The Spokes, her narrator Lucia argues that “Sometimes the impossible is the missing ingredient.” This element of “the impossible” is what drives powerfully meaningful pieces of our own reality deeper into our minds when winding through the fantastic landscapes assembled by Mellis; over time her imagined landscapes begin to feel more familiar than our own.
I would like to close with a quote from The Revisionist; a paragraph that stands alone on pg. 63, and in many ways defines the sense of time that pours through all her parables: “There were so many different kinds of time. There was time measured in objects & time measured in space. There was time enclosed by language […] There was the way a person measures the distance between what she once felt & the moment she realizes she no longer feels that way. There was also the void, for which time was conventionally the foil.”
Miranda Mellis teaches at Evergreen State College. She is the author of The Quarry, The Spokes, None of This Is Real, Materialisms, and The Revisionist, which was the subject of a 90-foot mural at Franklin Art Works in Minneapolis. Miranda is also a founding editor with The Encyclopedia Project, a hybrid publication that plays with the ideas of reference book, literary journal & arts catalogue, blending all into a hybrid series of cross-referenced hardcover volumes. Please welcome her to our small pocket of time & space.”