Book Club: July 2024 by Hana Zittel

Book Club
By Hana Zittel
Published Issue 127, July 2024

Prairie, Dresses, Art, Other by Danielle Dutton (2024)

The 2024 release from author Danielle Dutton brings together numerous literary forms into a four-part collection that pushes the boundaries of text creating a surreal space more akin to visual art. In Prairie, Dutton weaves us through five stories that mix dream-like visions, the underappreciated beauty of the prairie, and the normalcy and occasional absurdity of everyday family life. “This is the prairie at night. All you can see is darkness now and millions of flowers like stars.”

As Dutton moves to the section Dresses, the influence of visual arts becomes more apparent. In a form that feels like a collage, she curates this section completely as compiled literary quotes that mention dresses headlined by a quote from Gertrude Stein, “It is not tiring to count dresses.”

In Art, Dutton’s essay on ekphrastic writing and its similarity to translation is one of the most fascinating sections of the book. Her exploration of this method draws on her own ekphrastic project with Richard Kraft’s collage work in her 2015 book, Here Comes Kitty, and the influence of Laura Letinsky’s photography on her novel, SPRAWL. Dutton investigates other ekphrastic relationships like Eley Williams and Bridget Riley, Lydia Davis and Joseph Cornell, and John Keene and Edgar Degas. Through this examination, she paints fiction as closer to the visual arts that we normally imagine. “Imagine a story as a physical experience, like an installation we move through. A hole we drop inside of. Or like a painting we apprehend only after the reading is done.”

In the final section, Other, Dutton includes additional enchanting essays and short stories. “Somehow,” a story blistering with summer heat, finds a woman taking her son swimming at the canals with one of her former students, James, as she dwells on her uncomfortability of wearing an ill-fitting swimsuit and her own body, creating a heated scene that transcends the page.

Dutton’s work keeps the mind constantly abuzz as it shifts between academic and fictional spaces. The heat of the prairie sun is ever present in this unique book that pushes the expectations of form and is marked with elegant and deeply insightful prose. Prairie, Dresses, Art, Other is Danielle Dutton’s fifth book and she is one of the founders of the publishing project, Dorothy, “an award-winning feminist press dedicated to works of fiction or near fiction or writing about fiction.”

Wine Ghost Goes to Hell by Sage Coffey (2024)

Wine Ghost’s time in the afterlife is not too different from her time on earth. Essentially a sexy sheet with legs, Wine Ghost and friends are plagued with the mundane trials of the living from searching for an apartment to dating. The beyond, it turns out, is just our current reality, with a few ghouls and demons thrown in. When her friend Sebastian dies and ends up in hell, Wine Ghost relives the emotional turmoil and gaslighting of this earthly situationship.

Brightly colored and splashed with camp, Wine Ghost Goes to Hell accompanies Sage Coffey’s publications in works like The New Yorker and The Washington Post in addition to zines and a collaboration with Dan Sheehan in 2021’s, I Am Not a Wolf. Silly and lighthearted with a subtle sensitivity, Wine Ghost Goes to Hell is a splash of joy demanding a sequel.  

Hana Zittel is a librarian at the Denver Public Library in addition to being a librarian at the Denver Zine Librarian. She grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and pretty much just likes being outside with her pup when she has some free time, and reading, that might have been assumed though.

Check out Hana’s June Book Club in case you missed it, or head to our Explore section to see more of her past reviews.