More Alice—Further Fragments, by Matthew Michael Hanner, reviewed by Gayle Kaune

More Alice—Further Fragments by Matthew Michael Hanner,
Reviewed by Gayle Kaune
Chandelier Galaxy Press, 2021, 89 pages
ISBN 979-8515034016
Available on Amazon

Fans of Michael Hanner’s earlier work, Alice—What I Heard, will be pleased with this charming and inventive sequel, More Alice—Further Fragments. The main character, Alice, is a chimera whose mini adventures coalesce to form a whirligig of her life.

Like an author who scatters his manuscript to the wind, Hanner has chosen to scramble these vignettes about Alice, portraying her in random order at ten, eighty, sixty and younger. She has a series of love affairs with various men and one woman, Delia, and we are left to puzzle out who was the favorite or who came first. Many vignettes include Rose, the daughter that once was not in Alice’s plan. Having children, like most Alice’s choices, was a coin toss. One side of the coin said Happy and the other side Smart. (“General Delivery”).

How to make sense of these random notes about Alice and her life? There is continuity because of Alice herself. She is smart, well-traveled, and her own independent person. Quirky? Yes. Dumb? No.

This collection might be read quickly, or better still, slowly. Let the episodes of Alice’s life key into some of your own; for example, youthful sex in the back of a car. In Alice’s case, it’s a Dodge crew-cab which is also where she birthed her daughter Rose just outside a hospital. Later when her daughter is grown, Alice, like most parents, still worries, If Rose needed help, she’d call. (“Ultramarine”). Like hard candy, the stories are better if you let them dissolve slowly.

And aren’t these random vignettes the way we think? After a second reading of More Alice ––Further Fragments, I began to witness my own mind’s randomly occurring memories: how, on an afternoon during this pandemic, something might remind me of my Michigan childhood. Or, reading one of Alice’s adventures in France, I suddenly recollected that time in Paris the red-haired Frenchman took me for paella in a Spanish restaurant overlooking Sacre Coeur. Alice does that. Her life is presented in jumps and flashes, just as one’s own memories appear in random order.

Moreover, Alice’s thoughts are surprising: The Biscayne now was a memory almost as thin as a Mercury Dime (“Stars”). These memories are often strung with lyrical phrases like Delia’s grave already half lost in the fallen browns and umbers/The leaves would cover her too./And later, snow. (“Leaves”). And they are also sprinkled with unique and unknown nouns: Fish-hawks, yellow tins of 555’s, Rapastratos, Emilia Romaga.

Alice travels through much of the United States: Culpepper, Virginia; Chicago, Duluth, Carbondale, and Florida, to name a few. Her father’s funeral takes place in Florida and the narrator says, This was Alice’s first/funeral. This was Alice’s last funeral./One white frame church in Florida was enough (“The Sunshine State”). Alice will never return to this state.

We can’t get enough of Alice. Every vignette elicits a story, but the endings are open. What happens? Who knows? We can often surmise, but we may have to wait for another sequel, Still More Fragments from Alice. Michael Hanner is witty and astute. He writes from a woman’s point of view. Or is it a man’s point of view disguised as a woman? He tells us about Alice’s life, or is it his life disguised as Alice?

This book grows with each reading. The subtle humor and wry observations of Alice are delightful and leave us wanting more. If you are a teacher, I can envision using these vignettes as prompts for students to create the background or a sequel to an individual piece.

More AliceFurther Fragments defies categories and simple interpretations but invites everyone to react and enjoy. We need more Alice in our lives!

Reviewer Bio:
Gayle Kaune lives in Port Townsend with her husband and a new puppy. She is a poet who has published books with Blue Begonia press and, her most recent two includes Noise from Stars from Tebot Bach press. She has been a poetry editor of Shark Reef Review and taught writing workshops including Port Townsend’s Centrum Writer’s Conference. Imprisoned by the pandemic, she turns to painting so she doesn’t whine. She is creating a series of ekphrastic paintings from More AliceFurther Fragments.

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