Jason Schwartz’s John the Posthumous (OR Books, 2013) is a luscious work of fiction. I am not sure if I can call it a novel. I am sure that I do not care whether it is or is not. The book is the product of a uniquely intelligent, elegant writer.

It is full of possible stories. None of them are developed. We are granted no more than hints of the narrator’s life and relations to others. Perhaps the narrator murdered his mother, his father, or both. Perhaps he merely witnessed their deaths. His brother, or perhaps his son, seems to have died, either by neglect or premeditation. Now the narrator appears to have returned to the family home after a long time away. Over the next year, or perhaps years, he learns how to maintain this rural property. Sometimes he offers advice on the folding of sheets or the trapping of mice. He describes the rooms and the land, recounts local history, catalogs the native ants, and indulges in etymology. His phrasings convey menace: “bedsheets, according to that old saying, are the knives of the bed.” The exact nature of the menace is never quite specified. Someone betrayed someone else. Someone, perhaps several people, are dead. But we never learn who did what to whom or even what the narrator’s position in the family really was. Different details point us in different directions.

Read the full review at Green Mountains Review.

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