Karner Blue Estates

February 26, 2009

posted and written by Caroline Picard


Karner Blue Estates

by Rowland Saifi

pub. Black Lodge Press, 2009

As small press publications often go unnoticed, it seems worthwhile to mention them here, when and if they are discovered and particularly if they are worth reading. Recently I came across a small, handsomely (hand)bound book called Karner Blue Estates by Rowland Safi. Published by Black Lodge Press, a small company based out of Chicago, Brooklyn and Northhampton (what times we live in!), they produce beautiful books that feel good to hold and therefore make happy reading companions.

That aside, the book is lovely. The protagonist is a single man who thinks only of his mother (on such occasions when he thinks of other particular relationships). While the mother functions as a kind of blinking satelite, the majority of the main character’s life is taken up with the exploration of other apartments in the apartment block. Having discovered that his key fits and opens all other locks, the protagonist develops a hobby exploring other peoples’ lives, playing the games that they offer (in some cases elaborate LARP-style-choose-your-own-adventure books), consuming their food (they are always absent) and sitting on their various furnitures. Were it not for the strange land lords, Ken and Jim, the life of the story takes place in the wanderings of its tenant, who (as far as I can tell) is never given a name.

Of course the apartment he takes up is racked with eccentricites–a faulty disposal, a single color of ubiquitous paint, no heat etc., and it is those eccentricities that force the tenant out to explore other rooms.

While it did not occur to me until after I’d put the book down, (a signature of good story telling, I feel) I cannot help but imagine this tale to somehow reflect the process of writing itself. The protagonist does not have a name, because in some sense he is the reader, just as the apartments that he visits are uninhabited because he explores as a writer, capable of entering any new place, tasting its fridge and thereby drawing conclusions about its inhabitants.

Aside from being a delight, the book indulges all voyeuristic appetites, thereby transposing the otherwise apparent loneliness of its main character.

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