Composed of various vignettes, Vzszhhzz by Jeanne Graff is made up of stories linked by language from characters who are not speaking in their native tongue. It’s presented as a novel, but themes are loose and the narrator remains the one connection between each section. Even within each piece, stories drift and bound within unbounded volatility.
Graff fascinates, and Vzszhhzz’s staccato presentation shows an idiosyncratic author interested in communication, relationships, and a growing world of reticular creatives who are on the move. Globalization is not harped upon, the moments here are intimate. There is no time for sitting and pontificating, when worry strikes, it’s in the throes of walking the streets of Los Angeles while searching for a lost car. Situated in an unfamiliar place, it’s a terrifying period for the narrator, who drifts into a relation of her surfer friend and her during, before, and after cleaning rituals.
There is no doubt about the time of this novel’s creation, even if time, within its pages, seems subject to almost no temporal rules. It bounces between paragraphs, and at times sentences. Modernity moves throughout, a transgender person boasts their love of Instagram and a Chinese immigrant living in France remarks on the West’s overtly political commentary on a China that never made her feel limited – though she finds creativity in the West to be freer.
Vzszhhzz is Lerner-esque in its fiction meets nonfiction description of transient exchanges, which take place in airports, bars, art shows, and public pools, but Graffe’s unconcerned with authenticity – a common theme in the Brooklyn College professor’s work. These people have no doubt about their relation to some sort of international art, bar scene – even if it is one formed by a group of friends/acquaintances. Nothing in Vzszhhzz rings false, due to Graff’s ear for existential specificity, which creates her own sense of verisimilitude.
“I remember having talked with him several times, but not in which language we’d spoken,” remarks the narrator at the beginning of a vignette in the middle of the novel. It’s a moment that lends presence to the overall discussion, one where communication moves beyond language. Here, Graff moves past novel form in an effort to create something wholly unique, and in doing so brings quixotic beauty to grey scenes.
Vzszhhzz is quick and thoughtful, moments are simply that, but when tied together create a vision of society that is wonderfully together, even when communication isn’t smooth.
HURRY – BUY VZSZHHZZ
PHOTOGRAPH BY JULIANA HUXTABLE