The latest project from award-winning Indigenous poet Jordan Abel, Empty Spaces started as a response to James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. He says, “I began this project by extracting many of Cooper’s descriptions of land, nature, and territory, and I started writing over them, writing through them.”
In Empty Spaces, the land is the protagonist. Elegant, looping sentences rove over the landscape and bring its unconventional perspective into focus: “From somewhere under the deep stillness of the lake there is a current that rises up from some other, softer place.… Some reflections. Some blood. Some dirt. Some silence.” These invocations of “some,” “somewhere,” and “if” guide the reader through this new topography.
As the text appears to rewrite itself, the land changes. Wildfires spark, seasons change, towns grow into cities. Violence emerges in the form of smoke, blood, knives. These dramas are not presented with ambivalence but as invitations to inhabit another sense of time and relations. The result is a challenging but rewarding read, with moments of pure beauty, as “for a moment, light touches a place it has never touched before.”
Emily Carroll’s adult graphic novel and horror story A Guest in the House is another stunning read—and equally preoccupied with how we write and rewrite over our environments.
A Guest in the House follows newlywed Abby as she attempts to settle into married life with David, a widowed dentist, and her role as stepmother to his young daughter. But as the memory of David’s first wife, Sheila, becomes more and more present, Abby begins to question David’s stories. Soon, Sheila haunts Abby, both bringing vivacity into her life and challenging her perspective on her mundane domestic routine. What are “ordinary” slights or frustrations in a relationship? What are omens of something far more sinister? And who can Abby trust?
Alternating between eerie black-and-white panels and intricate, unsettlingly gorgeous pages of colour, A Guest in the House is a marvellous artistic accomplishment, and Carroll’s skills as a storyteller are on full display. This psychological drama will captivate anyone with an appetite for thrills, delivering frights along with nuanced observations into domesticity, heterosexuality, and loss.