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A Lesser Day

Andrea Scrima

ISBN 978-1-933132-77-8        $16.00        293 pages

The East Village of the early eighties; a divided Berlin; Brooklyn approaching the end of the millennium. Alternating between the various addresses of a restless life on two continents, A Lesser Day is a memoir in which part of the story takes place between the lines, untold.

 

In the freezing studios and working-class flats of Kreuzberg, we meet Sabine from across the bleak courtyard, a sturdy mother of four who disappears one day and whose adolescent daughters gradually grow wild; Martin, the charismatic boy with an alcoholic stepfather and his own hidden streak of cruelty; Ivo, a Croatian car mechanic who returns home to fight in the war as the landlady’s nine-year-old son sets about throwing rocks at the windowpanes of his workshop. When the narrator travels to New York to attend her father’s funeral shortly after November 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall fell, a period begins in which her hold on reality grows increasingly tenuous. Hiding away in her studio with her father’s journals, her paintings building up inch by inch in a fruitless attempt to come to terms with human mortality, she sets about deciphering her father’s encoded script. Addressing a continually shifting “you” in a search for emotional understanding initially directed at the author’s dead father and then merging into a blur of intimate others, A Lesser Day explores the mechanisms of memory and suppression in an era of political upheaval. Little escapes the author’s scrutinizing eye as she locates meaning in the passage of time as it inscribes itself into the myriad things around us: the mute, insentient witnesses of our everyday existence.

 

A narrative kept closer than a secret, oozing in slow, soft, whispers reminds us what it is to feel loss, to live life. To face change. 'I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to have lost you.'  (…) The work is delicate, yet naked and unapologetic, and our collective consciousness is greater for Spuyten Duyvil press publishing this small, wondrous book."

          Nicolle Elizabeth in The Brooklyn Rail

 

A Lesser Day borrows its title from the narrator’s habit of taking a photograph each day, no matter how unremarkable the occasion. And as its central conceit suggests, the novel focuses on the metaphysical significance behind the quotidian. Its mission is awareness, seeing, and in her devotion to this goal Scrima resembles an urban Annie Dillard. The tenements of New York City and Germany are her Tinker Creek, and the narrator’s galaxy of reclaimed objects her Appalachian wilderness. Like Pilgrim to Tinker Creek, the author seems to strive for a Thoreauvian “meteorological journal of the mind.” A difference in setting, but a striking similarity in mood and mission. (…) In the end, it is hard not to cheer on a mind so intent on reclaiming meaning from the abandoned, the forgotten, and the mundane. The novel works on an anti-glamorous and proudly traditional wavelength – its credo of finding insights and stories in seemingly drab tableaus of still-lifes feeling somehow very Old World, even like a Chardin painting.

          Kevin T.S. Tang, KGB Bar Lit Magazine

 

A Lesser Day is poetic, disturbing, elegiac, visceral, and beautiful. Scrima paints vivid, detailed memories of places to evoke a web of intimate relationships that emerges gradually from a temporal fog into shocking, unforgettable clarity.

         Kate Christensen, author of In the Drink, The Great Man, and Trouble; winner of the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award

 

Clarice Lispector has said that the approach to anything comes about gradually and agonizingly, and that’s exactly what Andrea Scrima does in A Lesser Day. Her unnamed narrator, an American artist living in Berlin, attempts to ‘turn my attention to this moment, try to comprehend its immediacy, to trust in its reality; I tell myself that this is the present, this moment and no other.’ Trying to come to grips with her father’s recent death, she waits ‘for these twirling bits of thought to slowly settle down at the bottom of the jar,’ and, in the process, takes us along on a patient and enriching journey of discovery and reconciliation.

        Tsipi Keller, author of Jackpot and Retelling

 

A Lesser Day is a miraculous memoir intricately woven out of small wonders. Scrima’s is a

world in which nothing is unobserved, nothing unnoticed; everything is fraught with meaning, however difficult it may be to discern. Few of us have any but the dimmest understanding of the lives we lead, moment to moment. The bravery and beauty of A Lesser Day is in the effort to understand, to make clear, to illuminate even the tiniest gesture. On the surface an elegy for a father’s death, it ultimately becomes a monument to the human struggle to survive, to remember, to understand, and to love.

       Robert Goolrick, author of The End of the World as We Know It and A Reliable Wife; winner of the NAIBA Award for Novel of the Year 2009

 

As Andrea Scrima's A Lesser Day unfolds, form is repetition: time is day, narrative is place—as both departure and refuge. And each section a separate movement returns to that moment wherein the narrator watches the subtle shift of light as perception of time. This book is about observation; the way an artist watches light change. Scrima’s meditation on loss seeks momentum in image.

        Rebecca Goodman, author of The Surface of Motion

Andrea Scrima was born in New York City and studied fine arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York and the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, Germany, where she lives and works. A Lesser Day is her first book. Scrima has received numerous awards for her artistic work, including a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the Lingen Art Prize, and has exhibited internationally. She was the recipient of a literature fellowship from the Berlin Council on Science, Research, and the Arts and won a 2007 National Hackney Literary Award for Sisters, a short story from an ongoing collection titled In the Blood.

 

www.andreascrima.com