simply to persist

a review of Noy Holland’s Bird

Holland’s writing accumulates a series of recurring objects, weaving an implicit order from apparent chaos. The novel is full of these tiny likenesses; symmetries and similarities that encircle Bird as she moves through the day, collapsing past and present into a timeless, miraculous pattern. “The mind’s true business,” the critic Denis Donoghue once remarked, is not so much to “think” as simply to persist; like the rest of the body, its ultimate purpose is “to keep going.” Holland belongs to a tradition of modernist writers who have tried to capture that motion; to make language move like the mind does, obeying the same unfathomable urge. Bird only describes an ordinary mind on an ordinary day, but it articulates a common truth: like Bird herself, we all hoard objects—a memory, a nickname, a bloody tissue, a tooth—which move us in ways we cannot control or explain. Holland follows that motion in all its mystery, observing the mind “moved by the fact of its moving, spinning itself out again.” Long one of our finest writers, now one of our finest novelists, she goes further than most fiction goes, but where our minds go every day, every moment. And, as she goes, she shows us the stars that guide our migration.

read the review in The Brooklyn Rail