When Madame Lula learns she must die, she amuses herself by writing her will. In it she bequeaths not just her money and real estate but her tenants. These, lodged in her body, are znoon: a kind of demon and her slaves. Lula’s little joke: leave her znoon to her detested family. The normal work of znoon is to make trouble. After her death they leave her mansion in the capital to track down the heirs. But these znoon, highly specialized mischief-makers, like city comfort and balk at having to hunt down Lula’s provincial relatives. They scheme, and the plan they devise winds up the will and provokes an uprising against the government. The human heirs, freed from enchantment, seem feeble but reveal skills no one guessed they owned. They turn the history of this troubled world in an unexpected direction.
In this third novel of his fabulist series The Enchantments,
Tom La Farge considers how humans might create political change and escape the image-enthralled souls they mistake for exclusive identities. Upon the alternative North African setting of The Broken House and Maznoona — a world enchanted by the demons of false consciousness — he overlays an idea of animal souls from the beliefs of indigenous Americans: we contain several souls, who make our lives their habitat and lend us their habits, moods, and behaviors. They lead us into strange explorations, potentially perilous, potentially rewarding, unless they are restrained by imposed, often artificial oversouls.
on The Broken House, Book One of The Enchantments
…[C]ritics have called Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 a parody of postmodernism rather than a seminal text. But The Broken House is more than a parody of fantasy (or steampunk or the postmodern), unless we are exclusively talking about literature. For the events in this novel, like the best parodies, are wholly realistic, despite their supernatural trappings. And in these we may not see the loss of innocence, the genesis of a new civilization, or even a kind of tragedy of greatness misspent. La Farge instead constructs a new kind of fable with a lesson that at first seems as enigmatic as a mirage in the desert. Consider the natural phenomena that go into a mirage, though, and the moral of the story might be that much clearer.
Jane Rosenberg LaForge, American Book Review
Zuntig's adventures swerve and sublime, offering the reader such a wealth of potential meaning that we may wonder how to parse it. (It is certainly possible, for example, to read the novel as beginning in a structuralist world, composed of rules and systems such as Lévi-Strauss would relish, which evolves into a successively poststructuralist landscape, contingent and uncentered, its heroine a floating signifier in a field of endless play.) Unflaggingly witty and surprising, Zuntig reinvents itself with every chapter, and readers who do not actually demand that fantasy novels be reassuringly secondhand should take steps to secure a copy.
Gregory Feeley, Washington Post Book World
Tom La Farge lives and writes in Flatbush, Brooklyn. He is the author of The Crimson Bears and Terror of Earth (both Sun & Moon Press), and Zuntig (Green Integer). In 2009 Wendy Walker and he founded The Writhing Society, a constrained-writing salon that meets twice a month in Brooklyn. He has published a number of constrained pieces and also the first three pamphlets of a manual, 13 Writhing Machines (Proteotypes.org) for this sort of writing. Learn more at his website: tomlafarge.com.