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Frances Johnson by Stacey Levine
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Frances Johnson (2005)

by Stacey Levine

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361476,839 (3.38)None
From the get-go, it's clear that something strange is afoot in Munson, the fictional Florida hamlet where Stacey Levine's new novel, Frances Johnson, takes place. A volcano seethes on the outskirts of town, strange animals skitter in the shadows, and a dense brown fog has settled overhead. Pets and people vanish. Unfurling over a period of days leading up to the town's annual dance, the story follows 38-year-old Frances's mounting restlessness, as she must decide whether to take control ofher life or cede it to the murky future the community has designated for her. Though the novel hinges on a familiar plot point will Frances remain in Munson, or escape to the world at large? it's the only trace of convention to be found in this hypnotic book, which transforms its setting into a tableau of exotic menace.… (more)

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Funny and sad, and full of little softnesses, where Frances Johnson is going, and where Frances Johnson is discovering, and where Frances Johnson does not know who Frances Johnson is because she has a soft border, like the cover of the book suggests, where her body and her being melts into her town Munson, which she hates but can't help defending, and the things that make her feel new resolve (I especially relate to this) but slowly dissipate or dissolve or get mixed up with other voices, with other people's wills.


"Well, aside from a soldier, who else would you like to be, if only for just a little instant?" She grasped his wrist lightly. "A movie-star?"
"Well..."
"Just tell me, Ray--who? Please? Could it be Jerry Welworth?"
"Ah, Welworth's all right, but he's not my favorite actor. No, I'm thinking of someone better. Hmmm. Do y'know how trumpet players march on the field?"
"Those who play in the marching band?"
"Yes," he said, growing quietly excited. "Band members, well...they're on their own, yet they're part of something, too. They just march along. It's not easy, but it's not awfully hard!"
"Why, that's true," she said wonderingly.
"No one can disturbe a band member or get them worried. They're protected by the whole group and their instrument. I like it! They just play. They have something important to do. Band members are invisible, don't you think, Frances? That makes them free. I've seen a trumpeter--"
"Me too, actually! On the high school field."
"Yes! I watched him; he was just a faraway speck, but I felt so close to him!" Ray breathed, his face mottling with pink.
"I know that type of thing," she said. "It's a relief to watch someone like that."
"Life didn't bother him at all. He had his job to do. He just marched, part of the band, blending right in, and he didn't feel worried or strained about anything. I wanted to be him so badly!" Ray paused. "But later, Frances, it was too much. I couldn't watch anymore. I wanted to run away, never see him again!"
She waited. "It's good to think of other lives."
"But not any old life. Not someone from Little-Munson."
"Why couldn't it be someone from Little-Munson, Ray? I don't see why not."
"Well, they're troubled over there, Frances."
"Aren't you troubled?" She took his upper arm, squeezing it fondly, looking at Ray up-close, seeing him clearly, and Frances was glad.
He smiled. "No, for this game, it has to be someone good and right-minded. It could be someone living far away, like a man in the government. It could be a famous sportsman."
"It could be someone ordinary, but great."
"It could be a blind person," Ray said.
"It could be anyone, really."
p.160-162
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1 vote JimmyChanga | Jul 13, 2010 |
Limited knowledge of the world can lead, and often does, to a greater self-awareness. Sentences accordingly swarm with nonsequiturs, and plots tumble on the slippery meanings of same. Causality and conventional sequence are often comically snubbed. Strangeness celebrated.
 
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