Diane Schoemperlen's acclaimed In the Language of Loveexpanded our expectations of the contemporary novel, using everydaywords to deconstruct a young woman's life and loves. In her new shortstory collection, Forms of Devotion, she again tests the bounds of her craft, creating an arresting and wonderfully readable work that is also a treat for the eye.
Forms of Devotioncontains eleven stories, each one a brilliant interplay of words andimages. The illustrations, selected by Schoemperlen and depictingalmost every subject imaginable, are wood engravings and line drawingsfrom the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In somecases, she was inspired to write the story after studying theillustrations; in other cases, she wrote the story first, then chose orconstructed the pictures to accompany it. The result is a playful,sometimes surreal and often mysterious juxtaposition of a historicalfascination with anatomy and classical themes with the author'scontemporary exploration of everyday people, places and things.
Eachstory is a creative delight, perfectly formed and rich in mischievouswit, irony and multi-layered meaning. The title story, “Forms ofDevotion,” is a wonderful literary cataloguing of the traits andqualities of the faithful, those who “sail off to work, perfectconfident that they will indeed get there: on time, intact. It does notoccur to them that they could just as well be broadsided by a Coca-Coladelivery truck running the red light at the corner of Johnson andMain.” “Five Small Rooms” is an intriguing, spectral journey into thenarrator's imagination, with the reader left wondering, “Is it madnessor a murder mystery?” In “How Deep is the River,” the author offers aninnovative, completely compelling take on the ubiquitous high schoolmath problem that begins “Train A and Train B are traveling toward thesame bridge from opposite directions…” Quite different in form, yet alike in their ability to entertain and provoke, the stories in Forms of Devotion show once again that Diane Schoemperlen's voice is as intriguing, fresh and electric as ever.