Chiara Barzini – Sister Stop Breathing

Roman screenwriter, journalist, and author Chiara Barzini has released her latest publication on Calamari Press this year, and it is a rare, cohesive work of aberrant originality.  Even from the cover, Sister Stop Breathing hints at nothing of the ordinary.  The book is cut in a way that comic strip collections are published, like a gift book for a coffee table.  The individual stories within never exceed the length of two pages, and each story acts to play on the senses in independently separate ways.

Barzini’s  brief anecdotes flow with simplistic and quirky dryness like in Jean-Philipe Toussaint‘s conversational storytelling style or even as in Richard Brautigan’s imaginative plainspeak.  As with any successful act of minimal prose, Barzini’s direct and minute flash fiction speaks volumes with both robust and complex resonation.  This is all to the credit of her surgical sentence composition, with clever and incisive observations of the conscious and unconscious minds of humankind.  These concise phrases flourish in their brevity, with further elaboration only a threat to their aptitude.

Barzini’s style can make shifts from perspectives of a conversing realist to that of a surrealist poet in the blink of an eye, and this sort of jump-roping through consciousness presents the heavy human drama content within a refreshingly playful style.  Call it forced naïveté, but Barzini’s short narratives aren’t exhaustingly adorable nor a product of some brand of twee coyness.  She speaks with her own voice, nakedly and unapologetically.  Mary Caponegro said it best when she praised the book as being “as inventive as it is provocative.”


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