J.A Tyler’s recent chapbook The Girl In The Black Sweater is, category-wise, somewhat difficult to pin down. Its length and format put it in the short story bracket, but the narrative itself is something altogether more exotic. The seventeen-page chapbook tells the story of a painter who, frustrated with his sickly wife, creates a fantasy of a black-sweatered girl with whom he embarks on something close to an affair – at least in his imagination.
The author writes with a peculiar rhythm. It is beyond conventional rhyme or beat, but there is a lyrical quality to the narrative, a pattern of repitition and obscure descriptors that give it the feel of something that should be read aloud. The eight short chapters are each rendered in a series of startlingly poetic sentence fragments; a style that could, if you felt like it, be called prose-poetry, and one that is indispuatbly effective.
Little is known of the protagonist, and at times it can be difficult to sympathise. The way in which he thinks of his wife, in particular, is far from endearing:
“A wife that he wished would hang herself from the rafters of the basement or slit her wrists and paint the bathtub in blood red. A wife that he imagined drowning herself in pills but still living. Taking the life out of herself but still living.”
It is honest to the point of being uncomfortable. Yet there is still, within the exquisitely polished prose, evidence of the narrator’s humanity. Ultimately, it is something that is better read clean, without knowing exactly what kind of experience one is in for.
At just seventeen pages The Girl In The Black Sweater is a short but worthwhile read. You can find it at www.ditchpoetry.com