The Not of What She Didn’t Know: The Not of What? I Still Don’t Know

by sarahhockley

“She must wait more patiently … she must not really want that notness that she was not forbidding, the not of what she unwanted that she was uncarelessly not insouciant to, the not of what she didn’t know but which she was compelled to unseekingly diswoo.” This quote from Meredith Quartermain’s The Not of What She Didn’t Know not only portrays the confusing style of Quartermain’s writing but it also conveys a noteworthy message for future readers. Quartermain has developed a writing style where if the pieces are isolated, they will frustrate and confuse the reader, but looking at the pieces collectively will deliver a completely different experience.

Furthermore if the reader is looking solely at the pieces in The Not of What She Didn’t Know it can be difficult to understand what theme Quartermain is trying to portray.  The simple knowledge that The Not of What She Didn’t Know is an excerpt from Quartermain’s Recipes From the Red Planet-a collection of flash fictions- is helpful in relieving some of the reader’s confusion.  While the title The Not of What She Didn’t Know shyly hints at the underlying theme of being ignorant and uncertain in one’s surroundings, the title Recipes From the Red Planet asserts that the pieces are meant to evoke certain feelings of alienation and isolation from the reader.

The collection is composed of all this seemingly nonsensical writing that makes the reader question Quartermain’s purpose.  Is she trying to play with the reader’s mind? Does she love to make her readers spend hours decoding each piece word by word? Quartermain’s purpose for this collection is not for the reader to find an understanding in each individual sentence and piece, but it is for the reader to understand and more importantly, feel the confusion that an alien from another planet might feel.

Quartermain’s style of writing, although intriguing, makes it difficult for the reader to stay focused and keep on track.  Her style is very thought provoking but it is also distracting to the reader. On the one hand, it is easy for the reader’s attention to be diverted, particularily in pieces such as ‘Hotel Narrative’ and ‘My Characters’ because they lack an obvious plot. On the other hand, the style in which Quartermain writes is so captivating that the reader wants to return to the piece even after distractions.

In conclusion Quartermain’s collection is brilliantly delightful but it is not a collection to simply flip through or browse over.  Without a generous amount of reading and rereading and a copious amount of interpreting and unraveling, a reader will never have the privilege of grasping the whole experience.


One Comment to “The Not of What She Didn’t Know: The Not of What? I Still Don’t Know”

  1. Really thoughtfully written and constructed I feel. Second to last paragraph is highly appropriate. I think anyone not familiar with MQ’s work would gain a real insight into her style and be able to form an opinion about whether to read the collection or not. Great review!

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