Dreamlives of Debris is six inches squared, each page consisting of small poems or “songs,” blocks of text buffered by white space. Within those blocks is a chorus whose singers include Daedalus, Borges, Mandelbrot (the mathematician who developed fractals), and Stuxnet (an American-Israeli cyberweapon that buried itself in the software codes of an Iranian nuclear centrifuges). Olsen is working with a theme here, repeating himself with variation in order to progress through his own maze.
“You could say they invented me.”
What is refreshing about literary memoirs like Peter Selgin’s is how they transform the reader through writing and self-invention. In The Inventors, Selgin charts his path from age thirteen to fifty-seven, focusing on the influence of two significant role models: his father and an unnamed teacher. These men are complex, rich, mysterious, and flawed. Selgin’s stories are personal and gut-wrenchingly honest, foregrounding memory, language, and creativity. “Can words ever do the past justice? But words are about all I have, words and this odd device known as memory, that thinks it remembers the past, when really it’s inventing it.”