LA REPRODUCTION INTERDITE
When Loulou peers into the full-length mirror on the closet in the hall – the only one he can reach because of his smallness – he sees his sleek Pomeranian face reversed, but he sees his face. This portrait of the master’s friend Edward James shows the back of the man’s head twice and a book by Poe. Les aventures d’Arthur Gordon Pym reflects correctly, but James’ eyes, nose, mouth, etc. are not reproduced. Poe himself called the novel – his only one – “a very silly book.” Loulou has to agree, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. An important pre-condition of creativity is a feeling of weirdness. Loulou, unlike Poe, doesn’t have many experiences at sea to draw upon, but that’s all right. Like the master, he’s quite capable of traveling in his mind. Like the master, he finds what he needs right here in the apartment. James will hang the painting in the ballroom of his London home, another place Loulou will probably never go. He pictures himself there, counting out a waltz, dancing to a song of his own composition: I’ve been to the moon. It’s not that great. I’ve been to the stars. They were okay. I’ve never been dead, but it’s probably fine. The back of the moon: we never see it. The back of your own head: you never see it. You don’t have to go far to find the unknowable.
The house is haunted but nobody’s home. Only us chickens, standing still as sculpture while Loulou, the immortal Pomeranian, & Georgette, Magritte’s guardian angel, take us on a tour of the asylum. The rooms in Kathleen Rooney’s The Listening Room are always listening, always watching. The walls have ears. The tears have eyes. Sometimes the screams are silent. Sometimes the silence is deafening. Stark & hard-edged as the paintings themselves, this novel in poems and flashes inhabits a world much like our own — suspended in a glazed animation of doomed hope & hopeful doom, where the virtual is realer than reality, where the muse & the bemused are confused, where the funny is wedded to the sad in unholy matrimony. “Mystery,” Magritte wrote late in life, “is not one of the possibilities of reality. Mystery is what is absolutely necessary for reality to exist.” Take a load off. Escape is not an option. There are no windows & no doors, only holes through which the sky or an oncoming train pours in. The stairs dead end. The clouds are voodoo dolls, sweet enough to eat. But who, Georgette & Loulou forever wonder, will devour whom?
A founding editor of Rose Metal Press and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, Kathleen Rooney is the author, most recently, of the novel Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (St. Martin’s Press, 2017). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of Rene Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). Married to the writer, Martin Seay, she lives in Chicago and teaches at DePaul University.