2013: Rose Metal Press
Review by Cooper Renner
“They were still strangers. Instead of progressing from strangers to intimates, as she thought happened in relationships, she and David would remain strangers who, every now and again, would share an intimate moment.” (p. 120) So Amanda, one of the narrative centers of Liliane’s Balcony, thinks as she recalls an outing with her (now ex-) boyfriend. And so the lives intertwined in the strands of Parker’s novella remain separate after their singular encounter on a tour of Fallingwater, the famous house Frank Lloyd Wright built over a waterfall for department store tycoons Edgar and Lillian (aka Liliane) Kaufmann. As the title indicates, Liliane is at the heart of the story, both because Wright built the house for her and because her marriage of convenience and its inextricably linked love and infidelity echoes against the relationships—failed, failing, developing, loving—of the novella’s tourists. The balcony too is essential, a potent image, a locus—is it inside or outside? part of the house or the environment? a “giant’s spatula,” (p. 16) ready to flip all of them into the future? Although the novella’s action occurs simply in the time a tour takes, its chronology reaches out because we accompany the various subjects—Amanda, Janie, “the daughter,” Josiah Quimby—internally as their thoughts range across their lives, provoked by the incidents of the tour and by the nature of the house itself. Parker also draws us into Liliane’s memories as she haunts this place of great happiness and sorrow for her. Because Parker’s sense of character is so strong, and her language so fluid and flowing, the shifting foci do not cause the reader to stumble but instead pull her forward, eager to learn more of each character—as well as of the historical Liliane and Edgar—to watch the way these separate lives seem in some ways so similar and, often, so avoidably tragic. Satisfying and enriching without being cloying or sentimental, Liliane’s Balcony manages a rather neat trick: to be of our time without falling into mundanity or a reportorial cataloging of electronic devices.
About the reviewer:
Cooper Renner’s graphic novel The Tommy Plans, a comic look at a 1960s Soviet invasion of the US, is upcoming from Spuyten Duyvil.