ELEANOR, OR, THE REJECTION OF THE PROGRESS OF LOVE, BY ANNA MOSCHOVAKIS
In Eleanor, or, The Rejection of the Progress of Love, Anna Moschovakis brilliantly sketches two women as concentric circles. In the inner circle, there is Eleanor, a writer in search of her lost laptop; in the outer, there is a narrator writing her way through the story of the aforementioned Eleanor. Though the book—a meta-mixture of story, authorly rumination, philosophical musing, and literary and syntactic analysis—could perhaps feel heady or jumbled in the hands of a less careful writer, what Moschovakis achieves here is a deft examination of selfhood and the ways it may be made manifest through language. Here, in Eleanor, is a fictional author who shows us the narrative choices she’s made and why she’s made them, created by a very real author whose intellectual velocity only compounds as she interrogates where writer ends and character begins.
For Moschovakis, this space between writer and character is a unique vantage point from which to query contemporary politics, technology, philosophy, and love. Over the course of the book, we move from coffee shops in Brooklyn to farm communes in Albany to nightclubs in Addis Ababa; from vaguely defined relationships to unrequited advances to one-off hookups. Of particular note are the narrator’s thoughts on her character’s sex life, made all the more insightful when presented against the reactions of a male critic who reads the Eleanor manuscript: “...depictions of sex and sexual dynamics in novels,” the narrator muses, “especially novels by women, tend to invite a particular kind of dismissive critique, or else sensationalism…” Moschovakis is particularly astute when focusing on the inner self, the commingling of mind and body in the form of desires, impulses, processing power. Her narrator writes, “‘when Eleanor sleeps, the rearrangement of her mind’s furniture happens without her direction…the things…have themselves become unfamiliar, that they are in effect strokes of genius, sui generis acts of the imagination: that they are novel.’” So, too, does Moschovakis’ book seem to arrange itself as we move, dreamlike, through it, encountering a singular architecture of novel and novelist that challenges us to read and think towards new possibilities, new heights.
—Review by Elizabeth DeMeo