In late July 2007, a man opened an email from his inbox and began reading. ”Permit me to write you today, beyond today…making this an experiment in the writing of a book…I want nothing in return, nothing tangible – only permission to continue this spectral writing, so disembodied and out of place, so easily disavowed.” Although the emails continued to arrive almost weekly, he never replied, never requested the identity of the author, never said “Stop.” Over time, the author of the emails – initially “F.W.”, but eventually “Fearn Wren” – became more comfortable, more familiar, telling him about her upbringing in Poland and her struggles to become a writer, and even confiding her family squabbles. She began attaching images. Then the emails abruptly stopped. And thus, after nine months, a book was born.
This is the premise behind S.D. Chrostowska’s Permission: A Novel. When it came out in 2013, it landed pretty much under the radar, despite a handful of enthusiastic reviews, a compelling blurb by Teju Cole, and several author interviews (including one here at 3:AMwith Edwin Turner of Biblioklept and another “interview” between Chrostowska and herself at The New Quarterly). I found the book to be a complex, elusive, perplexing, and, at times, bold work that alternated between thrilling possibilities and frustrating gestures, but always a work that begged to be deeply pondered and reread.