In a first for this site, I recorded a conversation with my brilliant, wonderful friend Dr. Martina Shabram about the recently-released novel Crossings by Alex Landragin. This novel has a formal innovation where you can read it straight through as three free-standing but interconnected novellas (Martina’s way) or via the “Baroness method,” which tells you which page to flip to once you’ve finished a section (my way). The novel focuses on a young woman from a South Pacific island named Alula, who is an expert at “crossing,” or swapping her soul into another’s body. When Alula’s boyfriend Koahu accidentally crosses with a French sailor visiting their island, she makes an illegal crossing in order to save him. From there, the novel follows Alula through multiple lives, and includes brushes with such figures as Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, and Coco Chanel. (That description very much reveals that I read the “Baroness method,” fyi.)
Soooo…. Martina and I go a bit hard on this book during the conversation. And I want to begin by stating the great respect I have for authors and for the difficulty of even writing a book, let alone one that’s formally inventive and gets published. When we were debriefing, Martina and I noted that David Mitchell, who’s clearly an imaginative progenitor to Landragin, put out Cloud Atlas, exploring ideas that would consume his subsequent work, and it is a book that also has problems. But ten years later he put out Bone Clocks and it is great. Landragin may yet have a Bone Clocks in him. That said, Crossings has some of the literary limitations common to first novels but it also has some problematic or frustrating unexplored limitations when it comes to gender but, even more so, colonialism.
At any rate, I hope you enjoy the conversation between me and Martina!
Closing note: Doesn’t Martina give so much good face?!?!