Sleight is disorienting at first: entering the world of the book means picking up its vocabulary, the vocabulary of an imagined form of art called sleight that’s part acrobatics, part dance, but something else entirely. One character, early in the book, says sleight is “beyond anything it may have come from. Or out of”: she goes on to say that “at several points during a sleight performance—you’ve got epiphany” (9). More concretely, sleight troupes, which all have nine women and three men, work with “architectures,” which are flexible frameworks—glass or fiberglass tubes strung together by fishing wire—shapes that encourage certain movements, shapes that link to other shapes in shifting forms. Sleight is about two sisters, both sleightists: Clef and Lark Scrye, who’ve been estranged for several years. Sleight is also about the art itself, and about a director named West who reunites the sisters to make his greatest work; by extension it’s about art in general, or maybe more about performance-based art in particular: it’s about bodies and space and discipline. It’s about more than that, too: ambition and motivation and desire, and art’s relation to its subject matter and its audience, and family, and connections between people. It’s sometimes almost-frustratingly abstract, not-entirely-articulated; it’s got touches of magic that never get explained away, or explained at all. But mostly it’s delicious and engrossing, and the kind of book I don’t want to say too much about. I like Clef and Lark, their resonances and differences. Here’s Clef, on why she performs:

I think I sleight because I always have. My mother sent my sister Lark and me, I guess for poise, and I was good. And when you are good and a girl at something, you stay with it—maybe for all the goodgirl words that come. Goodgirl words like do more, keep on, further—instead of the other goodgirl words—the if-you-are-you-will words—be nice and softer and you-don’t-like-fire-do-you? In sleight there was less of that so more of me, until there was less. (11)

And Lark, on why she stopped:

“I quit because I was good, and when you’re good and a girl at something, you should be suspicious.”
“Of what?”
“Of what part of yourself you didn’t know you were selling.” (92)

One Response to “Sleight by Kirsten Kaschock
Coffee House Press, 2011”


    […] and a voracious reader wrote about Sleight on xmas. …it’s about bodies and space and discipline. It’s about […]

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