Joseph Riippi’s novella, A Cloth House, reads like a transcript of a long-ago dream — fragmented, steeped in mist, sticky with synesthesiac description that cannot avoid its own hieroglyphic symbolism. A woman remembers her life to us with language that moves the same way our memories do, slipping between the concrete and abstract, alternating between inspection of the tiny objects we keep near to us and the larger fears and loves which we infuse into them.
Riippi’s written a love song to memory and mothers, and the way all unsettling love songs are written: superimposed upon a melancholic minor key. It’s an emotional work wrought with sweet dialogue as usually heard in poetry.
J/J Hastain shares a creative engagement with A Cloth House up at Big Other today. So many kind words about the book, but I think what I like best might be the memories of xir own:
After reading Joseph Riippi’s A CLOTH HOUSE I am overwhelmed with many sentiments concerning the psychic and physical sensations of home. Home is not always a positive place to remember. There are often dramatic effects as we attempt to recall it; recoils, tremors, anxiety attacks. There are the ways your mother’s face looked a little more ghostly when she was up after 10:00pm (“The kind of face my mother was wearing on the other side”). There are the ways that though you never wanted to, you were forced into ‘dead heading’ the roses once a week; how you tarried there a little too long before throwing all of those gorgeous petals away—how sometimes you filled your pockets with them and then as if it were a subversive act to do so, laid them under the grapefruit tree with tears in your eyes.
Thank you, J/J.
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In A Cloth House, Joseph Riippi creates a world that’s both soft and sharp, deftly examining the ways our tragedies shape us and the memories we invent to survive in the aftermath. Simply put, A Cloth House will break your heart.
– Sarah Rose Etter, Tongue Party
In A Cloth House, Joseph Riippi is alive to the modes of regret and tenderness that can exist at the same time, in the same person. His great talent is for dramatizing these modes with a purity that can make his readers feel as though they are watching a beloved film.
– Edward Mullany, If I Falter At The Gallows
Joseph Riippi knows what it’s like to be ‘the fat girl’ and he proves it in A Cloth House. He also proves that houses made of cloth (or any other ad-hoc tent or ‘fort’) is not enough to shield that girl from pain or to protect her from the things that she will lose.
- John Dermot Woods, The Complete Collection of People, Places & Things
With A Cloth House Joseph Riippi is here to remind us that our imaginations are as fragile as the pillow forts we built in our youth. And for the love of God, we’ll thank him for helping us think about those things that don’t hurt quite so much.
– Mark Cugini, Big Lucks
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