Lippmann is a rare phenomenon. Her short story collection, Doll Palace (Dock Street Press), is 23 stories that deliver a masterful, lethal microcosm/macrocosm of inhabiting these awkward bodies we grapple around in. Sibling and parental protection/embarrassment, the strange shelter and regrets of sex, marriage, kids, abortion, and ceaseless encounters that perpetually cling to the amalgam of memories. We sculpt our isolated realities through societal cavities forced or throw upon us.
To call this a debut collection is to do Lippmann a disservice. This is the work of a kinetic, powerful writer who has been haunting us since we first started reading unforgettable words that led us back to the muddy melodies and moonlit bends of our own histories. To read ourselves on the page is the work of an outsider, a listener, a habitual watcher of the ‘unsaid’ beneath the nostalgia and construction of the necessary facades we put up to survive.
The beauty of love and sex:
“There were no washboard comments or termite tits.”
“We were wasted yet he checked me like a holiday turkey.”
“When Mark Pith kissed me in junior high I didn’t brush my teeth for a week even though we’d been shut in a closet at random and his jaw hung loose from wine coolers as if it’d been shot up with Novocain.”
“Hardcover releases beckoned grand baggy arms while indie paperbacks huddled on side tables like the homeless around a burning can.”
“She was always feeling ‘vaguely suicidal.’ Name a woman who feels different.”
Marriage, children, secrets, old boyfriends who resurface:
“Hard to believe, at first, but true: marriage lent new depth to solitude.”
“He glances at Steffi but sees only her mouth, a tunnel, dark pink like the ventricle to the model heart at the Franklin Institute they once hid inside on a school trip, her tumbler tilting toward it.”
“His voice low, his body looming over mine like I’m a bug he could squash, the heat rising off of him, ready, like some boomerang pheromone shot into the air because the universe is like that.”
These quotes are glimpses caught by flashlights in the loose spheres of the many lives within ‘a lifetime’. Oh, the glory of black-outs. Clorox won’t even exhume these muted tappings against the synapses of places we don’t want to go when we walk away from dust-ridden, cobwebbed sex and blurry fields of ‘I don’t remember that’. Yet when Lippmann takes us there we rediscover the theater of our lives and don’t need to overshadow the sundial of a planetary girdle of suppression with kids and generic yearbook photos.
We are the high notes of back-up singers. We are the instruments: the whole goddamn orchestra. We are something, somewhere in time and the spotlight is parading over those places we might never have returned to alone. Lippmann is not only with us, but gives us the gift of getting back inside the awkward body sex marriage motley being of ourselves; the truth and hilarity of what it is to be human.
Doll Palace is woven so skillfully that the movements from one room to the next, one character’s inner dialogue to the next is fluid and non-linear like memory.
“The Best of Us,” starts out with the narrator at a spa called: Yogaversal. Her suite is a “long cold dorm with large windows and narrow beds for nine others, but it reminds me of the convent where I stayed in Murano during a backpack through Europe junior year. The only difference is this spruced up army cot costs $350 a night, happy 40th fucking birthday to me.” Lippmann continues:
The day we found out there was nothing wrong with me I cheated on Neil. On the drive back from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center the car smelled of latex and hand sanitizer as it couldn’t make up its mind between a hospital and a whorehouse.
When Neil approached with the resort pamphlet–Revolutionize your life! Experience your Ohm away from Home! Ignite your inner Goddess–waving it overhead like a flag of surrender I was in bed, tearing through celebrity weeklies for inspiration.
Lippmann moves us through backpacking at age 19, discovering a mole and the belief that it’s malignant, the fucked up media industry that has the narrator ready to plunge into plastic surgery, having an affair, and then a husband who talks her into going off to a silent retreat for her 40th birthday to an ashram. And within this multi-layered story of deceit and role-playing in the most absurd surroundings, the narrator turns hilarity into unexpected moments of inner recognition and the futility of duality. Doll Palace is never black and white. Lippmann writes:
Sometimes I wish I could be like her, feeling everything at once, the full spectrum right there on the surface. Every kiss, every fender bender, forgotten line in a school play, every insult from our mother, touch from our father, every exhilaration and humiliation, fingers slammed in lockers, stretching me out like a mouse in a trap, all of it.
Get ready to feel all of it. Not sitting in a back row with popcorn, but on screen in the midst of the disquiet of self through the prosaic, the naked, the stark and vivid landscape of those damn still days that don’t even give us the opportunity to turn away from ourselves and talk about the weather.
Lippmann may write about debutantes, but has never been a debut. Her work is timeless and unflinching. Don’t miss out! DAMN BRILLIANT!