Review: ‘An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life’ by Paul Dalla Rosa

An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life

An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life presents a world of numbing disenchantment and evasive longings. By turns uproarious and bleak, the stories merge deliverance with turmoil to expose the uniform affliction of the human experience.

Dalla Rosa showcases a minimalist style that appears deceptively uninvolved. Every sentence offers another spin on the merry-go-round of the mundane. But there’s a smoothness to the motion that yields instability, almost as a counterweight. And it all stems from the surrealism of the in-between, the day-to-day that is seen as both a distortion of the past and a contortion of the future.

The prose shapes itself around the author’s wit, cutting itself on the sharp edges of his intellect. And so, quite ostentatiously, it manipulates the appeal of the understated. It does so by encompassing the strange immobility of life, the staleness of perceived comforts, relationships that only ever thrive in the confines of the abstract, and the unreal but conjured-up reaches of self-fulfillment.

Everyone is chasing something, trying to break out of the coop of the present moment. Meanwhile, we get to partake in their lethargy, feeding on the collection’s tyrannical loneliness. This emotion is so expected at every turn that it takes on the appearance of something formative rather than fought.

And while it might seem that An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life can only ever aggravate the tender state of being, and should therefore be set aside for an unspecified point in time, that’s not entirely the case. Thanks to the author’s dexterity, we can parse touches of the absurd along the narrative bodies; patterns that make the stories unpredictable, shaping recognisable sensations into something exotic.

More than anything, we get to gorge on the futility of both action and inaction, which seems to justify the idleness we foster daily. This is because Dalla Rosa manages to communicate the artifice with which we navigate human communication, and does so without shirking that crucial journey inward,

“He was a very spiritual person and communicated this on his ‘About’ page by saying, I am a very spiritual person.”

What’s impressive is that the stories never limit themselves to the thing they’re devouring. The conclusion suppresses the narrative, tries to seep into the setting. In fact, scraping the message off the backsplash of every minor cataclysm is part of the appeal. And so, while gloomy, the stories prove woefully addictive. 

What’s more, by maintaining the same relentless tone and rhythm, they shelter a deadpan intonation, a kind of comicness that creeps beneath the distress. This, naturally, makes the collection both easier and more challenging to ingest in one go – which is a contradiction that sums it up perfectly.

Publication date: June 2, 2022 (Serpent’s Tail)

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