Azardeen Van der Vliet Oloomi
Dorothy Project: 128 pp., $16 paper
Unreliability is central to "Fra Keeler," Azardeen Van der Vliet Oloomi's exciting debut from the tiny Dorothy Project imprint. It's a stunning psychological thriller, a total identification with madness that creates drama without either belittling or romanticizing the insane.
Told in tight, unencumbered prose from the snarled confines of a nameless narrator's mind, the novel begins when a man moves into the former home of one Fra Keeler, determined to investigate the manner of the latter's death. There is some relationship between the two, but it's not made explicit: "I cannot put my finger on these events; I cannot pinpoint the exact dimensions of their effect. The truth is, I haven't been the same since Fra Keeler's death. Some deaths are more than just a death, I keep thinking, and Fra Keeler's was exemplary in this sense."
The narrator goes for a walk in a canyon, eats bread, drinks water, and little else — yet in the context of the novel, even these facts are no more than intermittent streaks of clarity. Possessed of an intelligence of a peculiar kind and determined to investigate "the space between events," Oloomi's narrator tries and fails to connect everything from the ringing of the phone to a cactus to a dream about his mother into bizarre, paranoid geometries of mind.