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absolute away

dzanc, april 2024

A narrative triptych, Absolute Away is the story of one life reimagined. 

The first movement tells the story of Edie Metzger, a little Jewish girl who bit Hermann Göring’s lip so hard it bled at a Nazi book-burning rally in 1933. In the second, in 1956, grown Edie is the passenger clinging to the backseat of the Oldsmobile 88 convertible driven by Jackson Pollock, moments before it plunges off the road. In the third, the narrative embarks into an ever-unspooling universe of Edies that might have lived—Edie’s gender, past, and consciousness flying forever farther apart.

Absolute Away is a novel about travel in its largest sense—about the self, the past, the future, aging, ideas, relationships, our own mortal being(s) as transitive verbs, and how what and who we are connects to everything else.

“A surreal story bridges historical trauma with existential nightmares. … Olsen depicts the horrors of history and more speculative anxieties with equal power. Impossible to classify, this novel raises big questions about memory and identity.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Through the roiling thunderstorm and utter marvelousness of his exuberant imagination, Lance Olsen rescues Edith Metzger from the oblivion of her violent death to reinvent her with the crackling skinfizz and full-body thrill of a Jackson Pollock painting. This jazz improvisation of a novel will open and wreck you as you enter the miraculously weird shimmerings of the infinite and absolute away where identity shreds into a proliferation of possibilities—where anyone might have been, might still become, wildly, spectacularly other.”

—Melanie Rae Thon, composer of As If Fire Could Hide Us

“I can’t decide if Lance Olsen is a magician or a wizard or an open channel to some electric ether where pitch-perfect sentences and formally daring narratives tumble through to save us from the soul-annihilating mundanity of most American fiction. This novel of recounting and re-imagining the life and lives of Edie Metzger will haunt you in all the best ways. Absolute Away dazzles.”

—Robert Lopez, author of A Better Class of People

“What makes Absolute Away so impressive is Olsen’s ability to dive into two historical moments in a way that renders them palpable and real, and then, having established the possibilities of the mirror of realism, to tap that mirror sharply in a way that spreads cracks throughout its surface, multiplying and complicating the real. A novel of possible and impossible worlds that is above all a compelling, provocative read.”

—Brian Evenson, author of The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell

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