Dan & Jessica Schneider’s Books Now Available on Amazon


For those of you who’ve gotten a taste of the Schneiderverse from Dan’s Selecteds + the stories that appear on his website, and are hungering for more – Dan recently released a couple of his whole short story collections onto Amazon. Between 6 collections and 4 ‘novels of place’ and a mini-memoir – that adds up to probably around a hundred short stories available for public consumption by the greatest writer who has ever existed in the English language so far. And, of course, let’s not forget the fact that there’s more, and greater things, to come- outside of these collections alone. These collections are all varied in form, content, and are thematically cohesive. Of course, if you are still skeptical, you can use the Amazon Look-Inside function to peruse some of the first few stories of each collection to your own leisure. Many of them cap at 10 pages or less, and yet they still manage to convey a whole sense of a character, or many characters, in that short span.

In addition, Jessica Schneider, a great writer in her own right, has also released her own short story collection – Admissions & Uncertainties – for the world to savor. That 14 stories dealing with, as she describes on her Amazon page, “characters who are in a state of flux, as each attempts to handle some sort of inward lack. They locate pieces of themselves in places they least expect and are ultimately bound by some sort of admission or uncertainty”.

In any case, for anyone who cares about great literature, or anyone who is simply curious about the Schneiders’ literary corpus – these are all amazing entry points into both writers styles.

For easy reference, here’s a link to all their Amazon pages up so far.

Edit: Dan has placed 2 more collections on Amazon – Thirteen Ways of Selling the Self and Ugly Girls; and he plans to release his short story collections and some of his plays over the next few days. Any further releases will be updated in the Amazon page.


Dan Schneider’s Unpublished Poem: The Bumbala

Poetry comes in the approach of the subject, rather than the subject itself. All of Dan’s poetry & works (and all of Art, for that matter) showcase this, but here’s a poem (from Dan’s Le Bestiare 2 series) that’s a particularly striking model of that fact:

Disclaimer: Do not read my analysis until you’ve pondered the poem for yourself. After all, most of the fun and power comes from how you, as a person, orient yourself to the poem before conferring with other views. In the end, much of poetry’s strength comes from intuition – although explanation & analysis can help ground intuition for later readings.

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Unfolding a Poem – Dan Schneider’s The Passings

There are years to go before the last perfect day

Read the line above. The beginning of Dan Schneider’s sonnet – The Passings.

If you have never ever read this sonnet before in your life, and have no inkling of what comes after, I advise you to do the following. Read the line above, ruminate on the mood it brings. Then, take a sheet of paper, click the link, and cover up every other line besides the first with that sheet of paper. Try, as much as possible, to avoid the rest of the words as your gaze sweeps across the monitor.

Afterwards, unfold the poem line-by-line, and, with each line, ponder about the atmosphere and narrative of the poem thus far. With every unfolding, reread the poem from the very beginning.

Compared to the other analyses I have done thus far, this one will be slightly different. Rather than a stanza-by-stanza critique, I will be following an unfolding of my own, and I will tell you my thoughts as each line is revealed.

And so, we return to the first line:

                  THE PASSINGS

There are years to go before the last perfect day

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How to be a Writer – Dan Schneider’s Elements of a Story

In a perfect universe, Dan Schneider’s short story “Elements of a Story” would be the first thing taught at any Creative Writing class out there. Since we do not live in that perfect universe, those interested in checking it out can buy his Selected Short Stories collection and see it for themselves. As a literary experiment, it is both daring, and, more importantly, an actual success at achieving what it dares – a teaching kit on how to write that is itself a great work of art.

Let’s jump straight into it:

The story is narrated by an unnamed film critic, but it has no straightforward linear plot. It does not begin with the narrator’s voice either, but we get an excerpt of an interview (film commentary to a porn movie) where Dan’s fictional porn director midget Bit Von Rheingold discusses parts of his life and his career. Afterwards, the frame of the story expands and we get the narrator talking about her thoughts on Bit and her history with his films and how much he means to her. Within this exposition, the narrator slips biographical detail about herself and tons more pop culture trivia surrounding Bit. Another slice of an interview is revealed where we get to see more of Bit’s worldview.

From this, the narrator jumps to another thing altogether, revealing how she has a film blog and has started a literary blog. She recounts some especially bad fiction submissions she has received and we get the full text within the story itself. They are as bad as you expect – gimmicky one-off stories with bad modifiers, ridiculous descriptions, pop-culture references that don’t add to anything but novelty, and non-sequiturs. In contrast, the narrator provides us with one of her good, though not great, short stories. The difference is immediately visible – detail used to outline character (even pop culture references), dialogue that isn’t meandering, and a narrative that adds up. A great short story that includes a bad short story and a good short story – daring!

After those excerpts, the narrator reveals to us an email correspondence she is having with a young writer who questions her about what it means to write good stories. The advice she gives is so helpful & on-point that I will excerpt the whole thing here just because I think ANYONE who wants to be a writer worth anything should read it:

This fan named Craig asked me:

Hi, I read your site all the time and enjoy your take on cinema; especially the fact that you realize that film is more of an art where literature is extended to the visual arts rather than being a visual art with a story. After all, wasn’t it John Huston who said that all great films depend on a great screenplay, or something like that?

I responded:

Thanks for the props for my blog. I appreciate good readers who can see what I am trying to do with my explanations of film. I also agree with what you describe as my take on film’s relation to literature, and while I’m not sure of the exact quote, nor whether it was John Huston, nor possibly Orson Welles, who stated it, the sentiment you express re: screenplays’ import to the finished film is correct.

On to your specific ideas, let me address the ideas about what actually goes into a great story, and it’s not really plotting. In fact, most bad writing, in general terms, comes from overplotting, wherein characters act like robots or mannekins to just push along a tale, rather than seeming to have the story emerge organically from the characters. Think of Dan Brown novels or dreadful teen books like Twilight or The Hunger Games, or even supposedly more adult-themed stuff like Fifty Shades Of Grey. Yes, on a sentence by sentence basis, most writing- even of supposed ‘literary merit’ (think David Foster Wallace, Joyce Carol Oates, or Jonathan Franzen) is doomed by the use of clichés, trite characterization, bad dialogue, and an utter banality to the prose line, but, on a more macro scale, it’s almost always the heavyhandedness and predictability of the plot that kills fiction. There is too much of the MFA ‘show don’t tell’ canard, as if showing by great writing is bad.

In fact, character is plot, and characterization is built via observation, meaning that to see from behind the eyes of a character is far more important than knowing the color of the eyes of a character. Ask yourself if any of the overdescribed details of typical fiction lets you think of or understand the character better? Yes, if a character has a scar on their face, explaining how and why they got that scar may be helpful, but if it’s just there to signal that the character is a badass, it may not be worth mentioning, or simply stating, once, that it exists. But, a story can be woven from even the most day to day experiences and observations. Let me give you an example, since you said that you live in the Central Texas region (Florence), as I do (I’m in Georgetown): yesterday, my boyfriend and I drove to a town to have lunch. Among the observed things:

-we went to Copperas Cove, TX- drove through miles of relaxing countryside
-ate lunch at Giovanni’s Italian restaurant
-young waiter, very friendly- left nice tip
-saw a single Oriental man eating by himself and reading a book
-drove toward Lampasas after eating
-stopped in Kempner, TX, a town of 1100
-saw a young boy along a country road and posited him as a future novelist
-redneck in a pickup truck backed quickly out of a driveway and almost hit our car
-my boyfriend yelled at me for not honking horn- I avoid that
-drove by a restaurant run by a guy who used to shop at a store I worked at- the restaurant, Alfredo’s, is closed; a new restaurant opened is there: The Yumm Factory
-my boyfriend wanted to get a menu to read for our next trip this way, but door is locked although sign says open- what of Alfredo? What of the locked door?
-went to Lampasas and got chocolate shake at Dairy Queen
-walked around Lampasas River park
-saw a family of four on scooters
-saw a concrete piece of sidewalk with the names Dean & Maxine in it, with a date. Next to it was a newer concrete block with the names Dean & Janine and a later date. Next to that was a third block with the names Maxine & Robert and an even later date
-we saw ducks in the river
-we crossed a bridge to the other side and saw two big geese on the grass- I pretend to chase one, but she does not move, lowers her neck and starts snapping at me, chasing me away- she called my bluff, and it recalls a time, as kid, in Maine, when I was bitten by a goose and cried
-we saw the scooter family again, on other side, as they crossed bridge on the other end of park
-we crossed that bridge, by a man-made waterfall
-on original side, back near DQ, we saw a small turtle, on a rock, sunbathing in winter- I thought of the sun’s photons traveling 93 million miles to make this wee reptile warm
-as we neared DQ, we heard a siren in the background- an ambulance, cop car, fire engine?
-we drove home and spoke of our little trip

Now, this was about 3.5 hours of my life, yesterday. A typical reader might think that this was a typical boring day because I encountered no vampires, was not involved in any Apocalyptic endeavors, did not have any high melodramatic moments, and had no James Bondian adventures. Yet, to me, this is rife with possibility for a story, or many of them. Just the graffitti with the names of a guy and gal and their future girlfriends and boyfriends trying to outdo the other is enough to make one wonder, and that’s what a story does: it draws you in to learn more of the characters, not what they look like, what they wear, or what silly trouble they can get into.

The stories that last all deal with deeper ideas and situations that communicate what it is to exist, to think, to feel, and these are not opposing things. Mere observations are the key, and the better the observations and ideas about them are, the better the story is.

Again, yesterday, I had no James Bondian adventures, did not learn the secret of the universe, did nor bed down with some Hollywood stud, and was not in possession of a multi-million dollar winning lottery ticket. Yet, the elements of a good story are all here, and in my next short story manuscript, or maybe novel, I’ll use these for a tale or scene digression. In any given day, in any several hour period, are the elements for any good story. One simply must attune oneself to observing the bounty about oneself. When art, in general fails, it is almost always due to a failure in the artist, not the cornucopia of elements the cosmos tosses at the artist to use.

Craig, if you are a writer then you, too, have such writing blocks to be used: just make lists of such events, then explain the basis of these events, how you got to that point, what these things evoke, and then write on each event, and connect them to the others- either linearly or not. This is narrative. Characterization can grow from it or grow it. But it all starts with observation and reflection- that is the prism from which all stories grow.

Craig then replied, via email:

This is a great illustration of mining the normal day-to-day observations for story raw material. I have always struggled with such, and thank you for pointing out what is so obvious, in retrospect. I see dozens of rich details and story tangents here, especially how your boyfriend chastised you for not honking your car horn. The other detail that just knocked me out was the series of sidewalk pieces showing ‘dueling sweethearts’ between Dean and Maxine. The belligerent goose was another really good touch. The key issue is that these inspired and fascinating details are EVERYWHERE, you just have to be aware of them. I know that they abound in my life, too, I just have to get better at noticing them. As I mentioned in a prior email, I’ve got a bad habit of relying too much on my own personal firsthand experiences, and not enough on secondhand observations like this. It’s the second hand observations that can make even the simplest sentence come alive. Thanks for the valuable illustration.

I replied:

Again, thanks for the civil and intelligent email. Too often people just want to argue and not listen to another’s advice. A point worth mentioning, though: note how the goose anecdote, and the bad redneck driver, TIE INTO my own personal experiences; and the dueling romantic adventures of Dean & Maxine is likely a story unto itself, but one that is relatable.

Everyone has gone to lunch, seen a stranger somewhere and wondered why he or she is alone, met a nasty animal, pondered over a moment like the turtle, had an experience with a bad driver, envied a family’s togetherness at some event, heard a siren wail, and on and on. Just note certain things on the next day you go food shopping, drop your car in for a checkup, pick up your kid at school: maybe you see a fat crossing guard who is sneezing? Maybe the auto is making a noise that reminds you of something, or the mechanic smiles in a way that recalls a character from a favorite old sitcom, or there is a woman with a great body down aisle 10, who causes you to lust, then she turns around and her face does not match her body’s beauty.

Then, with these ‘anchors’ for a narrative, you just connect, elaborate: you think of the bodacious woman and how, her whole life, she had to deal with men who came up to her from behind with lust, only to note their face’s expressions when she turned around, or the sneezing crossing guard recalls an incident in 4th grade where you saw snot drip out of the nose of Timmy Collins, or how you swear that mechanic has to be related to the guy who played the first Darren on the old sitcom, Bewitched.

As I’ve said before with a great narrative: Enter one room and you enter all the rooms of that house.

Now, you figure out what that means for you, Craig.

After that correspondence, the narrator dives back into some biographic detail, talking about how she used to work as a porn star. She quotes an excerpt from one of the bad short stories, chastising it again for how badly written it is. Yet, and this is Dan’s parallelism at work, there are parts hidden within this excerpt that connect to greater themes and ideas within the whole of the story. To use an excerpt from a bad short story as parallel to higher themes – this is what it truly means to experiment.

Finally, the narrator returns to talking about Bit Von Rheingold. The ending is maximally poetic, even metafictive, encapsulates the whole story, and brings us to that ineffability that characterizes all great works of art.

Somehow I feel it right leave my analysis at that. I stand by my statement in the opening paragraph. In a perfect world, this story would be taught at the start of any Creative Writing class. Students would be forced to grapple with it on their own, seek the multitudinous lessons within it for themselves, and teachers would never allow them to pen anything down until they could articulate, with their own ideas, why this story deserves to be called great. It deserves to be read in place of any of those other writing guidebooks out there with their limited prescriptions – this one shows all of the steps that have to be taken as a writer, provided your mind is keen enough put everything together. It is also proof that you can create a story out of anything, absolutely anything, in the world.

Jessica Schneider’s Unpublished Novels – The Vanishing Spider (Prologue & Chapter 1)


Greatness is about difference. This statement becomes all the more apparent when comparing the works of Dan Schneider to the works of Jessica Schneider. Despite having an overlap in influences and inspirations, both writers manifest their voice in completely different ways. This is an important lesson for any young writer, or creator in general, in that rather than emulation (“I want to write like Shakespeare/Bergman/Whitman! etc… etc…”) – differentiation should be one’s primary aim. Differentiation, firstly, on a technical level, in the avoidance of clichés and previously-tread ground – before using an edifice of influences to rise up into distinction of voice.

Compared to Dan’s expansiveness, Jessica’s works are smaller – from those couple of novels I’ve seen, they usually resolve between 100-200 pages. Yet, this is not a criticism, because of the sheer precision & beauty of her writing, which allows her to mine deeply into microstructures of her characters, while Dan aims more towards a macrocosmic scope of world. And, through this focus on the micro, it still powerfully translates a portion of reality – internal reality – and reaches into its own distinct area.

The excerpt I’ll be analysing today is a few pages from Jessica’s unpublished novel – The Vanishing Spider – covering the beginning of the book & outlining aspects of her artistic voice to future readers, also counter-acting the possible misconception that Dan praises Jessica’s writing out of some kind of nepotism rather than perception of actual quality. Hopefully my analysis can prove her objective greatness to you. Jessica has two books published so far, and you can find her Amazon page over here. Alex Sheremet has also done a review of her novel – Quick with Flies – over here.

Before I get into the excerpts, let me quickly summarize The Vanishing Spider. It focuses on Sister Jacinta – a nun of the Dominican Order who is also a poet – and her various reflections towards God, her own Art, and life in general. The Bergman influence is strong in terms of themes like God’s Silence and its analysis of religion – but Jessica distinguishes herself from the film-maker in many different ways. The 2 main plot-threads are Jacinta’s attempts to get her book of poems published by the Church’s publishing press, and her bond (positive or negative) with one of the priests in the Church called Father Marko. Ultimately, though, the book places Jacinta as a spectator to various aspects of the religious life, and is less concerned with a linear storyline than a gradual development of several themes, symbols, character personalities and narrative threads. Yet, the novel cannot be charged as a “work where nothing happens” despite seeming so – at least to people who read for that purpose – since there is still a direction it heads towards, pulling together all its separate threads towards a single tapestry.

Despite being a book about religion, and despite Jess probably being non-religious herself, it does not concern itself solely with religious grappling (e.g. Dostoyevsky or any other book centering on stuff like doubt) – nor does it concern itself solely with didactic criticisms of religion (although it does show the hypocrisy and stupidity of some religious types). The Vanishing Spider treats religion as an object of analysis, takes a ‘God’s eye view’, and aims to illuminate as many sides of it as possible. Thus, it combines all perspectives and ideas into one, and this is what distinguishes it as Art rather than anything smaller. Jacinta does have religious grappling & doubts, and she does see stupid religious types & there are criticisms of the whole institution – but Jess is more concerned with showing how Religion ties in to things like Humanity’s perception of the Cosmos, or the Creative urge, or the connection to deeper Nature. Let me remind you again that she touches on all this in about 150 pages or so.

Without further ado, let me present you with the prologue section of The Vanishing Spider, entitled “Some Form of Separateness” – and the 3 pages of chapter 1:


Let me reveal to you a limitation that comes with analysing a book like The Vanishing Spider on such a small scale (prologue & 1st chapter). I cannot show you to development and permutation of the symbols and parallels across the entire scope of the book, so your perception of this prologue will murkier due to its abstraction, while there are parallels that I perceive for having finished the whole already. Even then, I can still show you how Jessica sets up the themes that will come.

The book begins with a rumination, and here we already see the trappings of that whole “religious doubt” theme, although Jess doesn’t centre exactly on religion, and uses a statement of doubt in general. Yet notice how there is a leap in the first paragraph already, suddenly jumping to an unknown ‘student’ talking about how an artist perceives the greater cosmos. Just to illustrate the difference between Jess’s approach, and someone who starts with a same sort of rumination but goes into a smaller scope – here is famous YA writer John Green, and the opening of his book Paper Towns:

Source: Paper Towns first pages from Amazon

Notice how Green’s opening aims to be snarky & overly-precious, and cuts off the rumination on luck by linking with the main storyline in a ‘boy-meets-girl’ sort of cliché. I also use a YA example to show how simple Jess’s style, but how her ideas are complex. She doesn’t care about Green’s lesser approach, and is willing to leave a schism between the two parts of her paragraph – striking purely at theme, and describing exactly what is necessary. Then, she breaks off that paragraph for a single line with a wonderfully enigmatic image: “Even the most prestigious school is not immune to fire”.

This image seems abstract, but you can see a dichotomy set up within it – splitting between a “prestigious school” and the dangerous element of fire. This line will appear once again in a later part of the story, but for now it sets up a symbol that can be applied to a lot of things – like the primary sacred/profane distinction that exists at the heart of religion, or, to most people really, who find certain things they care about but are always subject to degradation (for example, the later plot points where Jacinta’s poetry is critiqued by other nuns who are incredibly dense towards her art). Also note how interesting and novel the image is.

Once more, it jumps back into a longer paragraph, this time with another split of image – student & teacher – before segueing into what seems like a memory. Here is the part that links up to the “separateness” in the prologue’s title, and this develops the previous idea of the “divided world” of the artist, as well as all sorts of separations cosmic or divine. Think about how you could read this with different frames, say, as Jacinta remembering her childhood, as an artist separating herself into her characters, or even as the possible primal conditions that builds up into the urge to religion (“younger time”) & that lonely childish form parallaxing with themes of God’s Silence and existential solitude.

Finally, the prologue ends back with a single line, raising a question that seems to set up the rest of the novel “Who wants to live amid a memory?”. There is still a lot of mystery to whom the ‘I’ and the ‘Creator’ and the ‘story’ to be relayed are – for now – but you can still feel a general trajectory to the whole prologue even if it is currently enigmatic. Beginning with a statement of cosmic questioning, linking up to the theme of art, setting up a dichotomy, jumping into the concrete memory & image of what seems like a lonely young girl, before ending on a question that speaks the denial of such a memory. Because of that structure, and because of how simple the words are, it is totally different from some po-mo writers that aim towards aporia, textual leaps, and a slapdash with 50 or so abstract lines and ‘surreal’ imagery thrown to bamboozle rather than to gently force contemplation and set up future developments of theme. Note how gentle and relaxed the flow of the prose is in Jess’s case too.

Now we move to chapter one of the novel.

Chapter One

In the first chapter, we get to see the primary approach to prose, which is to form each chapter from a series of immaculately crafted poetic vignettes, which might not necessarily be linked together in terms of plot, there are definite links in terms of theme. In a sense, you could think of each vignette as equivalent to a line of poetry, with the title being the unifier of all parts. Take note that not all the chapters are written like this, and Jess doesn’t write with the same voice all the way through. She mixes up the vignette-chapters with chapters that centre around dialogues, and sometimes she centres the vignettes on a single place rather than letting it float like freeform reflection. Like Dan, she aims not to repeat herself.

Chapter 1 is titled “The Beauty of Dead Flowers” – and the first vignette grounds that image in, focusing mostly on the concrete. The second vignette develops from the first. It is shorter & posits that the title-phrase “the beauty of dead flowers” comes from a singer – “the name I could not be sure”. Now, the astute reader’s first association will probably be towards themes of God Silence, if one knows of the religious thrust before reading the book of course. Such associations stem from the language of absence that Jess uses – “kept hidden”, “no significance”, “Where were they from?” and the singer’s lack of name. All of this points to a deeper reality than mere descriptor, and frames the flowers as something totally different such that the mind cannot help but sense a deeper intellectual structure at work here. She also ends the first vignette with a rumination “I doubt any man could ever grow to become so sensitive” which pushes out from the image into something more internal.

The next vignette pulls away from the flowers, into a different image – this time actually touching on the ‘Creator’. Using the image of a mirror, Jacinta dives into a small interrogation of self-identity. What stands out to me in this vignette is the beautiful way that her face is described – “peach-coloured and slightly lined at the eyes, surrounded by a veil of cloth”. The details that Jess chooses to focus on frame the face in a novel way, and it matches the daintiness of the flower-image in the first vignette, possibly even allowing for a correspondence between the two due to the choice of a colour that associates with fruits & nature. Further developed is the idea of separation from the prologue, especially in how it contrasts the separateness of the artist with this idea that the opposite of separateness defines religion.

And next we come to a dichotomy, of “basements and attics” – one of which shelters while the other points towards “sky-bound things”. This vignette has many facets to it. This idea that Man is split between sheltering Earth & higher things is an old theme, of course, but Jess uses an image that links to Jacinta’s memory, merges up with the memory established in the prologue, and even creates a metaphorical resonance between the man-made attic and a ‘tree’ – merging the image with the realm of nature. So, this single vignette connects to the old mythological divide, to the memory of Jacinta, to the natural imagery used in previous vignettes & will be used later, and just encompasses a wide variety of frames.

There is an image thereafter of Jacinta reaching into the vase to draw some parts of the flower, before releasing these parts into “the foggy, half-light of afternoon”. The twist of prose in “a fist formed me” – which does a kind of poetic leap such that the human becomes the object manipulated, even as Jacinta reaches out to grasp the flowers – is highly evocative and blends together the external action with internal action. And, as she releases the petals, it falls into memory with “grandmother’s garden” before surging all the way back into the creative process – Jacinta writing. Look at the amount of subversions and connections that occur within a mere 2 paragraphs of prose. This makes The Vanishing Spider into one of those books that, despite being so short, you have to activate your full intellectual capabilities to sift out all the facets.

Suddenly, there is a shift in tone, as the next 3 vignettes cuts away from the dainty prose and is more spoken. This is a rumination by Jacinta on the types of women who enter the convent, and she demarcates between the type who joins for more individual reasons of solitude, and those that “lives for God alone and prayer”. Jacinta claims to be “existing as both and neither”. Notice how these paragraphs could function as aphorisms if severed from the rest – but outline character and higher themes when placed in connection with the whole.

And this smoothing out of tone leads to a small bit of exposition, where we finally get Jacinta’s name and what order she belongs to. Despite being exposition, it is short and ends in an interesting way (“he performed many magical things”).

From there, Jacinta recollects a memory of seeing a movie about the Blessed Virgin Fatima. There’s a little quip from her father about Christianity that she recollects, but the point of interest to me is the core of the recollection, where the image on the screen syncs together with the idea of the miracle (the parallel is strengthened when Sister Jacinta talks about the historical Jacinta – “the one witnessing this miracle”) – and how “images of that miracle, both from the film itself and how I imagined it, ever remained within me”. Themes of religion and its connection to fiction are tapped in this recollection.

There’s also a small moment where Jacinta recalls a thought she had as a child – thinking about nuns and their need to confess – which, although not appearing now, links up with a later part of the story where Jacinta, a nun herself, ponders her own image and how she appears to other people. This also ties in with the whole idea of the reality of the miracle and its image.

After that recollection, the immediate next paragraph becomes charged with much intellectual energy. Jacinta wonders about a city called Fatima in Portugal, and how “the most fascinating events exist as something one only reads about”. The connection to divine distance/separateness is plain here. But also think about how it syncs with the core image of the “Beauty of Dead Flowers” – the viewing of apparitions from a distant city, and beautifying it in one’s own thought.

Then, Jacinta recalls a cat called Frank who lives near the chapel – and there is, once again, parallels in how Frank is named – “I am unsure who chose the name” – with all of the other symbols of absence in this chapter (and the main symbol of the ‘Vanishing Spider’).

The next image is an amazing one – as Jacinta, going to pray below the Blessed Statue – sees Frank nuzzling at her feet, and wonders about children’s preference to “to explore, to express and to see”. She notes how she would do the same as Frank if she was in the cat’s position. Besides parallels with Jacinta’s prayer at the foot and the cat’s appearance at her own – and how it links to greater themes of man, divinity, limits of knowledge, place in nature etc… etc…  this also reflects Jacinta’s character when, later in the novel, she undergoes frequent self-questioning and reflection, much in the same way as Frank’s forage.

Two paragraphs – one talking about the architecture of the church – and the other talking about the scenery of nature, combined with one more recollection of the “dead flowers”. The architecture, as described, reflects the previous paragraph about “basements and attics” and sky-bound things. It nicely caps of everything that came before, providing another variation to a theme of divine separateness and human limitations. Much of this chapter is about reaching out. The line that brings it all together, I feel, is “I believe one can sift for meaning among most anything”.

The ending is a peaceful one, and allows the chapter to dissipate away, pulling back into Jacinta’s peace. So, in a single chapter we have image/symbol – poetic descriptions – aphorism – exposition – memory – witticisms – just as much as possible in 3 pages.


Reading a work like this is really panacea to the imprecisions and slowness of other writers, even those who claim precision and minimalism. Yet precision is not merely about stripping sentences to their core, but ideas – which is why Melville, despite his ornateness, can still do more per page in his condensation and variety – than a ton of others aiming towards simpler sentences.

In other words – publish Jessica Schneider! Her books will not waste your time, and can be consumed in a few days – but the ideas and poetics within them will resonate infinitely, and draw you back again and again, in a hunger for greater things.