TAKEEMA HOFFMAN Reviews
NOCHITA by Dia Felix
(City Lights Publishers, 2014)
[First published in eleveneleven: A Journal of Literature and Art, Issue 17, 2014, Editor Hugh Behm-Steinberg]
Dia Felix’s voice as a filmmaker is her debut novel’s attracting force. Nochita can be considered an experimental documentary of the experimental autobiography of the title character, the freewheeling daughter of a Californian new age guru. Through Nochita, we are taken into a hallucinatory dreamscape where everything is blindingly Technicolor, highly saturated, warped, alternating conglomerations of shape and sound. Nochita tells her story with the energy of a strobe light, in quick stuttering pulses of brilliant flashes.
Nochita’s life is partitioned into three parts consisting of vignettes ranging from a few pages to a fraction of a page, scenes that cut and jump time abruptly, or languidly flow into the next depending on her mood. When we first meet Nochita in Part One, she is dreaming, and the first words we hear from her are, “Wig pig egg rainbow scatterdog! Tongue eye jacket of feathers. Raisin morsel drawer open mouth fringe cup palm of grease. Only once has it happened totally, totally.” Nochita speaks in code or tongues, words that can mean nothing or everything, the most interesting quality of her story.
We begin by standing on the calm shore of some remote and sun filled island as Nochita tells of her childhood in San Diego with her mother Kaia, the guru who affectionately calls Nochita her “teacher.” From here we are pulled out into grey sky and restless black sea as tragedy comes, drastically and brutally altering her existence. In Nochita’s world, events are described so abstractly and off handed it’s easy to dismiss them as the meaninglessly dense babble of a heretic. But, as each new moment of her life binds with the last, the meaningless becomes more.
Her life takes on the guise of an art house film with the kind of beauty that only dreamers and wanderers, like her, understand. We walk with her as she drifts or runs through her adolescence and young adulthood. She tells us of the horror she knows in much the same way she tells us of beauty, nothing becomes everything.
Throughout the novel, Felix’s deft wordplay (she’s also a poet and member of the renowned Sister Spit Collective whose imprint published the book) and experimental eye brings her work alive in enthralling ways. In one passage, Nochita narrates as if she exists within a continuum of spliced film clips, “The sadness of this scene crushes me flat. That wasted body should’ve been alive. I must fight to breathe through the weight of grief. Let’s get out of here. Let’s move to the next slide. Click.” In another standout sequence, Nochita describes an unidentified woman, who we can safely assume is her, being saved from burning at the stake by two ferocious dog-like creatures. “The elevated woman plummets toward the earth, her hair and dress rippling. Just as she is about to collide with the ground, her impact is softened by the dogs’ backs, as they’ve moved precisely to catch her. They walk slowly away with the woman draped on their backs, stepping in tandem, an ancient ambulance.”
Felix blends vivid descriptions of Nochita’s fantasies with sparse details of her actual reality and focuses the reader’s attention on the intimate, imaginative, and unique, the inner world that we create for ourselves. This is something most great works of fiction do, but it is the cinematic and evocative quality of Felix’s renderings that gives her storytelling such a deliciously peculiar flavor.
Takeema Hoffman (MA Visual Studies, 2015) is. She was born and raised in North Carolina.