I stumbled upon this short story by Eric Kraft on Guernica titled, “Postcards from the Museum of Olivia.” I was immediately struck by the way Kraft experiments with multiple layers of authorship.
This piece is presumably written by Kraft, describing a passage from the fictional journal of Peter Leroy, recounting a visit to the town of Olivia, who’s myth-like history is explained by a local woman he meets named Amanda. Throughout the piece, Kraft meticulously shifts from author to author – Kraft the narrator, Peter Leroy the memoirist, and Amanda the town historian – blending history with myth and scrutinizing the authority of each narrative. Here is an excerpt:
“According to Amanda, as quoted by Leroy, the little town had been shrinking for many years before the eponymous Olivia arrived. As Amanda’s friends and even some members of her family moved away, it became a lonely place, and Amanda herself began to think of leaving.
“We were on the verge of just disappearing,” Amanda explains, “but then one day Olivia drove into town. She was just passing through, like you, but she was enchanted by the prospect that she, a woman named Olivia, might live in a town named Olivia. Of course, at that time the town was named Gadsleyville, but nearly the whole damned place was for sale, so Olivia saw the opportunity and she seized it. She began buying up bits and pieces of us, and pretty soon she petitioned the town council to have the name changed to Olivia, so there she was and here we are.”
This story is part of a greater work of fiction, a series of interconnected novels and novellas, collectively titled, The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences, & Observations of Peter Leroy, which seems to be Eric Kraft’s magnum opus. Kraft’s website describes the work thusly:
“Its parts are the memoirs and collected works of a fictional character, Peter Leroy, who tells an alternative version of his life story; explores the effect of imagination on perception, memory, hope, and fear; holds a fun-house mirror to scenes of life in the United States; ruminates upon the nature of the universe and the role of human consciousness within it; and prods and probes the painful world of time and place in search of the niches where hilarity hides.”
A somewhat pretentious description. Yes. But based on what I’ve read in this short story, it reminds me of a meta-fictional Charlie Kauffman screenplay or Nabokov’s, Pale Fire, enough to compel me to read more of his work.