The full title for Carol Novack’s latest is Giraffes in Hiding: The Mythical Memoirs of Carol Novack. That seems fair. The book establishes the concept of a mythical memoir at the preface and builds on that reputation from there. It’s not an accident that the preface features quotes from both M.C. Escher and Lewis Carroll. Including herself in their company is meant to set the tone before the first actual piece in the book. This isn’t merely a random collection of pieces with no rhyme or reason behind their inclusion and order of appearance. Those quotes are not there simply for the sake of being there. Everything in this book is very structured and very attentive to the discipline of organizing and controlling the surreal. It just might not seem that way once you’re pulled into Novack’s weird, compelling prose. Every aspect of this book comes out an eye for creativity that is not merely limited to the writing. It can be found all throughout its form and even within the general layout. Should it turn out that Novack had her approach to this collection figured out from day one; it would hardly be a surprise. Giraffes in Hiding has the face of something whose creator never doubted for a second how it would all come together and look at the end of the day. That’s impressive enough.
However it doesn’t end at just impressive enough. You’re going to be absorbed by the sheer volume of the visual shock and awe moving through each and every piece. It might be in the very first offering, “Minnows”. This story drops us right in the middle of Novak’s thoughts and then leaves us to fend for ourselves. One could even say she does this a little faster than we’re probably used to. No complaints there. Sometimes it’s not enough to just have a really good story to tell. Often enough it might take a little more. Novak has an instinctual understanding of this, and there’s no doubt that she makes the most of however long she has your attention. “Minnow” might be the one to grab you. It’s a fantastic, strange bit of prose that easily stands on its own. Then again “She Was a Dancer, He Was a Canadian Mountie” might be the one that sinks its teeth into you the hardest. It’s a gorgeous mediation on passion and the kind of love that crushes your chest from the inside in the best way possible. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading that one at least two or three times. Or you might only read it once, move breathlessly through the onslaught of sights and sounds in the other pieces and stop cold at “9 Foibles about a Woman from The Left Bank of Limerick”. Nothing ever remains the same for very long in Novack’s literary world. That’s a constant throughout Giraffes in Hiding. This piece in particular is like a voice that’s so unique and startling that it can only break through a whirlwind of a dozen conversations and photographs coming at you all at once.
That might be the one you find yourself revisiting over and over again. Or maybe the whole book will elicit that reaction. It’s possible. Endless potential is the heart of Giraffes in Hiding. It’s the common theme of every story, of the book’s constantly changing landscape and even within the gorgeous, varied artwork provided by artists from every corner of the creative universe. The hope of this collection is that you can leave everything at the door and just see what happens when someone else is pointing out the landmarks. That hope is easily realized by the end. Novak stands at the forefront of that insight. When it’s all over she proves herself capable of being creative at so much more than just telling a good story.