Head in Flames is an astonishing collage novel composed of chips of sensation, observation, memory, and quotation shaped into a series of narraticules told by three alternating voices, each inhabiting a different font and aesthetic / political / existential space.
The first belongs to Vincent van Gogh on the day he shot himself in Auvers-sur-Oise in July 1890. The second to Theo van Gogh (Vincent’s brother’s great grandson) on the day he was assassinated in Amsterdam in November 2004. The third to Mohammed Bouyeri, Theo’s murderer, outraged by the filmmaker’s collaboration with controversial politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali on a 10-minute experimental short critiquing Muslim subjugation and abuse of women.
The aggregate: a restless, haunting exploration of art’s purpose, religion’s increasingly dominant role as engine of politics and passion, the complexities of foreignness and assimilation, and the limits of tolerance.
Head in Flames has set a new standard for the social consciousness of postmodern narrative. + RAIN TAXI +
Striking, shocking…In the world of contemporary fiction, Lance Olsen is a rock star. + BROOKLYN RAIL +
The great power of the book . . . comes from its unflinching confrontation with painful salients in the conflict of civilizations commonly called the clash of Islam and the West. + FLASHPOINT +
Lance Olsen has written an important book. Important because it manages to succeed where most innovative literature fails: it plays while being deadly serious. The structure is a tour de force of formal innovation calling to mind Pinget’s That Voice, Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo, and Cortázar’s Hopscotch. + REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY FICTION +